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Strengthen With Yoga

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

If you thought that yoga was meant only for people with supple, flexible bodies, think again. Dev Goswami & Yamini Walia get yoga expert
Sunaina Rekhi to demonstrate a few yoga poses that will help you build muscle strength and stay fit — mentally as well as physically


Trikonasana
Also known as the triangle posture, this pose stretches and strengthens your spine and inner thighs, as well as your abdominal and oblique muscles.

Technique

  • Inhale and take a step to the left, so that your left foot points to the left. Ensure that your feet are roughly 3-4 feet apart.
     
  • Exhale, bend your torso to the left (while rotating your chest upwards) and use your left arm to reach out and touch your left foot. Your right arm should be stretched out towards the ceiling. With the first two fingers of your left hand, try to hold either your shin, ankle or the big toe of your left foot.
     
  • Using these two fingers tug on your left leg, in order to create tension through your body.
     
  • Hold this position for five breaths.
     
  • Inhale and raise yourself back to the starting position. Repeat on the other side.

Mistake to avoid: Most people aim to place their entire palm on their toes. This can cause your back to droop forward. It is essential that your chest rotates upwards, so it’s okay if you can only reach your shins.

Ardha Matsyendrasana
To keep your spine flexible, it must be twisted laterally — which is what this pose does. 

Technique

  • Sit with your legs stretched out.
     
  • Bend your right knee, move your right foot over your left leg and place it next to your left thigh.
     
  • Your right foot should point forward and should be flat.
     
  • Bring your left foot near your right hip. The side of your foot should touch the floor.
     
  • Place your left arm on your right leg and hold your ankle with your hand, so that your right knee is close to your left armpit.
     
  • Sit straight and slowly twist to your right.

Mistake to avoid: While twisting, your tail bone might lift up — make sure that your pelvis is pressing on to the floor to prevent this.

Virabhadrasana
This pose will help tone your legs and strengthen your calves. It also provides relief from cramps in your calves and thigh muscles and makes your leg and back muscles firm, while toning your abdominal muscles.

Technique

  • Stand on a mat with your back straight. Turn your right foot so that it points to the right and your feet form a 90° angle.  
     
  • Inhale and turn your torso to the right, with your arms stretched out to your side, so that you end up in the pose depicted in the adjoining photograph. Your chest should be straight throughout.
     
  • Bend your right knee, tuck your pelvis in and lift your chest.
     
  • Press your right heel and the inside of your left foot into the mat.
     
  • Hold the pose for five breaths and repeat on the other side.

Mistake to avoid: As is with most people, your tail bone will start to push out once you get into this pose. Ensure that your tail bone moves towards your pelvic bone — in other words, it should be tucked in.

Adho Mukha Svanasana
This pose is an ideal stressbuster and helps to boost metabolism. It also stimulates blood flow to your head and improves blood circulation throughout your body.

Technique

  • Stand with your back arched, your bottom thrust out and your chest leaning forward, with your hands by your side. Exhale and bend forward, placing each palm on the floor beside each foot.
     
  • Bend your knees and step back, one foot at a time, so that your feet are around four feet behind your palms. Keep your hands shoulder-width apart and your feet hip-width apart.
     
  • Now, raise your heels, tighten your hip muscles and pull your kneecaps in. Stretch the arches of your legs and bring your heels back down to the floor.
     
  • Lower your torso so that your head is between your arms — as shown in the picture. Feel the stretch through your body and continue to lift your hips upward as far as you can.

Mistake to avoid: A common mistake that you might make is not distributing your body weight evenly. Press down between your index finger and thumb, so that your weight is equally distributed throughout both your hands.

Setu Bandhasana
This gentle back bend helps to strengthen your back and abdominal muscles. It is also good for stimulating your thyroid gland.

Technique

  • Lie on your back.
     
  • Bend your knees, resting your feet flat on the ground and the back of your heels touching your hips.
     
  • Keep your feet and knees hip-width apart, and grasp your ankles with your hands.
     
  • Raise your hips upwards and arch your back.
     
  • Raise your chest and navel as high as possible, without moving your feet or shoulders. Make sure that your feet remain flat on the floor.
     
  • Hold the pose for as long as you feel comfortable, then slowly lower your body.

Mistake to avoid: If you aren’t used to performing this pose, you will notice that your knees start to move outwards when you’ve raised your chest and navel. To correct this, place a few pillows or a block between your thighs and squeeze it — this will also strengthen your inner thighs and your quads.

Utkatasana
This posture strengthens the muscles of your back and legs. It also works your shoulders, helps combat physical stress and ensures healthy body posture.

Technique

  • Stand straight, with your feet placed together.
     
  • Bend your knees into a squat-like position, while keeping your upper body straight, your hands stretched out and your palms together.
     
  • You knees should form an angle less than 90°.
     
  • Hold the posture for five breaths — you can lower your torso with each breath if you want.
     
  • Inhale and raise yourself up.

Mistake to avoid: It is likely that your knees will start to move over your ankles when you go into the squat. It is essential that your knees stay behind your ankles, so squat lower and push your hips as far as you can.

Naukasana
This asana stimulates your muscular, digestive, circulatory, nervous and hormonal systems, tones your organs and combats fatigue. It is useful to eliminate nervous tension and relax all your muscles. 

Technique

  • Lie on your back.
     
  • Inhale deeply, hold your breath and raise your arms, shoulders, head, trunk and feet off the ground.
     
  • Balance your body on your hips, holding your spine straight.
     
  • Your arms should be in line with your toes and your palms should be open and facing down. Focus on your toes.
     
  • Remain in this position, holding your breath and counting to five.
     
  • Return to the starting position as you breathe out.

Mistakes to avoid: If your core is not strong enough, you might curve your back to maintain balance. However, you should never let go of the integrity of your spine. Your spine should always be straight — if you need to, bend your legs a little, but don’t do it the other way round.

Dhanurasana
Known as The Bow, this pose is inspired from an archer stringing a bow. This pose tones your back muscles and promotes the elasticity of your spine, improving posture and vitality. It also helps reduce abdominal fat.

Technique

  • Lie on your stomach, with your head facing the floor. Inhale and bend your knees backwards to bring your feet up in the air. Reach out to your feet and hold your ankles with your hands. Exhale as you do this.
     
  • As you inhale, raise your head and chest and simultaneously, and pull your ankles upwards so that your knees and thighs rise off the floor.
     
  • Arch your back and look up. Hold this position for three breaths, then exhale and slowly return to the starting position.

Mistake to avoid: Ensure that you continue breathing once your back is arched. You need to concentrate on the expansion and contraction of your abdomen in order for this pose to be effective.

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