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Beyond Asanas: The Asanas

Beyond Asanas: The Asanas Lifestyle Yoga

Tight Hips & Deep-Seated Insecurities: A Connection

December 14, 2019

The Anjaneyasana helps in releasing deep-seated fears, insecurities and trauma. Which is the reason it can be an uncomfortable posture for many practitioners.

 

Most of my students have super tight hips.  This often lead to back pain (another thing just about everyone has) and knee/ankle pain.  Common causes for tight hips are a sedentary lifestyle, seated jobs, bad posture, wrong shoes etc.

The Anjaneyasana is one of the most effective asanas to combat these problems.  In gym/fitness class parlance it is also called the low lunge pose.  When done correctly this posture helps to loosen up tight glutes and hamstrings.  It also provides a gentle stretch to the psoas and the hip joint.  You can also use props such as bolsters, blocks and chairs to enhance the benefits of the posture.

If you’re following me on Instagram or Facebook, you know that in the past few years my interest has gradually turned towards the internal benefits of a regular asana practice. The fact that yoga helps is no longer debatable.  Now we are trying to study the impact yogasanas have on your mental makeup.

The Connection to Deep-Seated Emotions

The Anjaneyasana brings deep-seated fears, traumas and insecurities to the fore, making the practitioner uncomfortable.  This is because when we are in the low-lunge we are actively stimulating the muladhaara chakra which is located at the base of the spine.  This chakra is connected to our sense of survival, security and independence.  When this is threatened, the resulting emotional upheaval is stored in the hip area.

For detailed step-by-step instructions for this asana, refer to my book Beyond Asanas.  It is available for Kindle too!  The book has beautiful photographs done by Joel Koechlin and an insightful foreword by Kalki Koechlin.

 

Lift the torso so that the spine is perpendicular to the floor.

 

Finally lift the arms up and explore your limits through deep inhalations and sinking further into the pelvis.

For more effective yogasanas for back pain check out this blog from my archives.  I’ve illustrated several asanas with detailed descriptions too.

Beyond Asanas: The Asanas Yoga

Adho Mukha Svanasana: Downward Dog

December 11, 2019

I was talking about pets the other day with some of my friends.  One of them has recently adopted a dog and the other one is also planning on getting one.  All of us know a dog lover or two.  All of us know a downward dog lover or two too (#yogahumor)!

In ‘Beyond Asanas‘ the first chapter is about the downward dog pose.  When researching this  posture I looked at dog-lore from different cultures.  My goal was also to unearth dog-related stories in our mythology.  And sure enough – I found a few stories – two of which have made it into this chapter.  In one story a dog helps Lord Indra and in another story a dog is granted admission into heaven after the battle of Kurukshetra.

The Downward Dog is a challenging posture.  The most common challenge I see with students is the inability to lengthen the spine.  Many beginners are in a hurry to place the heels on the floor, and this compromises the form of the lower back.

How To:

  1. Place your hands and knees on the floor, shoulder and hip width apart.
  2. Spread your fingers wide on the mat and press the hands down firmly.
  3. Start to straighten your legs.
  4. Lift and extend your tailbone up and out.
  5. Extend the torso by extending the spine.
  6. Lengthen the back of the legs as you push the heels into the floor.
  7. Relax the neck, face and shoulders.

It’s a good idea to start in Vajrasana because your legs are together – which is how you want them to be in the final posture too.

 

In this position position you need to make sure that your wrists are right under should shoulders. And here you can also separate your legs about hip width distance, making sure that the ankles and knees are in one line.

 

Notice the length in the spine. Things you must watch out for: allowing the shoulders to sag down close to the ears, a curve in the thoracic and lumbar spine, and bent knees. Watch this video to learn how to correct these alignment issues.

You can use props such as a wall, blocks and a rope to help you in aligning the posture.  I’ve written a few helpful hits about how to improve this posture in ‘Beyond Asanas: The Myths and Legends Behind Yogic Postures’.  Those of you who follow me on YouTube may remember this video I made in 2016.  It’s a great video for beginners, because of the detailed explanation of how to get into the posture.  Do check it out –  it will surely help.

I’ve listed out at least 10 benefits of this asana in the book.  However, there are contraindications as well, and those have also been described in ‘Beyond Asanas’.  Pick up your copy today.

I’ve never had a dog, but I’m not impervious to their charms.  If you’ve been following this blog, you’ve met Aston. He makes my time in Pune a little more fun, a little less lonely.

[Credits
Makeup: @makeupbyhennaanbaree
Photos: @khan.clicks deavalin_david_dsouza]

 

Beyond Asanas: The Asanas Books Yoga

Acknowledgement From the PMO!!!

November 27, 2019

My book ‘Beyond Asanas‘ was published this year on June 21st.

Many know that June 21st is also International Yoga Day, but many don’t know that PM Modi proposed Yoga Day to the United Nations in 2014 and in 2015 the Summer Solstice (longest day of the year) was declared World Yoga Day.

Below is a snippet from the PM’s speech to the United Nations:

Yoga is an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition. It embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfillment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature. By changing our lifestyle and creating consciousness, it can help in well being. Let us work towards adopting an International Yoga Day.

