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yoga challenge

Lifestyle Yoga

How To: Matsyasana

May 11, 2020

It is said that if you perform the fish pose in water you will be able to float like a fish. Yoga Journal

The thoracic spine is the most difficult part of the spine to bend.  That’s because the structure of your upper body has so much bone and tissue which needs to be considered in a back bend.  While the lumbar spine has only soft abdominal organs and muscles, the thoracic spine has the rib cage and the sternum to deal with when it needs to bend.  In the Matsyasana you are trying to bend the upper spine very deeply.  Therefore, the best approach to this asana is a very cautious one.

The benefits of Matsyasana include:

  • Expands the rib cage and enables better breathing.
  • Alleviates anxiety.
  • Helps to massage the abdominal organs.
  • Promotes better digestion.
  • Massages and stimulates the thyroid gland.
  • Fixes problems of the curvature of the back.

 

Be careful with this Matsyasana if you have a migraine or high blood pressure as this may aggravate the condition.  Also, if you have a serious neck or lower back injury then you may want to avoid this posture.  If your neck feels too tight and painful when you perform this asana, then use a pillow or a rolled up blanket under your neck.  Watch the video below for some tips.

 

 

Participate in our Work From Home Challenge this entire month and win a giveaway at the end of the challenge.  Download our practice tracker and asana sequence below:

Download Practice Tracker

Download Yoga Sequence

 

 

For more information go to:

Medha Bhaskar: https://www.instagram.com/medha.bhaskar/

Amrutha Bindu Yoga: https://www.amruthabindu.com/

Pragya Bhatt: https://www.instagram.com/yogawithpragya/

Lifestyle Yoga

How To: Janu Sirsasana

May 8, 2020

Janu means the knee.  Sirsa is the head.  In this posture sit with one leg stretched out on the ground and the other bent at the knee. (Light on Yoga, p148)

The Janu Sirsasana is my go-to pose when I want to do a more restorative and relaxing practice.  In fact, Geeta Iyengar has included it as an important asana for women during menstruation (Yoga: A Gem for Women).  This is because not only does this posture help to relax the mind, but it also helps to soothe feelings of restlessness and irritability.

Other benefits of the Janu Sirsasana include:

  • Relieving chronic headaches and migraines.
  • Helps to relax the eyes and the mind.
  • Reduces menstrual cramps.
  • Regulates menstrual flow.
  • Gives a great stretch to the hamstrings and calves.
  • Stimulates digestive organs.

Janu sirsasana is usually practiced daily by most practitioners.  I personally prefer a supported janu sirsasana so I use practicing it with props.  There are many different ways you can use props to make this asana feel more relaxing.  Watch this video to see how to do that.

 

Participate in our Work From Home Challenge this entire month and win a giveaway at the end of the challenge.  Download our practice tracker and asana sequence below:

Download Practice Tracker

Download Yoga Sequence

 

 

For more information go to:

Medha Bhaskar: https://www.instagram.com/medha.bhaskar/

Amrutha Bindu Yoga: https://www.amruthabindu.com/

Pragya Bhatt: https://www.instagram.com/yogawithpragya/

Lifestyle Yoga

How To: Ustrasana

May 7, 2020

 

Back bends have never come easy for me.  I’ve struggled with them since the time I started practicing yoga.  Every time I feel I’ve made some headway, I return to practice the next day and realize that was probably just a figment of my imagination.

The key to progress in yogasana is consistent practice.  The key to progress in back bending is safe consistent practice.  I’ve injured myself many times thinking that I should just ‘push through the pain’. I now wish I had taken the time to understand the anatomy of the spine and even focused on basic fundamental movements rather than being in a mad rush to conquer the more difficult asanas.

In retrospect I would have made my daily practice more introspective.  How far can I push myself?  Am I pushing myself enough?  Is this a physical or a mental roadblock?  Am I doing my best to extend the spine?  Am I trying to proactively understand the pain, or letting my teacher do the work to figure it out?  Am I trying my best to make progress, or repeating old patterns?

