About over a year ago, I realised that I needed to incorporate yoga and mindfulness into my life. And while I’m still miles away from mindfulness, yoga has become a part of my life, on a regular basis. Don’t get me wrong; I still have days when I’m stretched to the point where it feels like Yoga isn’t making the cut. But, that thought goes away after I’m done with working out. It’s a state of mind; it always is.
Yoga, as it turns out, is one of the easiest forms of health and fitness you can adopt for yourself, if you really put your mind to it. And sure, the bends, stretches and weird twists really do look like it’s difficult; but, aside from the fact that you’ll get there eventually, learning the basics and practising it is as easy as choosing to buy yourself a fitness band – just make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons and not simply because it’s the new fad. Even a yoga assana session which is as simple as doing laughter yoga engineers a plethora of benefits.
So, how do you put your back into it, literally speaking? How do you start doing yoga? Here’s a firsthand ‘every gir guide to yoga with a few pointers you need to keep in mind before you begin your yoga trajectory.
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For one, you don’t need a fancy gym membership, a yoga instructor, or fancy athleisure outfits, either. If you’re like me, you don’t want to over spend on something you want to practice before you master. What you will need though, is a lot of discipline and to train your mind to get into a routine.
The first step is to cut down on your intake of junk food. By this, I mean street food. As delicious as it is, it is unhealthy and toxic to your body without you even realising it. Try to cut down on your intake of sweet as well. If you drink tea, reduce the amount of sugar, restrict yourself to just one indulgence of dessert in a day, at the most. Don’t do this drastically; ease yourself into it.
Start opting for more home-cooked meals – even the parathas that you eat at home are healthier than ordering a cheesy salad from the healthiest of delivery services.
Include more greens in your diet. Add carrots, potatoes, peas, beans, mushrooms and various others. Don’t forget to count in your pulses and other cereal foods. These are all healthy. Even that bowl of cornflakes, or oatmeal you have in the morning – with, or without milk – is good for you. Break your meals up into 6 portions – breakfast, lunch and dinners are the mains, with two snack-time meals between breakfast and lunch, and then again between lunch and dinner. You can nibble on whole wheat biscuits and dry fruits and nuts in between these, too. Basically, eat well and in a wholesome fashion, instead of skipping mains and starving yourself just to binge-eat later.
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Didn’t think this was part of yoga? Think again. It’s not just about the postures and poses. It’s about how you inculcate it in your daily routine and make it a way of life – from your eating habits to your mindfulness. It’s a 360 degree program for your wellbeing.
Now, to the real part.
If you’re anything like me, a gym membership will do you no good. It’s a waste of money and you don’t even make use of it. You don’t really need a yoga instructor either when you’re starting out, if you’re still just taking baby steps. I’ll give you an example: Ever seen a baby jump right into the baby walker, before learning to take little steps on its own?
Turn to trusted apps. Thank God for the internet; an age where we literally find an app for everything. Try cutting down on your food-delivery apps and downloading some trusted yoga apps instead. For instance, I use the Asana Rebel app, along with the Nike Fitness app – both of which are great for beginners and yoga practitioners who prefer working out in their own private spaces at their own pace. You can combine workouts and come up with your own and opt to level up and switch as and when you’re comfortable.
Follow Yoga instructors on social media. Even the most famous fitness and wellness experts are offering up free demo workshops and exercises to try at home on their social media accounts. YouTube, Instagram and Facebook works best with these as they demonstrate live sessions, as well as share recorded workouts you can bookmark and save for future.
I follow Kayla Itsines’ workouts on Instagram – whose yoga fitness programs, by the way, actually work wonders; no matter what your fitness goals are – where she demonstrates easy pilates and yoga combinations to try at home, hotels and in outdoor spaces.
Sadie Nardini is another one of the prominent Yoga practitioners and she’s brilliant with her improvisations and variations to Yoga poses. From her Instagram videos to her live Facebook sessions, there’s always something to learn and takeaway.
