Yoga - Yogic squats
by Shameem Akthar
Often overshadowed by more exotic asanas, squats are essential for a balanced practice, says Shameem Akthar
Shameem Akthar has trained as yoga Acharya with
the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre, Kerala, and
is a master-trainer in neuro-linguistic psychology.
Squats are a beautiful, often neglected part of yoga. Though some are common and well-known, they may be overshadowed by the more exotic inversions, arm and standing balancers. However, they should be eased into practice regularly to ensure that one has a well-rounded practice.
For proper execution and form, they demand intense and prolonged practice. In that, you could club them with the rest of the warrior series. In fact, it is not unusual to see yogic squats being widely used by most martial arts as preparatory poses for a fighter. When yogic squats are adapted to the martial arts, they combine full splits and forward bends, upping the ante even more excitingly. The utkatasana itself is named after Lord Hanuman, where he sits on his own tail, wrapped into an asana, when led before the King of Lanka as Lord Ram's messenger. This can explain the power hidden in these poses.
Yogic squats are vitalising. They remove lethargy. Interestingly, despite being stimulating, they can also be very grounding. They calm the hyper-anxious personality and de-stress powerfully by squeezing muscles that are contracted due to tension. They are also `power poses', that create a sense of focus, mental stamina and a warrior-like keenness.
Some squats are seated ones, like utthanasana (squat and rise pose). Others are standing ones, like the druta utkatasana (dynamic energy pose). The utkatasana itself runs into exciting and challenging variations. The challenge can be spiked even more when the duration in the final pose is extended. Or when it is done dynamically. The squats demand tremendous stretch at the ankles, hips and shoulders. To hold a proper squat, one must learn to endure pressure on the hips, ankles and the Achilles' heels in particular. In that sense, yogic squats are also very spiritual poses because these are the parts that create maximum trouble to novice meditators attempting to sit cross-legged.
Stand straight. Feet should be together. Stretch arms overhead. Inhale.
Exhaling, begin to squat down, till hips almost reach the ground. Ensure balance. Move hands back to ensure body is not tilting forward. Hold, breathing normally.
To release pose, inhale, standing back up to starting position. Repeat a few times. Try to hold the final pose longer, with regular practice.
If unable to fully squat, you may remain on toes initially. Then slowly, after a few weeks, start putting feet flat on ground. Ensure body is not tilting forward. If having difficulty initially, stay on your toes.
Benefits: Prevents back pain, especially lower back. Increases overall flexibility. Makes the face glow. Tones entire body. Reduces fat. Boosts gut health. Develops mental stamina.
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