When we understand ourselves, we know what we need.  Once we know what we need, we can work towards achieving it.  This way, we can take care of ourselves.  (Beyond Asanas, p 131)

Benefits of Ushtrasana
  • Stimulates and massages the thyroid gland.
  • Strengthens and stretches the back, shoulders and arms.
  • Expands and brings flexibility to the chest so the practitioner’s breathing becomes smoother.
  • Tones the abdominal organs.
  • Reduces menstrual cramps.
  • Improves posture and problems of curvature of the back.

(The above benefits taken from my book Beyond Asanas: The Myths and Legends Behind Yogic Postures.)

Participate in our Work From Home Challenge this entire month and win a giveaway at the end of the challenge.  Download our practice tracker and asana sequence below:

Download Practice Tracker

Download Yoga Sequence

 

 

For more information go to:

Medha Bhaskar: https://www.instagram.com/medha.bhaskar/

Amrutha Bindu Yoga: https://www.amruthabindu.com/

Pragya Bhatt: https://www.instagram.com/yogawithpragya/

Yoga

Supta Baddhakonasana

May 3, 2020

This is a very restful asana that can be practiced even by those who have had bypass surgery. It gently massages the heart and helps open blocked arteries. The pose also improves blood circulation in the abdomen, massaging and toning the abdominal organs.

This is a very restful asana that can be practiced even by those who have had bypass surgery. It gently massages the heart and helps open blocked arteries. The pose also improves blood circulation in the abdomen, massaging and toning the abdominal organs. (Yoga The Path to Holistic Health, BKS Iyengar)

 

The first posture for the Work From Home Yoga Challenge is the Supta Baddhakonasana or the Reclining Fixed Angle Pose. We know the Badhakonasana as the Butterfly posture.  The most common way to practice it is to ‘flap the wings’ of the butterfly.  While that is a good way to increase the flexibility of your hips and thighs, if done too vigorously it might lead to injury.

You’ve spent a lot of time sitting today.  Whether it’s to work or to watch some Netflix, you’ve probably slouched your way through the day.  Sitting for long periods compresses the spine and leads to tightness in the groin.  This tightness then manifests as a dull throbbing pain in the lower back and tight hips.

The benefits of the Supta Baddhakonasana are:

  • Relieves lower backache.
  • Relieves varicose veins and sciatica.
  • Provides relief from menstrual pain.
  • Helps to regulate blood pressure by relaxing the body.
  • Helps improve blood circulation in the abdomen and abdominal organs.
  • Helps to manage indigestion.

Watch the video to understand how you can use simple props to make the posture more beneficial to you. Pay close attention the positioning of the belt and block, else the posture will be uncomfortable for you.

 

 

For more information go to:
Medha Bhaskar: https://www.instagram.com/medha.bhaskar/
Amrutha Bindu Yoga: https://www.amruthabindu.com/
Pragya Bhatt: https://www.instagram.com/yogawithpragya/

Yoga

Working From Home? This Yoga Sequence is For You.

May 2, 2020

They say “sitting-is-the-new-smoking”, and we’ve been doing a lot of that recently. In the last two months, our imposed lifestyle has started to take a toll on us.  Our social isolation, and inability to go out and do things that keep us healthy and active further compound the problem.

And while intense-work load and  stress seems like the main culprit when it comes to health and well-being, there’s another danger that often goes unnoticed: Sitting.

Sitting for hours can contribute to tightness in the hips and legs, in addition to neck, shoulder and back pain and discomfort. Camping out all day on a sofa or a bed, can also create an unhealthy posture in which the back and shoulders hunch down and the neck protrudes forward. The main casualty though is the blood circulation, which leaves aches, pains and disorientation in its wake.

Yoga can be an effective antidote to many of these work-from-home woes. Asanas work entirely on the hips, shoulders and spine – effectively releasing tension and tightness causing by faulty movement patterns. What’s more, yoga is a mind-body practice, which enables us to tap into the calmness between the mental chatter, helping us gain perspective.

I’m doing this challenge in collaboration with Medha Bhaskar from Amrutha Bindu Yoga.  Our last challenge was a huge success and we decided to make this one bigger and better.  This time we’ve curated a “Work-from-Home” Yoga sequence that will help to loosen your joints, free your back and minimize your discomfort throughout the day, making it easier for you to focus on work. This sequence, in particular, works entirely on keeping your spine supple and ready and your mind, sharp.

