21st June marks International Day of Yoga worldwide. Yoga has a 5,000 year history in ancient Indian philosophy and is a practice of the mind and the body. This form of exercise is a combination of various postures, breathing techniques and methods of relaxation and meditation. In more recent years, it has become popular as a form of physical exercise based upon poses that promote improved control of the mind and body and enhance well being as well as for various health benefits.
To celebrate International Yoga Day we spoke yoga experts from two leading Wellness retreats in India - Atmantan & Naad Wellness.
"Yoga is the perfect, holistic, integrated approach to wellbeing and regular practice of asanas, pranayama and meditation have a direct impact on the body, mind and spirit respectively"says Dr. D Vadivel, Chief Naturopath Consultant, Naad Wellness.
Dr. Vadivel believes "The role of yoga and its benefits are dependant entirely on the individual level of expertise in one’s practice and how much is the practitioner familiar with yogic techniques, level (beginner or advanced) and how long they have been practicing for." Taking out time for yoga on a daily basis works wonders to increase flexibility, endurance, stretch out your body and even aids with weight loss. "Moreover, it also ‘prevents’ the onset of occurrences of metabolic disorders and lifestyle imbalances associated with thyroid, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, especially if one starts practicing from early adulthood." adds Dr. Vadivel.
He rightly points out that "The positive impact of Yoga is not limited to just these since there is a whole gamut of benefits if practiced regularly under expert guidance, especially in case of a medical condition. Yoga is a good adjunct for any kind of pathologic condition like asthma, arthritis, insomnia vertigo, migraine, frozen shoulder and more to speed up the recovery and as a cure for any condition. For instance, Suryanamaskarasana is a great practice for obesity, for Thyroid balance practice Sarvangasana, Sethubandasana is beneficial for back pain and Nadishudhi Pranayama and Bharamari work for hypertension and stress."
Dr. Deepashree M R, Wellness Advisor at Atmantan highlights the importance of yoga to manage stress, "Performance of yoga appears to modulate the stress response systems, by altering the physiological arousal i.e, reducing heart rate, lowering blood pressure & easing respiration.Therefore, regular practice of yoga helps in reducing inflammatory cytokines leading to balanced hormonal control and through parasympathetic activation associated with anti stress mechanisms. Hence, mindfulness of an individual helps to overcome physical & mental stress."
It also helps with mental health conditions like anxiety and stress reduction. Dr. Vadivel & Dr. Deepashree M R, share some of the best yoga poses to practice for stress and anxiety.
Shashankasana, Sukhasana, Nadhi Shudhi Pranayama and Bhramari pranayama help destress by balancing your fly and fight mechanism and neuro endocrine buffering system.
1. Shashankasana: Balances our fly and fight mechanism and adrenaline secretion
Steps to practice:
Sit in vajrasana, placing the palms on the thighs just above the knees.
Close the eyes and relax, keeping the spine and head straight.
While inhaling, raise the arms above the head, keeping them straight and shoulder width apart.
Exhale while bending the trunk forward from the hips, keeping the arms and head straight and in line with the trunk.
At the end of the movement, the hands and forehead should rest on the floor in front of the knees.
If possible, the arms and forehead should touch the floor at the same time.
Bend the arms slightly so that they are fully relaxed and let the elbows rest on the floor.
Retain the breath for up to 5 seconds in the final position.
Then, simultaneously inhale and slowly raise the arms and trunk to the vertical position. Keep the arms and head in line with the trunk.
Breathe out while lowering the arms to the knees.
This is one round. Practise 3 to 5 rounds.
2. Sukhasana: Lengthens your spine and opens your hips. It helps one calm down and eliminate anxiety while reducing mental and physical exhaustion.
Steps to practice:
Start by sitting down with your spine straight and legs extended in front of you.
Now, bend your knees and bring you left foot under your right knee and your right foot under your left knee.
Keep your palms on your knees.
Align your head, neck and spine.
Gaze ahead and pay attention to your breathing. Stay in this position for 60 seconds and then change the crossed legs.
3. Nadi Shudhi pranayama: Also known as Alternate Nostril Breathing, this technique quickly relieves stress and anxiety, balancing the two hemispheres of the brain.
Steps to practice:
Sit up straight.
Hold your right hand up to your face.
Close your right nostril with your right thumb.
Slowly inhale through the left nostril.
Pause for a few moments after the inhale.
Close the left nostril with your ring finger.
Release the breath slowly through the right nostril.
Repeat for a few rounds.
As you breathe, set an intention to balance the brain and remain engaged in the practice. Alternate nostril breathing is especially useful at the end of a long day, when you’d like to quiet the mind and enjoy deep rest.
4. Bhramari pranayama: Relieves stress and cerebral tension, alleviating anger, anxiety and insomnia and reduces blood pressure. It speeds up the healing of body tissue and may be practised after operations.
How to practice:
Sit in a comfortable meditation asana. Close the eyes and relax the whole body for a short time.
The lips should remain gently closed with the teeth slightly separated throughout the practice. This allows the sound vibration to be heard and felt more distinctly in the brain.
Make sure the jaws are relaxed.
Raise the arms sideways and bend the elbows, bringing the hands to the ears.
Use the index or middle finger to plug the ears. The flaps of the ears may be pressed without inserting the fingers.
If the position of nadanusandhana has been assumed, plug the ears with the thumbs, resting the other four fingers on the head.
Bring the awareness to the centre of the head, where the Ajna Chakra is located, and keep the body absolutely still.
Breathe in through the nose.
Exhale slowly and in a controlled manner while making a deep, steady humming sound like that of the black bee. The humming sound should be smooth, even and continuous for the duration of the exhalation. The sound should be soft and mellow, making the front of the skull reverberate.
This is one round. At the end of exhalation, breathe in deeply and repeat the process.
Practice 5 rounds.
A few more yoga postures and bathing techniques to practice include.
▪ Parvatasana ▪ Hastapadasana ▪ Marjariasana ▪ Shishuasana ▪ Janu shirshasana ▪ Sarvangasana ▪ Setu bandasana ▪ Matsyasana ▪ Pavanamuktasana ▪ Adhomukha svanasana
▪ Nadi shodhana pranayama
▪ Sheetali pranayama ▪ Bhastrika pranayama ▪ Bhramari pranayama
As quoted by Dr. Deepashree M R
"Yogena yogojnatavya yoga yogatpravartate Yo pramattastu yogena sa yogo ramate ciram II Which means : Yoga is to be known by yoga. Yoga is the teacher of yoga. The power of yoga manifests through yoga alone."