When air intake is insufficient, or food intake is surplus; when hygiene is inconsistent or blood circulation is inadequate; the body is unable to function naturally at optimum levels, and the result is a body breakdown. Nourishing regions of the body with diet, breath, water, and movement ensures optimum functioning of glands, organs, nerves, and muscles for a more healthful lifestyle.
Unlike other measured workouts, where we count the number of reps or miles run, at the end of our yoga practice, we talk about how good we feel, not how many postures we have practiced today. The longer the holding times, the more delicious the stretch, greater the endorphin release, and higher the rush. Especially as we age, there really is no comparison for the steadying effect that a dizzying yoga practice brings to our daily life. So don’t just move – experience the simple joys of safe release; s.t.r.e.t.c.h.
A typical day begins with six supine stretches, cold eyewash with eyelids open, three OMs of varying combos under a cold shower, and one uddiyana bandha routine that I attempt to hold for 30 seconds. Formal practice includes three rounds of sun salutation, basic breath control (lower abdomen/ chest/ throat) to revive and rejuvenate the insides, and a flowing circuit of simple stretches that consistently target major muscles, glands, and organs. At the end of it all, I treat myself to the queen of all yoga postures – the ubiquitous shoulder stand, holding times for which fluctuate between 2 and 20 minutes.
Compacting of major muscles at the gym are typically followed by simple counter stretches, so that the body experiences a sense of balance at the end of a workout. There are simple stretches for various gym moves - ab crunch vs hasta uttana (standing)/ bhujanga (prone); leg curl (double) vs pada hasta/ paschimothana/ bala gopala; dumb bells vs trikona; low back extension vs kati chakra (standing)/ hala (supine); leg curl (single) vs uthita pada (standing)/ janu sirsa (seated); abductor crunch vs garuda; latt pull (upper body) vs parsva kona namaskara; leg extension (double) vs supta vajra; tricep press down vs gomukha; leg extension (double) vs kapota; wide squat vs baddha kona; chest press vs matsya; dead lift vs supta parivrit...
Eating salads is effective so long as we do not classify foods such as egg salad, pasta salad, and potato salad as being part of the salad category. At the same time, eating a limited amount of our favorite foods, even unhealthy ones, can be therapeutic. The important thing is to eat until we feel just right inside, not until our plate is empty. This can happen only when we practice conscious eating for inner wellness.
Asana practice is just the beginning of our spiritual healing. Once we learn to control physical movement, monitor the breath, and open up our hearts, we instinctively open up our minds to our own weaknesses and the goodness of others. We learn to appreciate the joy in little things, and to respect the privilege of good health. Most of all, we learn to forgive ourselves, and in the process we learn to appreciate others.
All muscle groups are interconnected – when one is stretched, another is strengthened. For example, upper body side twists help stretch and tone obliques and strengthen diaphragm; arm stretches tone triceps and lubricate rotator cuffs; chest openers expand pectoral muscles and refresh intercostals; isolated leg movements that mobilize hip extensors release hamstrings and tighten quadriceps; upper and lower back bends strengthen latissimus and gluteals. A total workout is one that involves body and mind in total harmony with breath and focus.
Understanding the topography of the human body is key to knowing how the system works. Postures that include bending and unbending of knees enhance flow of synovial fluids to help lubricate knee joints. Chest openers enhance lung capacity and improve airflow. Stretches that apply pressure to the lower abdomen aid digestion, regulate bowel movement, and maintain healthy functioning of regional glands and organs. Upper body inversions help re-activate thyroid, liver, pancreatic function, while simultaneously refreshing pineal and pituitary glands.