This sequence is also for anyone and everyone who wants to adopt yoga into their daily routine. For beginners, we’ve put together a series of resources: blogs, videos and a printable version of the sequence that they can look at and practice. These resources describe how to do each asana and has many alignment cues, teacher tips and other fun titbits about the asanas. We welcome you to take a look, and follow along as you practice.

Daily practice is challenging, sometimes even for yoga teachers. In order to promote the habit of yoga practice, we have a downloadable practice  tracker that you can use for the month of May. In this document, you will also find some post-practice reflection questions, in order to make the practice more mindful. 

The fun part about this sequence is that it is a month-long Yoga Challenge. Practice every day and share your trackers with us on social media at the end of the month. If you complete the challenge, we will send you a recording of yoga-nidra that you can use to further your practice.

 

PRACTICE TRACKER

You can print out the practice sequence+tracker, if you prefer to see and do the asanas, and place it where you’re likely to see it, be it your practice space, your dresser, your bathroom mirror, in front of your desk etc.  It’s a reminder to you that all of us need a little help with our yoga practice.  

Over the next few blogs, we’re going to be discussing each asana of the Work from Home sequence at length, giving you new insight into them.

You can download the practice tracker here.  Download

And the yoga sequence here. Download

Please reach out to Medha or me with your queries and we will help! We’re incredibly excited about this sequence and hope it really makes a difference to your work-days.

 

 

 

Lifestyle Yoga

Yoga to Boost Immunity

March 8, 2020

When Women’s Day rolls around we talk about women.  Strength, equality, acceptance, rights.  This year I wanted to talk about something more relevant.  Immunity.  Immunity to ‘what will people say/think/do’.  Immunity to unrealistic expectations. Immunity to trying to please everyone.  Immunity to self-doubt, self-sabotage.

The key to fighting any kind of external attack is your immunity.  The higher your immunity levels, the less likely you are to fall prey to pesky germs.

I suggested a collaboration to my friend Medha of Amruta Bindu Yoga a day before Women’s Day.  Within two minutes we were ready.  The deadly Corona virus spreading like wildfire across planet earth, we decided to focus on how yoga can help.  Yoga’s positive impact on boosting your immunity is proven and well documented.  A regular yoga practice helps in lowering your stress hormones and stimulates the lymphatic system (which eliminates toxins from your body).  Inversions (asanas where your head is below the level of your heart) help in increasing blood circulation.  This increased circulation helps in taking oxygenated blood to your organs, which helps in keeping the organs healthy.

A couple of days ago I came across a yoga sequence to strengthen the immune system, designed by BKS Iyengar.  It’s being widely circulated on Instagram and I came across it on the IYNAUS page.  Medha and I decided to share the sequence with our followers.

This sequence was created by BKS Iyengar to boost immunity to fortify the body against the invasion of germs, bacteria and viruses. Fun fact: it’s Medha and I performing the asanas in the images.

 

Daily practice is a challenge, specially when you’re practicing solo.  We decided to help by putting together this checklist for you.  You can print this out and place it where you’re likely to see it, be it your practice space, your dresser, your bathroom mirror, in front of your desk etc.  It’s a reminder to you that all of us need a little help with our yoga practice.  You can also download the Daily Yoga Practice Checklist by clicking on the ‘Download’ button at the end of the blog.

Over the next few days we’re going to be discussing how each of these asanas improve your immunity.  We’ll discuss the asanas at length, giving you new insight into them.  Please reach out to any of us (on Instagram/Facebook) with your queries and we will help you out!  We’re incredibly excited about this challenge and hope it really makes a difference to you.

Download the Daily Yoga Practice Checklist.

Follow Amrutha Bindu Yoga here.

Follow Medha Bhaskar here.

Follow me (Pragya Bhatt) here.

