We’ve highlighted through previous blogs why starting a Yoga practice during Ramadan is ideal. Not only will it boost your energy supplies and help you get through the day, but it will also help in eliminating toxins alongside your fast. The serenity and peace that you feel after a session will also help you in your spiritual reflections.
In this blog we take a look at the poses that are most suitable when you are fasting.
Quite naturally, we don’t recommend more strenuous postures. If you are a Yoga enthusiast and well along in your Yoga practice, then we suggest you reserve the more advanced postures for a shorter Yoga routine after sundown, maybe after the first meal you have to break your fast. Even then do wait for at least an hour before starting your Yoga routine.
Since you would have done the basic Yoga poses during the day, keep this time for your sun salutations (Surya Namaskars) and the intermediate to advanced postures such as Sarvangasana (shoulder stand) and Shirsasana (head stand).
While we commend those who exhibit this level of commitment to Yoga, we realise that not everyone will have the time for two Yoga sessions in a day. So, for those who choose to do their Yoga while they are fasting, here are a few suggestions.
Try and choose a mix of postures that alternate between strengthening exercises and ones that give your musculoskeletal system a good stretch.
Always make it a point to include a set of Pranayama (breath control) exercises. Begin by conditioning your lungs through breathing exercises that progressively help you breathe into your upper chest, lungs and then down into your abdomen. After these preparatory exercises you might want to do Anulom Vilom (alternate nostril breathing), generally very beneficial to balance both hemispheres of the brain; Sheetali, which helps cool the body down and Bhramari, (humming bee breath), which helps in improving focus and reducing tension and anxiety by calming the nervous system.
A five-minute meditation practice is also highly recommended as this also helps in de-stressing the body. Sit in a comfortable posture, close your eyes — or at the very least maintain a gentle gaze — play gentle calming music in the background (you will find plenty of tracks on YouTube) and try and observe your breath as it goes in and out. Don’t try and inhale deeply or exhale forcefully. Keep your breath natural and just observe it.
Alternatively, you can keep observe the thoughts that come into your mind. But don’t follow them. Just let them come in, spend time with you, and then be replaced by another thought.
Don’t skip Shavasana — the corpse pose — at the very end. This is important after every Yoga session. As it helps the body consolidate all the benefits of the practice, restoring it gently so that you are ready to face the rest of the day.
Let’s now take a look at a few poses that we recommend for a simple beginner-level Yoga practice.
(Caution: It’s a good rule of thumb to remember to leave around two hours between a meal and an Asana, as most postures require that your stomach is relatively empty.)
Tadasana: Mountain Pose
Chest out and shoulder blades retracted;
Arms by your sides;
Distribute your weight evenly on both feet;
Close your eyes if you are comfortable doing so;
Now gently breathe in and out.
It’s a simple Asana, however, it pulls in all parts of the body to help hold the body erect and in balance. Therefore great for posture.
As you breathe in and out, your focus and concentration improve; you feel stress and tension ease. Without your even knowing it, you are working all major muscle groups including your all-important core.
Vajrasana: The Thunderbolt Pose
Another seated pose ideal for meditation and developing focus and concentration, it is also good for digestion and posture.
As a beginner, particularly those with mild knee issues, consider placing a cushion between your calves and thighs as you sit back, or avoid the posture altogether until you are able to discuss it with your Yoga teacher.
Kneel on your Yoga mat. You might want to fold a towel in two to cushion your knees;
Now sit back onto your calves;
Be careful not to dump all your weight on your ankles. Allow your heels to gently form a cradle for your bottom;
Place both palms on your knees;
Ensure that your back is straight, your chin parallel to the floor;
Close your eyes and breathe;
Hold the posture for a minute.
The pose helps in better posture and combats stress. It increases blood flow to the abdomen and intestines thus boosting digestion. Hence the pose is a good one for those trying to rev up their metabolism. Sitting in Vajrasana for a few minutes after a meal is a good idea. So, you could incorporate this into a Yoga routine post Iftar too!
However, pregnant women, and those with knee, ankle and foot pain, and/or back problems are advised to do the pose only with expert guidance.
The pose looks simple, but caution is advisable.
Uttasasana — The Standing Forward Fold.
Stand straight; chest out and shoulder blades retracted;
Lift your arms straight up;
Beginning with your hips, fold your upper torso forward;
Stop at a 90-degree angle to quickly check that you are not locking out your knees. (It’s important you keep a slight bend in your knees);
Now bring your hands down.
But don’t try and touch the floor on your first attempt. Only go as far as is possible for you.
Take care not to hunch your back in an attempt to touch your forehead to the knee. This will only come with repeated, consistent practice.
Once again a simple Asana that involves the entire body, giving it a good stretch. Blood flowing down into your head is sure to reduce stress and anxiety, improving brain function. The legs and back are strengthened. Your lung capacity improves, which means better breathing. Once again very good to correct poor posture.
Sukhasana — The Easy Pose
This cross-legged pose is however not as challenging as the Padmasan or The Lotus Pose, which requires more practice and some preparatory exercises that help open up the hips.
As a beginner, you could either sit on a cushion or pillow. You could even begin by sitting on a low stool.
Sit with your back straight, chest out.
Gently draw your legs into a cross-legged posture. Let your knees fall to either side, but do not force them down.
You could extend your crossed ankles slightly away from you for a more comfortable seat.
Let your palms rest gently on your knees.
Breathe gently — a complete exhalation and a full, deep inhalation.
Hold the posture for a minute or as long as you are comfortable, before extending your legs and coming out of the pose.
This is a foundational pose, and you begin to build on this with every practice session.
However, it also has its intrinsic benefits.
It improves posture, as you consciously sit erect with your back straight. You could use the posture for a 5-minute meditation; or for deep breathing practice.
The pose improves focus and lung capacity and strengthens the back. If you are stressed, sit in Sukhasana for a few moments and you are guaranteed to feel lighter and better.
Note: For Sukhasana, you really don’t need to have an empty stomach unless you are planning on doing Pranayama or deep breathing exercises while in the pose.
Bhujangasana or The Cobra Pose.
As a beginner, DO NOT arch your back beyond your comfort level. It is also advisable to go for a low cobra, raising your head and neck in a straight line slightly above the ground. Hold this pose for a few days before graduating to a full back-arching one.
Lie on your belly and bring both palms flat beside your shoulders;
Spread your feet gently and allow your heels to drop out with your toes pointing inwards;
Breathe in; breathe out and tighten your abdominal muscles, and begin raising your chest above the ground;
Take care not to dump all your weight on your hands, rather pushing away from the mat and using your stomach muscles to hold up your upper torso.
Tighten your buttock muscles to protect your back.
Breathe gently into your upper chest; make sure your head is in line with your neck.
Close your eyes and hold the posture for 30 seconds, increasing the duration as you get more consistent with the posture.
This one is a full body-toning posture massaging the internal organs, particularly the abdominal muscles. It’s excellent to strengthen the back, the buttocks and makes the spine more flexible. It’s a great heart-opener and helps improve lung capacity.
(Note: Pregnant women and those with severe back and neck issues should avoid Bhujangasana. Consult a Yoga instructor first.)
Use the five postures we’ve highlighted to build a foundation for your Yoga practice. They look simple, and yet in reality they engage the entire body. Thus, the benefits of each pose are targeted at the muscles being engaged, but are not limited to those alone, but encompass the whole body — your core, your back, your legs. They are also perfect to develop focus and concentration, calming the mind and reducing stress.
To find out more about us and our programs — both online and at our center — do call us at 00971-50-395-5613.