5 Secret Tips for Yoga Newbies

When someone asks me IF they can practice yoga, I say YES without even looking at them. The best thing about Yoga is that it is accessible. Anyone, at any fitness level, with any ailment and at any stage of life can practice Yoga.

Yoga need not be a mystical and intimidating experience for a Yoga newbie. Just take a look at these 5 tips that simplify Yoga for newbies and novices.

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  1. Yoga is not a “push until you drop” work out. Shavasana and Child’s pose are important Yoga postures for a reason. Use them! You need not prove anything to anyone. You are the master of your body and you do not owe any one an explanation if suddenly in the middle of the class you feel the need to get into child’s pose. Do it – unapologetically!
  2. “I’ve been practicing for months but I’m hardly losing any weight” Even if for the first one month, or two, you do not lose weight; don’t give up. You still are building strength and muscle and improving your stamina. Muscle weighs more than fat and when you are building muscle, you are still losing fat. Do not stop yet, get rid of the scale for first few months. Hang in there and the results will show soon enough.
  3. If you wake up too sore to go to yoga, go anyway! Stretching the sore muscles out is one of the best things that you can do for them. The more you stretch, the faster the soreness disappears. No matter what your mind tells you, the Yoga class you signed up for today is important. Show up. You will feel much better afterwards. I can guarantee that for you.
  4. Always practice on an empty stomach. While a light and healthy snack can be good before cardio, not so much for yoga. You are bending forward and backwards, stretching sideways, twisting and lying on your stomach. You wouldn’t want your breakfast to end up on the mat. Bring water, that’s enough. There’d be enough time for a post workout meal later.
  5. Stretching can be painful. You might want to give up and get out of that pose but take a deep breath in and relax into it. It is a mind over matter game. Sometimes you win and sometimes you don’t but if you can push past your initial panic and use your breath to calm yourself down then pat yourself on the back. This pain that you feel is just you fighting. Stop. Surrender. Once you let go, the pain stops.
  6. Enjoy your journey. Have fun on the mat. Do not be obsessed with the way you look, no one is watching you. Close your eyes and dive into your practice. Treasure your time on the mat. Make it your “happy place”.

Welcome to the Yoga addiction. Good luck on your journey and feel free to share your first few yoga experiences in the comments section below. If you have any more tips to add on to this please do so as well.

Namaste!

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Bow Pose (Dhanurasana) – All you need to know

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Ancient Yogic traditions consider the spinal column to be the root to our tree of life. Dhanurasana or the bow pose is one such pose which nourishes the spine in addition to providing several other benefits. Dhanurasana is derived from the Sanskrit word – Dhanush which means bow. In the final pose, the body mimics the shape of a bow with its string stretched back.

I’ve tried to break down and simplify this pose for the readers. Dhanurasana falls in the category of backward bending poses and hence is a stimulating and extroverting pose. Complete beginners should seek guidance from a trained Yoga teacher to execute the pose. As with any backbend, Dhanurasana has beneficial repercussions throughout the body as it tones and strengthens the muscles controlling the spine and decompresses the spinal nerves which give energy to all the other nerves, organs and muscles in the body.

Let’s get down to the nitty-gritties now.

How to get into the pose:

  1. Lie on your belly with the head turned to one side.
  2. Bend your knees bringing the heels close to your buttocks and reach back with your hands to grasp the ankles from the outside.
  3. As you breathe in tense your leg muscles and push the feet away from the body. Arch your back and lift the chest, head and thighs off the ground. The arms are straight.
  4. Breathe and relax in the posture. In the final pose, the head is tilted back and the abdomen supports the whole body on the floor. Back and arms are relaxed.
  5. Know your flexibility and do not push beyond it. Try to keep your mind focussed on the physical sensations. Stay in the posture for 10 breaths and then release. Practice 3 rounds.
  6. Follow up with a forward bending posture.

What it does for you:

  1. Helps get rid of menstrual discomfort and chronic constipation.
  2. Treats gastrointestinal disorders, dyspepsia and sluggishness of liver.
  3. Corrects the posture by removing the hunching of upper back.
  4. Strengthens the legs and improves the flexibility of spine.
  5. Improves blood circulation.
  6. Massages the liver, abdominal organs and abdominal muscles. Leads to improved function of digestive, respiratory, excretory and reproductive organs.
  7. Tones the kidneys, pancreas and adrenal glands.

When not to practice the bow pose:

  1. If you have a high blood pressure, weak heart, hernia or peptic or duodenal ulcers.
  2. If you are pregnant.
  3. If you have an excessive lower back curve (lumbar lordosis).
  4. Just after your meals.
  5. Just before bedtime, as it stimulates the adrenal gland and sympathetic nervous system.
  6. If your body is not warmed up enough.

