Yoga acharya, Ira Trivedi talks with Outlook’s Lachmi Deb Roy on the different asanas for healthy living. She also stresses on the importance of diet and timings for meals. Excerpts
The importance of yoga…
Yoga is a science of right living and works best when integrated in our daily routine. It works on all aspects of the person: the physical, the mental, the emotional, the psychological and the spiritual. Practicing the asanas, breathing exercises and meditation makes you healthier in body, mind and spirit. It can help you lose weight, increase stamina and flexibility, control chronic problems like diabetes, hormonal imbalances as well as improve focus and concentration. Yoga also helps in dealing with stress, calming emotions and leads to a balanced, strong and steady mind.
What is the best time to practice yoga?
Ideally, morning time is the best to practice yoga. This is because yoga asanas and pranayama stress on the importance of breathing, and morning time is the best to extract fresh and clean air. Since yoga is an energising activity, it is a great way to start the day so you feel more positive and relaxed throughout. It is advised not to practice yoga immediately after meals. There should be a minimum of three to four hours gap before you begin your yoga practice. It is also advised to avoid yoga practice during heavy menstrual flow days
The importance of meditation during the time of coronavirus…
The pandemic has forced us to stay indoors, thereby reducing movement and limiting activities to unwind. Lockdowns and work from home culture have given rise to loneliness. Contrary to the popular belief, meditation is an antidote for loneliness. It may seem daunting at first to sit down by yourself and be alone with your thoughts, but meditation makes you realize that an outside world for stimulation is not required; you are enough just by yourself. There is an entire universe within you that you can explore through meditation, and in these times of depression, panic and chaos, it can serve as a great tool to protect you from this isolation.
Mental health is another problem. What are the asanas one should practice and how it helps?
It is important to keep a regular check on our mental health in order to stay productive, remain calm and manage stress — especially in times like these. Yoga can provide us with some excellent methods of achieving this. With a whole directory of simple body movements that target specific organs and deep breathing techniques to calm the mind, yoga can be performed anywhere, anytime and has timeless benefits associated with it.
Bhrahmari/Humming bee breath
The humming bee breath or the 'bhrahmari' pranayama is an excellent way to relax the eyes, soothe the mind and strengthen the lungs. It also helps alleviate symptoms of migraines and improves concentration and memory.
The practice of breath retention or 'kumbhaka' is very effective and can be done by anyone, anytime. It is known to strengthen and clear the mind and help relieve anxiety and stress.
This pranayama improves blood circulation and increases oxygenation, thereby calming and uplifting the mind. It also strengthens the lungs and stimulates the digestive organs while toning the abdominal muscles. However, this practice is not recommended during the first three months of pregnancy, or to people with respiratory disorders, circulatory disorders, hernias or gastric ulcers.
Can you suggest Asanas for the lungs?
Fish Pose/Matsya Asana
This asana allows for deep breathing as it opens up the chest, also strengthening the spine in the process. It helps increase lung capacity, encourages deeper breathing, and helps in asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory problems.
This asana provides a great stretch to the neck and back muscles. It helps open up the chest to allow deeper breathing.
Anulom Vilom/Alternate nostril breathing
Anulom Viloma is a wonderful pranayama that cleans and clears the nasal passages and increases oxygenation. It helps restore balance of the prana (or chi) in the body and significantly improves focus and concentration. The pranayama calms the mind and alleviates insomnia while regulating sleep-wake cycles. People suffering from respiratory ailments must practise this regularly.
For those who are coming out of COVID, what are the asanas they should practice?
In the second wave of the pandemic, serious health concerns and other complications were observed among recently-recovered patients. The virus left the patients with severe fatigue. A general lack of motivation, low productivity and anxiety due to the situation seemed to have further tampered with physical recovery of an individual.
In order to get back to normal life, one needs to take care of both their physical and mental health. Here are a few asanas that you can practice to loosen the stiff muscles and gradually increase mobility, ensuring a steady recovery.