— Narendra Modi, UN General Assembly

(Source: Wikipedia)

So when a friend’s mother suggested that I send the book to PM Modi, I thought it was a great idea.  And I never expected to receive a response.  But I did!!!

The world is becoming increasingly divisive, stressed, agitated. Yoga is the solution, for through the practice we connect to ourselves, and through ourselves we connect to others.

PS – not a grammar purist so found this letter incredibly cute 😁.

Beyond Asanas: The Asanas

Vrkshasana: The Tree Pose

October 16, 2019

Nature is about balance.  When things go off-balance problems arise.  A yoga practice is not complete without an element of balance in it.

In ‘Beyond Asanas‘ I talk about the significance of trees and why a pose is dedicated to trees.  Trees have played an important role in the dissemination of knowledge from guru to shishya.  I talk about the beginning of this parampara in Chapter 30 of Beyond Asanas: The Myths and Legends Behind Yogic Postures.

When you first start to practice the Vrikshasana focusing on balance is inevitable.  However, I’ve seen students practicing it as though balance is all there is to it.  Many teachers also encourage this notion.  To aide the balance students are allowed to place the foot of their bent leg on the shin or next to the knee of the other leg.  In one case I’ve seen a student rest the foot on top of the knee of the straight leg.

Balancing is only one aspect of this asana.  The Vrkshasana, when practiced correctly requires you to engage the groin.  The ability to do so has an impact on how well you can execute this posture.  Try it yourself.  The spine, the groin, the hips, the abdomen…all behave very differently depending on the placement of the foot of the bent leg.  There is a unique ‘hold’ that occurs, the nature of which varies with the positioning of the bent leg.

Once you overcome the challenge of balance, you must start doing the internal work of the posture.  What you must work on now is the mula bandha, which will bring more stability to the posture.  The stronger the bandha, the taller and steadier you will be in the tree pose.

 

How To:

  1. Stand in Tadasana
  2. Shift your weight to your left leg.
  3. Place your right foot close to the groin, with your toes pointing down.  Make sure the knee points outwards, to give your hips a wide opening.
  4. Keep your gaze focused and form a namaskar with your hands above your head.
  5. Repeat on the other side.

Start in the Tadasana. Keep the thighs engaged and rolled in. The body weight should be distributed evenly on both feet.

The position of the heel makes a difference to the practice of the asana. Don’t be content with resting the foot just anywhere on the leg. Work on getting it closer to the groin.

Read more about the benefits and contraindications of the vrikshasana in ‘Beyond Asanas: The Myths and Legends Behind Yogic Postures‘.  The book was published this year by Penguin Random House.  The book contains beautiful images of the asanas taken by Joel Koechlin, along with a foreword by Kalki Koechlin.  Available on Amazon and Flipkart and at your nearest bookstore.

 

 

 

 

Beyond Asanas: The Asanas Books Lifestyle Yoga

Ardha Chadrasana: The Half Moon Pose

September 11, 2019

When I started writing Beyond Asanas, it was going to contain about 100 asanas.  After all, I was writing my magnum opus.  As the book took shape this number dwindled down to 30.

I chose asanas that I had been practicing for a few years.  Ones which I knew and understood.  There were, of course, the mundanities to consider.  Visual appeal, my ability to execute the posture well, would my research yield interesting information about it?

The Ardha Chandrasana made the cut.  I found a connection between this asana and the story of the near-destruction of the universe.  When Shiva swallowed the halahala to save the Universe, the poison turned his body blue.  Chandra stepped in to help.

Then there’s the story of why the moon waxes and wanes.  Lord Ganesha and his temper are responsible for the moon manifesting in its ‘ardha‘ or half stage.

The Ardha Chandrasana is Chapter 5 of my book.  To read the stories and the significance in more detail get your copy of the book.

Below are the step-by-step instructions, with images.

1. Start on the right with Trikonasana.

For more on Trikonasana see Chapter 4 in Beyond Asanas.

2.  Bend your right knee and reach forward with your right hand.  Place it on the floor diagonally opposite the right foot.

 

Note the extension on the right side of the torso as the outer edge of the left foot stays firmly on the ground.

 

The right arm and right foot must be diagonal to each other, else balancing is hard.

 

3.  Engage your right arm and leg, so that you can balance and support yourself on them.  Slowly lift the leg up until it is parallel to the floor or slightly above hip level.

 

The key to balance is your gaze. The steadier and more focused your gaze, the better your balance.

 

Behold! The final posture. The gaze swivels up to the left thumb.

4.  To come down, bring your left leg back to the floor in the same way you took it up.  You should end in the Trikonasana again.

5.  Repeat on the left side.

 

These beautiful images are done by Farhan Khan of @khan.clicks and David of @deavalin_david_dsouza.  The makeup is by Henna of @makeupbyhennaanbaree.

If you have any questions or queries, do leave a comment.

Get your own copy of ‘Beyond Asanas: The Myths and Legends Behind Yogic Postures’ here.