 

You can read about the individual asanas below:

  1. Uttanasana
  2. Adhomukha svanasana
  3. Prasarita Padottanasana
  4. Sirsasana
  5. Dwi pada Viparita Dandasana
  6. Halasana
  7. Sarvangasana
  8. Viparita Karani
  9. Savasana
Yoga

Your Approach to Things

August 20, 2014

What is your approach to life?  Do you look at the ‘big’ goals and think of the long climb uphill which will definitely get you huffing and puffing…and well, you know that you may just quit halfway up..and so lets just put it off for a while.  Do you look at the final asana and
1. Get discouraged because you “just know” you’re not flexible enough.
2. Hurt yourself by propelling yourself into the asana.
3. Get yourself into the asana in improper form.

Your approach to the final asana mirrors your approach to life.  If your attitude towards your yoga practice is any one of the three, you need to shift your perception.  Here’s what I suggest:
1.  A goal, much like an asana, takes time.  It requires careful study and dilligent practice.  If your goal is a promotion, you need to look at your work right now and think about how you can add value.  If your goal is to run a marathon, then you need to draw up a running plan and start on it today.  If your goal is a particular asana you need to not only ask your teacher for some extra help, but also read up on it on your own, and practice it on your own.  Yes, you need to put in more work than the next guy.  Because you want more than the next guy.  Therefore, be prepared to work longer and harder than the next guy.

2.  Preparation is key.  An inversion is as much about abdominal and arm strength as it is about balance.  If your arms and abs aren’t ready for it you will topple.  A manager (in those long ago days when I used to don the smart formals and stride resolutely into the office, laptop in hand) once told me that a promotion is not only about whether you have the ‘know-how’ to work at the next level.  It’s also about whether you are emotionally mature to take on what comes with the next role.  You may have washboard abs, but if your arms (or your mind for that matter) are not strong enough to take on an advance pose, then you’ll have physical trauma as well as emotional trauma (“She does it so easily, why can’t I?  This must mean I’m not fit enough and therefore I suck.”) to contend with.  Take it slow.  Put in your work.  The asana will come on its own.  So will the promotion.  The 21K…even the trek to the Himalayan summit!

3.  The soft-spoken Indian politician (allegedly Cambridge educated), who sputters through his party’s manifesto in an interview with a Cambridge-educated wolf in a journalist’s clothing.  The heir to a business empire who helplessly meditates next to the Ganges as he flounders through one bad decision after another and tries to keep the business afloat.  The GRE, CAT, UPSC candidate who wants to devote all her waking hours to Bharta Natyam practice.  The runner, weight lifter, CrossFitter, swimmer, tennis player agressively pushing her forehead to her knees because, well she can grab her toes easily and can hold the plank for 5 minutes, so this should be a piece of cake.  All these people can do great things, but they aren’t ready for whatever they are doing right now.  And it shows in their answers, in their decisions, in their performance and in their injuries.  An asana is a highly technical posture which requires a LOT of practice and understanding.  Sometimes success is not about building, it’s about deconstructing.  What do you need to be good at right now to reach your ultimate goal?  Work on that.  When you finally ‘get’ the asana, you won’t be setting yourself up for long-term injuries.

This move looks simple.  It builds abdominal strength, back strength, strong shoulders and arms.  It’s an inversion, so it’s great for your heart, skin, hair etc.  Keep your thighs turned in towards each other.  Make sure your abs are pulled in.  Square your shoulders and push them away from your ears.  Push your hands evenly into the floor.  Push your heels into the wall.  Only if you follow all these rules are you doing this right.  You’re building yourself up to handstands and other inversions.  If not, then you’re going to start noticing cervical issues, weak elbows, spine compression amongs other things.

IMG_20140819_181803

 

Yoga

Day 1 – #7daysofniyama challenge.

June 27, 2014

niyama_1The niyama we’ll focus on today is Saucha – or cleanliness.  At the grossest level this is about keeping our living and office spaces clean.  At a little more subtle level this is about wearing clean clothes and keeping our bodies internally and externally clean.  At a still more deep level this niyama is about living as truthfully and purely as you can.  Your behavior, words and actions should reflect the truth and purity you believe in.  Is your house really clean and organized?  Or are there cupboards you’d be mortified if your guests saw?  Do you have beautiful laundry hampers that contain months of of dirty laundry?  When you go to your yoga class, do you make it a point not to step on other people’s mats and props?  At a deeper level, do you constantly share your feelings of helplessness, anger, hurt, depression etc with others?  We all go through a hard time once in a while, but do you constantly crib whenever you find a listener?  Analyze why you do that, and then stop doing it.  You are disturbing someone else’s peace and creating an imbalance in their energy.  Look around you and analyze if you live clean, think clean and eat clean.  If you don’t, make the change today.

