By Shameem Akhtar
Yoga is the impeccable tool for attaining balance in our lives
Every time we stand up, we challenge the basic design of our own bodies. The force of gravity, at 3.6 metres per second, sets to work even though, ostensibly, we do not feel its drag. In a beautiful orchestration of muscle, tissue, bones and tendon, with the nervous system as the silent but powerful conductor, a symphony of movement is created.
Millions of minute stuff or receptors, somewhat akin to fluff scattered throughout our bodies, act like mini-barometers. Called proprioceptors, these keep tabs on the inner map of the body, broadcasting the positions of the extremities like leg, nose and arms. Proprioception is your ability to navigate the small stretch between kitchen and dining hall without looking down each time to check if your foot is attached to your leg, or your leg to your hips! It is so automated that we hardly think about it. But there areailments when the spinal cord, where this mass of information from the proprioceptors passes and is partly processed, atrophies. When that happens this marvellous sense of balance, which we take so much for granted, is severely challenged.
BKS Iyengar in Yoga: the path to holistic health writes: “An asana is not a posture that you assume mechanically. It involves a thoughtful process at the end of which a balance is achieved between movement and resistance. Your weight has to be evenly distributed over muscles, bones and joints, just as your intelligence must be engaged at every level. You have to create space in your muscles and your skin, fitting the fine network of your entire body into the asana. This helps the organs of perception (the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and skin) to discern the subtlety of each movement.”
Olympic coach Aladar Kogler in his book writes that yoga is the best remedy to restore a champion’s muscle group that is wrongly loaded, meaning a lop-sided training as in a fencing champion who may, perforce, neglect the unused arm, or side of the body. Yoga restores the balance.
Natrajasana (Dancing Shiva pose)
Stand up straight. Fold right leg at knee, with knee pointed up, the foot pointed down. Bend right hand so elbow lightly touches right knee. Right hand is up as shown, with palm facing front. Straighten the other, supporting leg, ensuring it is not bent at the knee. Hold for as long as is possible. Breathe normally throughout. Release leg, to return to starting position. Repeat for the other leg.
Points to note: The higher the lifted knee, the more difficult it becomes and challenging. Keeping a point of focus outside the body or in front of you helps hold such balancing poses far longer.
Benefits: Balances right and left brain hemispheres. Strengthens legs. Helps develop mental focus. Ankle tendons are worked, and may help prepare you for the seated lotus pose (padmasana).
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