As always, please remember to work within the range of your own abilities and limitations; Approach the posture cautiously and respectfully; And seek guidance of an experienced and trained Yoga teacher to begin your practice.

Brighter morning? 10 steps? Where’s my coffee?

Whether you are a morning person or not, leaving the comfort of your bed could seem like a daunting task on most days. A few established morning rituals might just be what your body needs.

In this article I include ten easy-to-do morning rituals that can be incorporated in your routine with very little effort but they leave you with bright mornings and much brighter days. All of these rituals have been tried and practiced by me for an extended length of time and I vouch for them. Your morning schedule could be a combination of 3-4 activities listed below, some daily while others maybe twice or thrice-weekly activities. My suggestion is to start out by picking 1-2 activities for each morning and expanding from there.

  1. Wake up early, don’t hit the snooze button. After you hit the snooze and go back to sleep, the brain starts the sleep cycle all over again. Now when the alarm goes off a second time, it is likely that you are in an even deeper sleep so you then wake up feeling even worse than you did the first time. So to avoid that grogginess in the mornings, get up and leave the bed the first time your alarm goes off.
  2. Stretch. An early morning stretch is the best way to get rid of achy and tight muscles and to give your body that instant boost of energy to keep sluggishness at bay for the entire day. Here’s a simple early morning stretch routine. But as always, seek help from an experienced trainer before you start and respect the limits of your body to safeguard yourself from injuries. morning stretch (2)
  3. Listen to the sounds of nature or your favourite music. I find that going for an early morning walk is the best way to wake up my senses. Try to do this before the early morning rush of traffic and the chaos takes over the birdsongs. Another way to brighten the morning is listening to your favourite tunes. The simple act of listening to music while you drink your morning cup of coffee or take a shower can do wonders to your mood. If you think you do not have time for this, cut down on the screen time. You can catch up on the news later.
  4. Drink a glass of warm lemon water. Before your coffee, reach out for a lukewarm glass of water with a slice of lemon in it. According to Ayurveda, the lukewarm water stimulates the gastrointestinal tract and peristalsis while lemon aids in loosening AMA or toxins from the digestive tract.
  5. Scrape your tongue. Scraping the tongue is another Ayurvedic ritual. According to Ayurveda, the morning tongue fuzz is a sign of undigested AMA or toxins in the digestive tract. Use a metal or plastic tongue scraper gently scraping your tongue from back to front 7-14 times to cover the entire area. Not only does this gets rid of the undigested toxins, it also awakens the taste buds.
  6. Green smoothie. We do not recommend replacing your breakfast with a green smoothie, although some of us are guilty of that. The leafy greens in your smoothie, which can be spinach, kale or anything else provide phytonutrients, fibre and minerals. To get maximum benefits, blend together some seasonal diced fruits, the leafy greens, chia or flax seeds, and some yogurt, water or juice.
  7. Jump on the spot or on a trampoline. Just lightly bouncing on the spot or jumping on the trampoline helps in lymph movement and drainage. Target to do around 100 bounces and when you finish, you will feel happier, firmer and lighter. This works every muscle in your body – legs, core and upper body.
  8. Dry brush your body. Choose a good exfoliating brush made from natural fibres and before you shower, dry brush your body with strokes towards your heart. This is a wonderful way to improve your circulation and slough off dead skin cells.
  9. Meditate or just “be still”. You do not need to sit in lotus pose and chant away for an hour. Just try to spend a few minutes sitting comfortably in silence without any distractions. Controlled thoughts and a positive attitude in the morning leads to lesser amounts of stress during the day. Discard the negative thoughts, discard the worries when you meditate. Work on keeping your mind on the bigger picture rather than nit-picking and getting caught up in small issues. If you want more positives in your life, focus on the positives that you already have. You will be amazed at the number of new positives that magically appear in your life by doing so. The same works for negativities, make your choice wisely.meditation edit
  10. Make a to-do list. After you meditate, take a pen and a paper and make a to-do list of 5 most important goals that you need to achieve for the day. On the onset, writing down 5 goals everyday might seem a bit difficult, achieving them more so. But try to be persistent. If you forget to write a goal which you remember later, it’s because it wasn’t all that important and something else with bigger importance has taken its place. Do not edit and re-edit your list during the day.

The way you start your morning can affect your whole day. Begin with a sense of calmness, coolness of emotions and a smile.

