By Suchitra Marwah, Yoga Acharya, Practitioner and student for life
Everyone is looking for that miracle pill that will give them the body of their dreams, beyond health and wellness. There is no pill! The miracle though can be achieved by practising the five yoga Asanas listed below. Regular Abhyaas of these will benefit the body, keep it fit and relax the mind. These Asanas will help build endurance and improve cardiovascular health. They will reduce the dreaded 6 letter word – STRESS and cortisol while helping to burn the subcutaneous fat.
Chair Pose or Utkatasana: Utkata is the powerful or fierce Asana. It is a heat-building standing Asana that builds strength and endurance. Imagine sitting on a make-believe chair which is in complete contradiction to being cosy on an actual chair. Stand with hands by your side in ‘Samasthiti’, lower your hips while raising your arms up and holding the hands together in Namaste. The lower your hips, the more intense the pose. The knee should be behind the toes. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds. This asana must be avoided if you are suffering from insomnia, low blood pressure, arthritis, sprained ankle, knee pain or damaged ligaments.
Side plank or Vashista Asana: Vasistha, which literally means, excellent or best in Sanskrit. Vasisth Asana strengthens wrists, forearms, shoulders, and spine. This pose tones and strengthens the abdominal muscles while improving balance, concentration and focus. Start in the plank position with your shoulders aligned over your wrists while keeping your core muscles and legs engaged. Then, roll both your heels to the right. Place your left foot on top of the right and press down through the right hand, keeping it straight and raise your left. Look up to your fingertips or ahead of you. Build up to stay in the pose for 5 breaths. Exhale as you lower your left hand and pivot your feet back to plank position. Repeat on the other side.
Boat pose or Naukasana: Nauka means boat. Naukasana strengthens the abdominal muscles, removes belly fat and improves digestion. It tones and improves the functioning of the liver, pancreas and kidneys. In Naukasana the body takes the shape of a boat. Begin by lying on your back with your feet together and arms beside your body. Take a deep breath in and as you exhale, lift your chest and feet off the ground, stretching your arms towards your feet. Eyes, fingers and toes should be in a line. Keep breathing deeply while maintaining the pose. As you exhale, come back to the ground slowly and relax.
Extended Triangle Pose or Utthita Trikonasana: Structurally, a triangle is supposed to be strong and stable, able to withstand the weight and great pressures. This asana strengthens the legs, ankles, arms and chest while stretching and opening the hips, groins and hamstrings. It helps improve digestion, reduces anxiety, stress, back pain and sciatica. From a standing position, with the legs 3 feet apart, turn the right foot to the right and the left one slightly inwards. Inhale and press the left hips out to the left as you slide both arms to the right parallel to the floor. Exhale and rotate only the arms, raising the left arm up and resting the right hand against the right leg, with the palms facing forward. Ideally, the right palm should rest on the floor. Stretch the left arm vertically. Move the head in the upward direction and look straight. To return, lift the arms first and then slowly move the trunk back in the upright position.
Cobra Pose or Bhujangasana: This asana strengthens the back muscles, especially the lower back, increasing flexibility of the spine and the muscles around it. It tones the organs in the lower abdomen, the digestive organs, the urinary and reproductive organs, while reducing fat in abdominal muscles and the stomach region. If practised regularly, it can go a long way in flattening your tummy. Place your palms flat on the ground beneath the shoulders. Bend your elbows back and tuck them into your sides. Inhale to lift your chest off the floor. Roll your shoulders back and keep your low ribs on the floor. Make sure your elbows continue hugging your sides. Tilt your head and look up.
The above asanas can be done at home, even in a small place and will help you tremendously, even if you don’t want to or can’t get to a gym. Chant Om at home for a more balanced, fitter and energized you! Watch what you eat, practice yoga regularly and you are on your way to Nirvana.
Suchitra Marwah, a former banker, is a certified yoga teacher and in the Social Impact Sector. She is currently the Founder of SISAN Foundation, her family’s charity to enable local community health and wellness; Trustee of Aspire Circle (www.aspirecircle.org), a non-profit dedicated to social leadership development; and the Director, Leadership Programs at Aspire Impact (www.aspireimpact.in), which provides values-and-ethics based leadership training to middle and senior school students. Suchitra has a bachelor’s degree in Economics, an MBA in Marketing, and an Environment Management certificate from Harvard University Extension School, Cambridge (MA, USA). She lives in Bengaluru with her family and has been practising yoga since she was 10.