Seated Spinal Twist/Parivrtta Sukhasan
This asana is an excellent way to increase flexibility in the back and spine. It relieves tension in the neck, shoulders and back while stretching the chest and massaging the internal organs. It is a great way to stimulate detox, especially after going through long hours of medical procedures and medicine courses. The seated spinal twist can be done on a bed, a chair, or a mat.
The Rock/Pawan Mukta Asana
This practice gives a gentle massage to the back and spine. It is necessary to activate the spine, especially if you had been bedridden for a long time. It increases the circulation and relaxes the whole body. It can be performed either on a mat or on the bed.
Matsyaa Kridaa Asana/Flapping Fish Pose
This asana relaxes nerves in the leg, thereby relieving sciatic pain caused due to limited motion. It relieves tension in the pelvis and improves digestion while giving relief from stress and tension. This asana also helps achieve the benefits of proning, which has proved to improve ventilation, keep alveolar units open and assist in easy breathing.
Diet one should follow
It is best to follow a sattvik, or balanced, vegetarian diet. There are so many different choices of diets available these days, but it is advised to keep things simple. Incorporating fresh and locally grown fruits and vegetables, seeds and nuts is a great idea. Plant-based food keeps the body alkaline instead of making it acidic. This acid in the body can lead to a lot of diseases. Avoiding packaged and processed items, food that is too spicy or too sweet, avoiding caffeine and following a simple vegetarian diet with fresh fruits and vegetables can help check inflammation in the body and also boost immunity.
How much water one should drink?
As much as possible! If you find drinking a lot of plain water a challenge, you can include herbal teas, coconut water, fresh fruit juices, and water rich foods like fruits and vegetables like cucumbers and watermelon. All these count towards water intake as well
Best timings for meals and the gap that they should give in between meals…
Considering a yogic lifestyle, it is advised to take only two meals a day. Eating on time and maintaining a regular eating schedule is crucial for maintaining a yogic diet. Ideally, you should finish all meals before sunset. For many people this may not be possible, especially because office often ends at 6-7 PM which means that you aren’t really home before 8 PM. That said, maintaining fixed times for eating helps your body digest food and absorb nutrients better. Whatever time you do manage to consume your meals, try to make sure that there is some regularity. Everyone is different, as is their schedule, so adjust your meal times according to what suits you best.
Since we are working from home, and most of the time we are sitting in front of the computers, what are the exercises do you suggest for them to avoid spondylitis?
Makra Asana/Crocodile Pose
This posture relaxes the spinal nerves, allowing for natural realignment of the spine. It also improves breathing and opens up the chest and the shoulders, which is much needed after long hours of sitting in a desk.
Shashank Asana/Hare Pose
The hare pose improves blood circulation and releases the stress from spinal vertebrae. It gives a good stretch to the back muscles, making them stronger. It also tones and massages the muscles of the pelvic region and sciatica nerve.
This pose relaxes the body and alleviates headaches, fatigue, and insomnia while reducing blood pressure. It is a specially well-known asana for relaxing the spine, and is extremely easy to do multiple times a day to take the much-needed break from screens.
Asanas for weight loss, since most of us are home and unable to do outdoor exercises?
Yoga is often associated with relaxation, restoration and recovery but rarely with weight
loss. However, yoga offers a rather simple yet effective process of losing weight. Yoga not only helps you burn calories and tone your muscles, it also increases circulation, promotes hormonal balance and activates digestion.
The Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation) is an all-in-one workout and a powerful aid in the process of weight loss. Sun salutations are a complete practise and this sequence of twelve postures encompasses all the essentials of asana, pranayama and even meditation. The postures help increase flexibility, strength and overall toning of all parts of the body.
Adho mukha Svanasana/Downward Dog
The downward dog works to strengthen the core and improve circulation. This rejuvenating pose provides a full-body stretch, stretching and strengthening the feet, legs, arms and shoulders, all at once.
Virabhadra Asana/Warrior One
This pose strengthens the arms, shoulders, thighs and back muscles, all in one go. It develops the chest, opens the abdominal cavity and improves the functioning of digestive organs. It is also an excellent posture to improve balance in the body and assists in increasing stamina.
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