Yoga Home Practice – What you need to know

I think that the most wonderful and liberating aspect about Yoga is that one doesn’t need any fancy equipment or a designated room to practice. Yoga is accessible. The practice meets you wherever you are, whenever you want. Having a disciplined home practice and committing to it is a profound tool to keep your body and mind healthy, raise your energy vibrations and deepen your relationship with Yoga. You need to develop a home practice because sometimes due to restrictions which can be personal, geographical or financial in nature, you can’t be a regular practitioner at a studio.

 

If you have been working towards achieving a disciplined home practice, there are certain aspects to consider:

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  1. Allot a minimum time for your practice each day. Be consistent and show up to the mat. You might want to start small, say 15 minutes to begin with – so that you can stick with the commitment and feel positive about it rather than guilty.
  2. Prioritize and sanctify yourself and your practice. You are important. Honour your time on your mat and do it no matter what, no matter where you are.
  3. Always include “be still” time in your practice. It could be a gentle Pranayama, silent or mantra meditation or just sitting still.
  4. Go for regular tune-ups to a qualified teacher so that you don’t feel stuck.
  5. Use resources available to you to stay inspired. Learn from Yoga blogs and take free online classes.
  6. Sequencing can make or break your Yoga practice. A few guidelines to follow when you create a sequence:
    • Always begin with some gentle deep breathing.
    • Warm up the body with some gentle movements like cat-cow, ragdoll forward fold, head rotations, shoulder shrugs etc.
    • Sun Salutations are a great way to boost your energy levels and gain a full body workout. A must in your home practice.
    • Standing poses and Balances
    • Seated poses and twists
    • Core work
    • Take your spine in all six directions (forward and back, twists on each sides, side bends)
    • Inversions are a great way to conclude the practice and gain a new perspective.
    • Shavasana or corpse pose
    • Take five minutes in the end to just sit quietly and meditate.

Have no shame about your practice. Own it! Do it unapologetically!

Take care of yourself first and everyone around you will benefit from you being grounded and happy. No matter what technique, what style or what sequence you use, BELIEVE in it. Do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.

Stay consistent and make it work. See you on the mat!

Overthinking Mind – Shhhh!!!!

A mind that never seems to switch off, jumping from one random subject to another with little rhyme or reason – sounds familiar?

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A lot of us struggle with a mind which we feel is no longer under our control – sometimes shoving images, thoughts, memories into our faces. The overactive brain is fuelled by an insatiable desire to analyse, interpret and conclude. On one hand while these three yearnings can be used for problem solving and creating desirable outcomes, on the other hand excessive brain activity creates a perfect internal environment for burnout and breakdown because it deprives the repair systems of the body of their main job – restoration. Your body and mind both need rest. But if the mind is hyperactive, constantly processing activities, events and possible scenarios, then it’ll resist sleep despite your body giving you signals that it is tired.

There is no overnight fix for calming down an overactive mind. But, there are things that you can do to balance the activity in your mind and possibly enjoy the present moment.

  1. We can’t say this enough. EXERCISE. A healthy body creates a healthy mind. Find ways to integrate exercise in your daily routine. Go for a run or a swim, practice yoga or tai-chi, dance – anything that’s fun to do.
  2. Many people with overactive minds have a pressing need to remain in control of everything in their lives. They sometimes feel that if they lose control over the circumstances, then they lose control of their lives which is not true. Events will come and go in any case. Release the need to control other people and events, control your own actions and reactions.
  3. Live in the present moment. If you are reading a book, give it your 100% attention. If you are doing something like watching a movie, or having a conversation with someone, allow your whole being to be completely involved in that act. If the mind begins to wander, push it back to the HERE and NOW. This might take a bit of practice and perseverance but it is one of the best ways to become a balanced person.
  4. Get some sunshine. Take a walk in the nature. Listen to the birdsong or the cadence of the wind. While here, try not to think about your “everyday life”, your work, relationships etc. and simply appreciate what nature provides.
  5. Eliminate the clutter. Starting a thought journal provides for a simple outlet to release the constant flow of thoughts and clear the mind.
  6. Meditate. I can already hear some of you voicing your excuses “Don’t have enough time.” “I can never focus and meditate. My mind wanders.” Okay – short of time? Cut down five minutes of your TV time. Doesn’t sound like much but it makes a huge difference. If you think you can’t focus here are two simple meditations that you can practice for five minutes.
    • Light a candle and watch the candle flame for five minutes. Observe the thoughts as they appear but do not get involved in them.
    • Place any two objects 6 feet away from you and from each other. While trying to focus on these objects, your mind will not be able to process any other thoughts.

An overactive mind is a sign of imbalance and it can definitely be corrected if it bothers you. But one must want to see the change within.