Saucha can be divided into internal and external saucha.  Today we’ve covered how we can implement saucha externally.  From tomorrow we’ll look at internal saucha.  To maintain internal cleanliness and purity we must get rid of: kama, krodha, lobha, moha, mada and matsarya.  One each day, so tune in every day! 🙂

Yoga

Yoga Challenge – #7daysofniyama

June 26, 2014

niyama
So we’ve looked at what, according to yoga, we can do without in our lives. But what about the rules that yoga tells us to live by? Starting tomorrow, join me for #7daysofniyamas. Niyamas literally translated means rules. I believe that the fundamentals of all cultures, religions and philosophies are basically the same. To be good, to be kind etc. So many of you may already be incorporating the niyamas in your lives. Lets take a look at the niyamas and see how yogic philosophy transcends race, cultures, countries, class, caste, religion etc.

Yoga

The Approach to a Difficult Situation….

April 16, 2014

…is similar to the approach to a challenging asana.

For instance, the asana below had me stumped since the beginning of this year:

flying crow variation

I don’t remember where I saw it, but I wanted to be able to do it.  I started with getting on to Google and YouTube and trying to find How To videos. Unfortunately, (or, in hindsight ‘fortunately’) I was unable to find anything helpful.  So I approached the ‘problem’ like I would approach writing code during my engineering days.  Break the problem into smaller parts and work on each part.  Eventually, you’ll be able to put the parts together to create a whole.

To be able to do the final pose I would need strong arms and a strong core.  Which meant hours of practicing arm balances with inversions thrown in to get more comfortable with a new perspective.  I went back to my arm balances and started practicing them with a vengeance.  Photographic evidence through the months:

IMG_20140406_115338

The more I practiced, the more my ‘practice’ poses improved:

IMG_20140416_122925        IMG_20140303_142234

I gained enough strength and balance to try new poses.

IMG_20140309_084237      IMG_20140226_212617

And finally one day I finally got it (albeit with a lot of trepidation and shakiness).

IMG_20140213_110310

And now, months after I started my quest, I’ve reached a milestone.  I know, there’s a lot of room for improvement, but that’s how it’s always going to be :).

flying crow variation

Life lessons learnt from this:

1.  It’s not a problem, its a challenge (or in programming language lingo, it’s a ‘constraint’).

2.  All challenges can be broken down into a series of smaller, time bound challenges.  Work on overcoming these smaller challenges within the time-frame you’ve given yourself.  In an attempt to overcome the challenge, don’t be too stingy with your timelines. (Yoga eg.  I’ll go back to practicing my arm balances every day for two weeks.  In the middle of Week 3 I will incorporate new arm balances.  I will practice these every day for another 3 weeks.)

3.  If you hit a roadblock ASK FOR HELP.  Schedule time with your sister, best friend, parent, teacher…and talk about where you are and what you’re facing.  Believe me, insight sometimes exists where you least expect it to be. (Yoga eg.  I wanted a tutorial on how to do the final variation.  But what worked for me was looking at/reading tutorials about all the asanas that I thought I had down pat, and refining them based on advice from experienced teachers.)

4.  Celebrate small milestones.  Remember, challenges are a part of life.  So don’t wait for that fictitious time when you have no more problems or challenges to take a deep breath, or to stretch a little or to have that glass of wine.  Celebrate NOW and re-fuel to continue working tomorrow. (Yoga eg. Reviewing photos of my arm balances improving makes me smile.  For a lot of people these poses are a challenge in themselves.)

5.  Pat yourself on the back for a challenge well faced.  You’re now physically and mentally stronger to face the next one life throws at you. (Yoga eg. This variation needs to be worked on to be more seamless and more stable.)