I’ve been regularly practicing yoga after an exceptionally long break. I’ve always loved it, especially the focus that each asana brings during the session and the mental clarity and energy that sticks with me all day long. Strangely, I had never managed to sustain my interest in yoga since the time I started practicing it, which was roughly eight years ago. So I’m really quite happy with this bit of progress that’s happening right now.
Everyone has a favourite yoga pose. I’ve come to realise that I particularly enjoy a mix of the standing and reclining asanas. I feel great after doing each one of them, and sometimes—when I don’t have too much time—I perform just these poses, or, what I like to call Super Asanas. If your excuse for not practising yoga has been lack of time, I’d highly recommend doing just these. You just need to try it to experience the bliss. Here are the Super Asanas that are sure to give you a host of immediate as well as long-term benefits.
Also known as the Bow pose, this asana is great if you want to tone your legs, strengthen your tummy muscles, beat stress, open up your chest, neck and shoulders, and add flexibility to your back. Even though I find this particular asana more difficult to perform than most of the other asanas, I still make sure to incorporate it into my daily yoga session. I especially love that feeling when the front of my thighs get stretched as well as that relaxing stretch on my middle and lower back.
This asana, also known as the Triangle pose, has got to be my favourite! Unlike most asanas, one needs to keep their eyes open for this one. I love how it completely stretches my thighs, hamstrings, sides, shoulders, calves, groin and hips. And, with the my eyes fixed on the different movements (your eyes need to follow the tips of your fingers), I find it to be one of the best stress relievers! After doing 5 sets on each side, you’ll feel energised, focused, balanced and ready to take on the biggest challenges of the day.
This head-to-knee pose is one of the best ways to stretch your leg, back and arm muscles. I try to hold this pose for five minutes for each leg. I’ve noticed that the more I practice it with a calm mind, the easier it becomes. As the days go by, my ability to hold this pose for a longer time without much muscle tugs, pulls or quivers, has improved. I also try to incorporate Janusirasana during my cool-down session, especially after a heavy leg workout. It’s an excellent way to allow your muscles to relax and cool off after exercising, besides making you more flexible. Don’t forget to exhale as your head touches your knee.
Even though Utkatasana, also known as the Chair Pose, might look simple, it is actually a tad challenging. But its benefits run high! I love any exercise that involves focussing on a distant point. I’ve found that sitting in an ‘imaginary’ chair has helped to improve my concentration and awareness, along with strengthening my thigh muscles and lengthening my back. Do a few rounds of this asana and you’ll also notice that your posture improves to a great extent.
Performed as a salutation to the sun, this practice is, in actual fact, a combination of asana and pranayama (breathing). I like to try and do at least 25 Surya Namaskars every day. Yes, I know, each Surya Namaskar takes at least a minute (if not more to complete, especially when you hold each pose). And sometimes it can seem like too much of a rigorous workout to even get into. But, once I’m done I can’t help but think about how amazing it makes me feel.
My flexibility has improved greatly as has my stamina because it’s much like a cardio workout (expect a bucket load of sweat). I’ve read that it helps every organ in the body to function to its optimum, besides purifying blood, improving blood circulation and the functioning of nerve centres. I like to start off with 10 sets, holding each of the 12 postures for as long as I can. I practice the next 15 using fluid and dynamic movements.
This asana takes me back to my college days when I first started practising yoga. I can’t, for the life of me, believe that I attended the 7 am yoga class at the Yoga Institute in Santacruz, Mumbai! Even today, it’s hard to imagine myself performing a series of contortions at such an early hour. Anyway, by the end of the class, after performing Shavasana, the sleepy-headed me used to enter such a heightened state of relaxation that I almost always fell off to sleep!
Jokes aside, Shavasana—generally performed as the last asana—is much like a cool-down of sorts and has the practitioner lying on his or her back while releasing all forms of muscular tension. There’s not a day when I don’t practice it now (minus the nodding off bit, of course). Whether I’ve done 120 squats or 50 Surya Namaskars, I find that Shavasana is, perhaps, one of the best ways for my body to completely cool itself down after stretching, thereby eliminating the possibility of injuries. I also perform this asana as a pick-me-up when my energy levels are running low on certain days.
* This article is based on my personal experience. Each posture is best explained by your yoga instructor, after consulting with your doctor, should you suffer from any disorders.