Yoga Goals for the New Year!

Sudakshna Thampi explains Yoga basics and how we can inculcate it into our daily routine!

Life seems to be moving on the fast lane for most of us with long hours of work, little or no work – life balance, mindless hours of social media distractions and unchecked screen time! But the unlimited information flow into our minds and constant physical stress can often have a strong impact on our mind, body and soul leaving us tired, drained and often depressed. It is important to refresh ourselves, to calm the mind, reach out to our inner self and relieve stress whenever we can. One of the best ways to achieve this goal is through Yoga. Renowned Yoga coach, Sudakshna Thampi explains how we can begin practising Yoga, points to be kept in mind while practising Yoga and tips on how we can inculcate it into our daily routine. So what’s your New Year resolution going to be?

Compiled by Riya Sonny Datson

“I would say the very first step would be to start with a good teacher, who the student can relate to and be comfortable with. As the teacher brings his/her own energies into the class, it is important that you are able to communicate and be comfortable with him/her. It would be good to have experienced, certified or authorised trainers (although please note that it is only recently that trainers were given certifications). But ensure that your teacher is experienced, that they take care of you and are mindful of the Asanas and your comfort,” advices Sudakshna.

Considering the busy schedules people have today, she says taking online classes would be a good option. She herself has a small capsule on yoga training on the Manorama News channel every Thursday that explains simple Yoga asanas. “According to your requirement, you can watch and learn the asanas that work for you. I am active on Instagram and IG TV where I share information on Yoga as well. While practising Yoga, you must always listen to your body and don’t go beyond the limit or you might injure yourself. That is why it is always better to have a teacher or a guide. Even if you take online classes, you must try and do contact classes once in a while so that the trainer
can help you personally. You can always take a few classes, learn the asanas and then practise them yourself,” she explains. If learning Yoga is your New Year resolution, she says it is very important to earmark the time of the day to practise Yoga. Have a Yoga space ready and keep comfortable clothes to do Yoga. She explains that once you get into that time and space, you must keep everything else aside and focus on practising Yoga. Keep a timer on your phone for atleast 15-20 minutes during which, you can do a combination of asanas, pranayama and meditation but don’t get off until timer goes off. It is important to motivate yourself to form a routine. There are umpteen benefits to doing Yoga and it can customised to suit your needs.

Most people consider Yoga as ‘just a physical exercise’ but Sudakshna clarifies that it is a holistic exercise that involves the mind, body and spirit. “It is a practise of connecting to silence, connecting to your inner self. During the time, healing takes place in body, mind and spirit and the benefits are stemming from the mind silence. There is a lot more to the art of Yoga than just exercise and meditation.” She goes on to explain that there are eight limbs to yoga which are:

  • Yamas or abstinences which focuses on behaviour. It brings in self awareness and transforms negative energy into inner peace. There are 5
    yamas namely Ahimsa or non violence, Satya or truth, Asteya or Non stealing, Brahmacharya or moderating the senses and Aparigraha or non possessiveness
  • Niyamas are observances or activities that focus on self discipline and spiritual observances. There are 5 niyamas namely Shaucha or
    cleanliness, Santhosha or contentment, Tapas or self discipline, Ishvara Pranidhana or Self Surrender and Svadhyaya or self study.
  • Asanas are yoga postures are designed to give us good health.
  • Pranayama or breath control are breathing techniques that help us to rejuvenate the body. Prana means ‘life force’ and yama means ‘expansion’ so it a technique of expanding the life force.
  • Pratyahara is the practise of withdrawal of the senses, which helps you to step back and look at ourselves objectively. It means nothing should own you; even if there is a lack of anything in your life, you must be able to maintain peace.
  • Dharana or concentration
  • Dhyana or meditation is the uninterrupted flow of concentration focussing on a single point
  • Samadhi or enlightenment is the state of oneness, blissfulness when everything comes together.

For someone who is new to Yoga, Sudakshna lists down a few basic Asanas that you could start with:

Butterfly pose or Baddha Konasana is a good stretch for the inner thighs, groins and knees, it helps in digestion, removes fatigue and offers relief from menstrual discomfort and other symptoms. If you have a knee injury or lower back issues, use a blanket for support and avoid bending forward.

  • Sit with your back erect and legs stretched out in front of you.
  • Gently bend your knees and bring your feet together such that the soles touch each other.
  • Lace your fingers around your toes and hold your feet tightly for support. Bring your feet as close to your body as possible.
  • Breath in. While breathing out, press the thighs and knees downward towards the floor
  • Now start flapping both the legs up and down like the wings of a butterfly. gradually increasing the speed and then slowing down.
  • Take a deep breath in and as you exhale, bend forward, keeping the chin up and spine erect.
  • Press your elbows on the thighs or on the knees
  • Feel the stretch and take long, deep breaths, relaxing the muscles more and more.
  • Take a deep breath in and bring the torso up.
  • As you exhale, gently release the posture. Straighten the legs out in front of you and relax.

