by Soma Das: Morning yoga can help you kickstart your day on a fit note. And it can help you feel more energetic and regain body-mind balance. Here is a beginner’s guide to 10 expert-recommended asanas…
Are you always feeling lethargic and tired without any underlying medical condition? A daily 10-minute yoga routine can help you feel more energetic, and help you regain body-mind balance.
While many people feel that yoga doesn’t match up to cardio exercises or heavy duty High-intensity interval training, research has shown that yoga can help you with everything from weight loss, to lowering period pain, boosting heart health and ensuring smooth digestion. Plus, you don’t really require special workout gear or studio space to do yoga poses.
Dr Manoj Kutteri, wellness director, Atmantan suggests 10 beginner-friendly asanas for you and explains their health benefits:
Naukasana (boat pose)
Lie down on your back with your legs together. Keep your hands on the thighs or next to the thighs on the floor. Inhale and raise your head, arms and head in a straight line off the floor at a 30-degree angle. Keep the toes pointing upward. “This asana increases the efficiency of abdominal muscles, is good for digestion, and reduces belly fat. It also strengthens organs in the abdomen and leg muscles,” says Dr Kutteri.
Paschimottanasana (head to toe)
Sit with your outstretched legs and flexed toes. Inhale and raise your arms. Exhale and pull the navel in. Stretch the spine forward from the hips. Hold the toes with your hands, bending the elbow outward or downward. In the final position, your awareness should be on your abdominal breathing. “Paschimottanasana stretches the calf and hamstring muscles, which helps for better circulation. It elongates the spine and gives a good stretch to it. It also regulates vital energy to the nervous system and ensures good circulation to internal abdominal organs,” says Dr Kutteri.
Ardha matsyendrasan (half spinal pose)
Sit straight, stretching your legs in front of you. Bend your left leg and try to touch your feet to your right buttock. Bring your right leg outside of the left knee. Touch your feet to the ground. Keep your spine erect. Exhale and turn your upper body to the right. Hold your right feet with the left hand and place your right hand on the spine. This asana makes your spine more flexible and strengthens your side muscles, says Dr Kutteri. It also tones the abdominal muscles and opens up the chest area.
Dwi Pada Uttanasana (both leg raise pose)
Lie down on your spine, with hands placed next to the buttocks or under the buttock (palms downward). The legs should be straight and toes flexed. Inhale and raise both legs at a 90-degree angle while expanding the abdomen out. Exhale and raise both legs to a 45 or 30-degree angle while contracting the abdomen. Do 5-8 movements and then hold the legs at each angle for 5-7 abdominal breaths. This asana strengthens the core and is an efficient practice to release the extra fat around the abdomen. “It works on the gluteus and quadricep muscles,” says Dr Kutteri.
Dandasana (plank pose)
Lie down on the abdomen and bring the elbows under the shoulders. Get in the push-up position and place your forearms on the ground. Inhale and lift the body off the floor with support from your hands and toes. Squeeze your gluteus and tighten your abdominal muscles. Keep the neck and spine straight. Hold the pose for 5-7 abdominal breaths. Exhale and release the pose. Repeat for 3 times. “This asana is an excellent way to strengthen the core. It helps to burn fat and calories from the abdomen and increases the overall productivity of your abs, butt and thighs,” says Dr Kutteri.
Viparita Karni (Inclined pose)
Lie straight on your back. Join both the legs and lift them up. Take the legs slightly behind to lift your lower back. Support the back by placing the palms on the lower back with elbows on the ground. Keep the legs perpendicular to the floor and your back inclined at an angle of 45-60 degrees with the floor. Breathe normally. Begin with 1-minute and then slowly increase the duration of practice to 10 minutes. “Your digestive system will get strengthened by regular practice of this exercise. Your appetite will increase. It can prevent premature graying of hair and cure diseases like the swelling of the feet, goitre, blood-related diseases like boils, pimples and itching,” says Dr Kutteri. This asana enables quicker movement of water from the small intestine to the larger intestine, which cleanses the stomach. It is also a great practice to stimulate the hormone system and strengthen the core.
Kapalabhati (skull cleansing kriya)
Sit in a comfortable position with both hands on the knees. The spine, neck and shoulder should be in a straight line. Start with deep inhalation along with the expansion of the abdomen. Exhale forcefully in strokes with the contraction of the abdomen (flapping movements of the abdomen muscles) for up to 40 to 60 strokes. After each round, breathe normally to relax. Repeat 3-4 rounds of Kapalabhati. Dr Kutteri says that Kapalabhati balances and strengthens the nervous system and tones the digestive organs. “It’s an effective practice for releasing excess fat, burning calories and reducing belly fat. The rapid and rhythmic movements strengthen the abdominal muscles and ensure proper circulation towards the abdominal organs,” says Dr Kutteri.
Bear in mind that this asana should not be done on an empty stomach, if you have had surgery recently, if you have hypertension or migraine, or if you are pregnant or on your menstrual cycle.
Dhanurasana (bow pose)
Lie on your stomach. Arc your hands backward and hold the feet. Try pulling yourself backward. You can feel the stretch in your arms, stomach and legs. “This asana is effective in weight loss, improves digestion and appetite and boosts blood circulation. It also makes your back flexible,” says Dr Kutteri.
Bhujangasana (cobra pose)
Lie on the floor on your stomach. Place your hands beside your shoulder. Push yourself up and look towards the sky. You can feel the stretch in your stomach. “This pose improves the flexibility of your back and tones the abdomen, neck and shoulders. It improves blood circulation and rids you of fatigue and stress,” says Dr Kutteri.
Bitilasana (cat cow pose)
Start by keeping your hands and knees in a “tabletop” position. Make sure that your knees are set directly below your hips. Your wrists, elbows and shoulders should be in line and perpendicular to the floor. Centre your head in a neutral position. As you inhale, lift your chest toward the ceiling, allowing your belly to sink toward the floor. Lift your head to look straight. Exhale and resume the neutral “tabletop” position. This asana warms the body and brings flexibility to the spine. “This asana stretches the back torso and neck, and strengthens the abdominal organs,” says Dr Kutteri.