Yoga for Life: My 5 Favorite Poses
Yoga has changed my life, and I’m confident it can change yours, too. When I discovered yoga in my early forties, I knew how special it was, and how important a wellbeing practice it would be for the rest of my life. I begin my day with a wellbeing session that often includes yoga practice followed by meditation. I get on that mat, move through the postures, and strive to improve in each class. And each day, I feel better for it, both physically and mentally.
Yoga is meditation in motion. It helps me engage my whole body and move it in coordination with my breath for a mindfulness experience like no other. Through yoga, I can quiet my mind and let my body’s inner wisdom speak. The combination of asanas (postures) and pranayama (breathwork) help me align my mind, body, and soul, and I feel the energy flowing through me seamlessly. As the famous yogi BKS Iyengar said, “It is through the alignment of the body that I discovered the alignment of my mind, self, and intelligence.”
I practice yoga three times a week for about 90 minutes with my teacher Kush Panchal. I begin with stretching, followed with asanas, and wrap up the session with pranayama and meditation. Breathwork is at the core of my yoga practice.
To mark this International Day of Yoga, I’d like to share with you, my fellow wellbeing seeker, five of my favorite yoga poses.
1. Virabhadrasana or Warrior Pose
This asana is a foundational pose for strengthening the mind and the body. The variations of the Warrior Pose are done in a sequence to amplify its effect for the entire body. Alignment of the body — legs, feet, and arms — is crucial in this pose.
Start by standing on the mat, and step your right foot forward by about four feet, then align your legs in a lunge position, toes pointing to the top of the mat. Your front leg should bend in the lunge such that the knee and ankle are in line. Keep your left leg straight behind you and turn your left heel about 45 degrees. As you lunge forward in line with your front foot, raise your hands and bring them together, palms joining above your head.
You can hold this pose, take a few deep breaths, and then repeat on the other side. The variations help you further tap into your inner strength as you place your hands parallel to the ground, or parallel to your feet while holding the pose.
I do this sequence for 15-20 minutes; this includes all three variations of the pose. I visualize myself drawing energy from the earth as I raise my hands upward and take a deep breath. It helps me push through physical resistance while building mental resilience. It strengthens every single muscle in my lower body, in addition to improving the blood circulation in my legs and joints.
2. Bhujangasana or Cobra Pose
We all have our strengths and weaknesses. I like to tackle my weakest parts first, even though this means pushing my limits or bearing some physical pain. The Cobra Pose does just that as it stretches my stiffest part of the body — my back.
To do this pose, lie on your stomach on the mat, face down. Place your palms next to your chest, bending your elbows and hugging them to your sides. Inhale and press your palms down on the floor to lift your chest and head as far back as you can, straightening your arms with a slight bend in your elbows. Slowly release, keeping your elbows tucked in.
This pose gives you a powerful back stretch that lengthens the muscles in your shoulders, chest, and abdomen. It is great to correct your posture.
3. Viparita Karni or Legs Up the Wall Pose
We hold tension in our bodies in our joints, our back, and our neck. As we sit upright or stand all day long, our blood circulation gets affected. By turning the problem on its head (literally), you can put yourself in a state of deep relaxation. The Legs Up the Wall Pose is simple, but its benefits are manifold. All you need to do is sit next to a wall, bring yourself to face it, then slowly place your feet on the wall, and try to bring your hips as close to the wall as possible.
This pose reverses your body’s alignment, letting gravity do the rest of the work to improve circulation. This helps reduce inflammation in your feet or knee joints, and brings a sense of relaxation. I find this pose helps me clear up my mind, as I look at the world upside down.
I like this pose the most — and not just because it's restful. It’s the simplest of poses involving lying supine and motionless on the mat, eyes closed. But the beauty of this pose is in its simplicity; it helps me transition from a powerful asana sequence to pranayama or breathing exercises. When I am in Savasana, I am completely aware of the present moment. I use this asana to maximize my yoga session by doing Bhujangasana right before it.
5. Anulom Vilom
Anulom Vilom is a breathing exercise that involves taking alternate breaths from each nostril. I have found it helps me breathe deeper, clear my mind, and build my immunity. For this breathing exercise, you need to sit in a comfortable position, legs crossed. Place your left hand on the left knee and raise the right hand toward your nose. Exhale and use your right thumb to close the right nostril. Inhale through the left nostril and then close it with your fingers as you open the right nostril and exhale through it.
You can continue this in a loop for at least 10 deep breaths. Anulom Vilom helps me harmonize the thoughts in my mind. I always end my yoga sessions with Dhyana (meditation) as it helps me reflect on my learnings through my practice, and helps my body and mind connect in a state of consciousness.
My practice has helped me enhance my vision of wholistic wellbeing. Even on my busiest days, I make time for a yoga class. If I can’t do an entire class, I do a quick 15-minute breathing session. My yoga coach ensures I push my limits, physically as well as mentally.
For a better, wholistic approach to your wellbeing, step onto that yoga mat and watch all aspects of your wellbeing — mental, physical, and emotional — change in tandem for the better.