Bhujangasana or the Cobra pose is a basic pose that is very often practiced either on its own, or as part of the Sun Salutations. Bhujanga means snake in Sanskrit, and in this pose we imitate a snake lifting its head while working the shoulders, upper back and spine. Cobra pose can help relieve your upper body stiffness as it strengthens the entire shoulder area and upper back. It also creates more flexibility into the lower back, massages the digestive organs and relieves menstrual pain.

  • Lie on your stomach and let your forehead touch the floor.
  • Ensure that your feet together, or hip width apart with the toes pressing against the floor.
  • Place your palms on the floor underneath your shoulders, keeping your elbows close to your body.
  • Draw your shoulder blades back and down, and try to maintain this throughout the pose.
  • Inhale and slowly start lifting your head and chest off the floor. Don’t place all of your weight onto your hands, keep the elbows lightly bent and keep the back muscles working.
  • Keep your shoulders relaxed and hold the pose.
  • As you exhale lower yourself back onto the ground.

Sethu Bhandana: This asana resembles a bridge and it gets its name from the Sanskrit words ‘Setu’, which means bridge and ‘Bandha’, which means lock. This pose stretches your back, neck, and chest and relaxes your body but it must be done on an empty stomach.

Asian woman make yoga Bridge pose in classroom

  • Lie flat on your back.
  • Bend your knees and place your feet on the floor hip-width apart, Making sure that your ankles and knees are in a straight line.
  • With palms facing downwards, let your arms rest beside your body
  • Inhale, and slowly lift your back off the floor, opening up your chest and letting your chin touch your chest. Let your shoulders, feet, and arms support your weight.
  • Make sure your thighs are parallel to each other and the floor.
  • Interlace your fingers under your body and push your hands harder to the ground to lift your torso higher.
  • Hold the posture for at least a minute and breathe slowly and deeply.
  • Exhale and release the pose.

Ardhra Mathyasana is a pose that strengthens your back and spine as it tones the spinal nerves and improves the functioning of the spinal cord.This asana relieves back pain and the stiffness from between the vertebrae.

  • Sit erect with your legs stretched out. Make sure that your feet are placed together and your spine is absolutely erect.
  • Next bend your right leg, bring your left leg around the right knee such that the heel of the left foot lies next to the right hip.
  • Then, place the right leg over the left knee.
  • Lift your right arm and place it behind you on the right.
  • Raise your left arm and stretch your elbow over the right inner thigh in such a way that your hand touches your right hips. Twist your waist, neck, and shoulders towards the right, and set your gaze over your right shoulder. Make sure your spine is erect.
  • Hold the pose for a few seconds, about 30 to 60 as you breathe slowly, yet deeply.
  • Exhale and release the right hand, and then the waist, chest, and finally the neck. Relax as you sit straight.
  • Repeat the steps on the other side, and then exhale and come back to the front.

Janu Sisrasana or Head to Knee pose: This asana is a forward bend and is to be done on an empty stomach. Beneficial for abdominal region as it stimulates the blood flow in the area. It strengthens the spine and spinal nerves as we are extending the vertebral column.

  • Sit straight with the legs stretched out in front of the body
  • Ensure that your spine is erect and keep the feet together.
  • Bend the left knee and bring your left heel close to your body as much as you can comfortably. Place the sole of the left foot to the inside of right leg’s inner thigh.
  • Inhale and lift your arms straight up. Slowly exhale and bend forward lacing your fingers around the right leg that is stretched out. Your chin or your forehead should touch the knee.
  • Hold for five breaths
  • Now inhale and slowly raise yourself up. Exhale and bring your arms down.
  • Do the same thing on the other side.

Shalabasana: This is also called the locust pose as the body shape looks like a locust while doing this pose. This pose helps to strengthen the back muscles and is beneficial for your back and spine.

  • Lie down on your Stomach; place both hands underneath the thighs.
  • Breath in (inhale) and lift your right leg up gently ensuring that your leg should not bend at the knee
  • Your chin should rest on the ground
  • Hold this position and take a few breaths
  • After that exhale and take down your leg in the initial position.
  • Similarly do it with your left leg.
  • Repeat this for five to seven times.
  • After doing it with the left leg, inhale and lift your both legs up (Your legs should not bend at the knees; lift your legs as much as you can).
  • With both legs repeat the process for two to four times.

Marjariasana also known as the cat pose is a back stretching exercise and it opens up the spine. During the pose the body is stretched in similar way as that of a cat and hence the name.

  • Bring your body down on the floor using all fours ensuring that Shoulder is over the wrist and your knees are under your hip.
  • Now slowly inhale and let your back bend inside, curl the toes and press it to the ground and gaze up lifting your gaze to the sky. Hold pose.
  • Now slowly exhale, bend your head inside, release the toes and gaze at your naval. Stretch the rib cage up in a concave position.
  • Hold the pose and repeat a few times.