By Shameem Akthar
A light satvic diet makes you more flexible on the mat
|Shameem Akthar has trained as yoga Acharya with |
the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre, Kerala, and
is a master-trainer in neuro-linguistic psychology.
A vegetarian diet is often chosen for spiritual or health reasons. But it may well encourage better flexibility on the mat. In fact, it may even prod you out of your lethargy towards your practice.
Even those who may not be spiritually inclined may choose a vegetarian diet or a largely vegetarian one once their practice becomes steady. This is because eating a solely non-vegetarian diet may interfere with flexibility.
Eating very late also has this effect. Even a heavy dinner or eating stale food can also affect us. This is not just food recooked but also those that come out of cans or from the ready-to-cook packets.
Fresh food, eaten immediately after it has been cooked, vegetarian diet or food obtained without any cruelty to another living thing, dairy products and legumes (for strength and stamina) keep the body flexible. The right mix of spices is also sattvic. In intense sadhana, the body has to be kept off most `hot’ spices (red chilli) or too much salt to ensure that the toxin release happens without too much discomfort.
In fact, certain spiritually cleansing poses like the peacock (mayurasana) require you to follow a sattvic, pure diet for them to be effective. Thus as you advance in practice being more conscious of your diet, personalising it with sound advice from ayurveda (for instance pitta dosha needs cooling foods, while kapha must avoid it) would add further impetus to your sadhana.
Halasana (Plough pose)
Lie on your back. Place legs together. Inhale, raise legs up. Exhale, hoist your hips off the ground, placing palms at the waist/hips to hold the legs up in the air. Continue normal breathing. This would be the first stage of the pose, and is a complete pose in itself called viparita karani mudra (psychic union pose). Inhale, exhaling drop right leg at the back of the head, on the floor. Inhale, raise it back. Repeat twice. Then do for other leg. Inhale. Exhale. Then drop both legs behind the head and hold feet down. Do for a few seconds only, with normal breathing, if you are a beginner. Advanced practitioners may hold longer depending on flexibility. Then to finish pose, raise feet a bit off the ground, place palms flat on the mat, keep the hips low and roll it down, dropping the back gently back to the floor. The legs are lowered simultaneously, the feet coming last on the mat. Lie back in the corpse pose. You may push the lower back curve to the ground, or hold bent knees to chest, for a few seconds to deliberately contract and release any tension you may have felt in the pose.
Benefits: It displays spinal, leg flexibility and is a sign of health. The pressure on abdomen tones the entire gut. Prevents and helps control diabetes. Like other inversions it is anti-aging. It works on the fear centres in the body (back of neck, shoulders) and makes us courageous. Most importantly, it boosts respiration.
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