By Shameem Akhtar
Many basic practices of yoga are being done away with in today’s more lax environment, laments Shameem Akthar
There has been such a heartening interest in all things to do with yoga. However, in this rush, much of the classic requirements that are a must before you get on the mat or while on the mat, are totally neglected. This may have to do with the fact that a class has a set time and a lot of the essentials are sacrificed as if they are the frills. This also has to do with the fact that earlier, yoga was a lifestyle and now it is a fad.
For instance, yoga is incomplete without pranayama. Often, though, giving counts in a pranayama is difficult for the teacher. Or a group may feel ‘bored’ and want to skip it, thinking asanas (poses) to be more important. The cool down/meditation at the end of a practice also has to be structured. Again, many classes will give this a miss, simply because when people attend classes as customers, they begin to dictate how they want the class run, and this could mean meditation being regarded as “boring” by many or a time-waste.
Again, unless you are very sick or pregnant or a child, anulom vilom (alternate nostril breathing) must always follow a set ratio of 1:4:2 (of inhalation: retention: exhalation). But you will find that a depressingly significant proportion of yoga practitioners have no clue about this. The ratio is what makes this pranayama the most healing, spiritual, de-stressing, mind-focussing practice amongst all other practices .
Early morning preparations for yoga – agnisarakriya, jalneti – must be done at home. However, it is doubtful that many institutes/schools or yoga teachers explain the process, or impress upon the students the significance of doing these preparatory practices. These are seen as some exotic practices done by dreadlocked yogis in the mountains! Actually, these practices are a must. Earlier, when yoga was a lifestyle these practices were presumed to have been done before one even stepped on the mat.
Again, there is a lot of fear psychosis about headstand, including from well-known institutes. Actually, the headstand may be attempted after preparing the neck through many leg raises. So, at one there are teachers who will lecture on the pitfalls of the headstand. Again, unless you are sick there is no reason to resist the headstand. On the other end there are teachers who may teach the headstand without the preparatory poses that power the neck.
Supta hasta padasana (Lying hand to leg raise):
Lie on your back. Inhale. Raise your leg up. Exhale, lifting your head up, hold the leg with both hands. However, if you are bending at the knees, avoid holding too high. Instead hold at the calf. Do not lift the torso too high. Instead drag the leg down, to build up pressure at the hips and the neck. Ensure normal breathing while holding the pose. Hold for short while initially, building up stamina. To finish pose, inhale. Exhaling, lower the right leg back. Repeat for the other side.
Benefits: This is a must-do preparatory pose for the headstand, and prepares it for any fall. It also prepares the neck, building its strength for the crucial lift in the headstand. This pose has other benefits, over 40 or so! From curing insomnia, to de-stressing, controlling blood pressure, spinal aches, and diabetes.
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