Dedicate an hour in the day to doing some yoga; even if it’s just the basics to begin with. Get yourself a pair, or two track pants or leggings with sports bras and actually put them to use. Ideally, you should try to make it a morning ritual. But, in case, you struggle at being a morning person a yoga workout before you tuck yourself into bed at night is also good since it calms your nerves, relaxes your mind and releases all the stress from your muscles instantly.
Going forward you can break it up with a half-hour morning, and a half-hour evening workout.
Now, coming to some of the best poses for beginners to try during their workouts, no matter who you are, or where you’re at.
For a first ever Yoga workout, try the following poses and exercise.
Quick Warm Up
Remember those PT classes in school where you were told to warm up – swaying your arms up and down, turning your shoulders in a rotatory motion – first upwards, then downwards? This is what it was all good for and you never even knew it.
The Cat Cow
I cannot even begin to reason how good this yoga pose is for the ladies; especially when you’re experiencing menstrual cramps. It helps to relieve you from menstrual cramps, stress, lower back pain, and sciatica. It also helps to increase flexibility in your neck, shoulders, and spine, while stretching the muscles in your hips, back, abdomen, chest, and lungs.
The Power Locust
The Salabhasana stretches your entire front body and thighs, as well as strengthens the muscles of your back, glutes, arms and legs. It’s good to help you better your posture, as well as your digestion as it stimulates your abdominal organs, fights stress and fatigue.
The Upward Dog
Known as the Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, the upward dog has multiple benefits and you’ll be glad to have incorporated it into your workout. It improves posture, strengthens your arms, spine, wrists; stretches out your chest, lungs, shoulders and abdomen – making it a great pose to practice if you have breathing problem – and firms your derriere. It’s great for your digestion as it works on your abdominal organs, even relieves mild depression, fatigue and sciatica. It is known to be therapeutic for asthma patients.
The Table Crunch
Also known as the balancing table crunch, this pose helps build strength in your abdominal and lower back. It is also extremely good to help build your focus as it involves hand and leg muscle coordination while balancing one’s body in the right posture, while working on your body’s overall equilibrium. As a seasonal workout, the table crunch increases body heat and is great at building your immunity. Plus, it brings flexibility to the spine, shoulders, and hips, while gently stretching the torso.
This is one of the most popular yoga poses mainly known for its toning properties. Celebrities and trainers, alike trust on this one for those taut abs and a firm butt. But, it’s more than just the outward benefits. The Phalakasana works on the core muscles of your body, including the abdomen, chest, and low back. It helps in strengthening your arms, wrists, and shoulders, and is good to prep your body for challenging arm balances. Because it even strengthens the muscles around your spine, it is good for improving your posture.
The Warrior Flow I
Also known as the Virabhadrasana, the warrior I pose works to strengthen your shoulders, arms, legs, ankles and back. It opens yours hips, chest and lungs, stretches your arms, legs, shoulders, belly, groins and ankles; and improves focus, balance and stability.
The Triangle Warrior
The Trikonasana works to open your chest and shoulders. It’s basically a deep stretch that works on your hamstrings, groins, and hips and works at strengthening the muscles in your hips thighs and back, while toning your knees and ankles. It also helps to relieve lower back pain, stress, and sluggish digestion.
The Mountain Twist
Also known as the chair pose yoga twist, the Utkatasana is good for your back and spine; especially if you sit too much. It also works towards strengthening your thighs, hips and butt. It is also good for giving you better balance, while working at stretching out your spine, shoulders, and chest.
It’s more of a resting phase, like a transition before you get into the zone for your next pose, or yoga workout. And everyone can do it.The child’s pose, or balasana is known to strengthen your hips, thighs, and ankles while reducing stress and fatigue. It gently relaxes the muscles on the front of the body while softly and passively stretching the muscles of the back torso. You should do this after finishing, and before starting a new pose.
This one comes easy and helps let you relax and rid yourself of all stress from your body, as easy as lying flat on the ground with your hands by your side, eyes closed. The corpse pose is as easy as yoga ever gets.