The cycling movement. Photo: Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint
In the world of fitness, everyone seems to follow a 15-day or 30-day challenge that they believe will have a good impact on their health, both mentally and physically. On the occasion of the second International Day of Yoga, we have charted a yoga challenge to help you build core strength over eight weeks.
A strong core protects the internal organs and takes the pressure off your spinal column, especially if your job requires you to sit all day long. A lot of back pain is due to weak abdominal muscles. So the core is a good place to start.
In the coming weeks, we will explain, in detail, how to do the various asanas, and the exercises that help in perfecting them.
Navasana (boat pose)
In the first two weeks, we will work towards developing muscles and the awareness to help hold the Navasana for a minute. By the third week, you should be able to do the Navasana perfectly. These exercises are suitable for everyone, but in case you have a medical condition, do consult a doctor before starting.
Lie flat on your back. Pull in your lower belly, engaging your stomach muscles. Your shoulder blades and the back of your head should push on to the floor. As you inhale, bring the right leg slowly off the floor up to 90 degrees and, while exhaling, lower the leg slowly to the floor. Repeat this 10-15 times with the same leg. Make sure your breathing is slow and easy and in accordance with the movement. Try and keep your hips stable as you move the leg up and down. After you are finished with the right leg, do the same with the left leg.
Repeat the whole exercise 10-15 times, even more if possible. Take a break when needed.
Lie flat on the floor. Engage your lower belly by pulling your navel towards the spine. Keep the lower back, shoulder blades and back of your head pushing on to the floor. Stabilize the hips, and raise both your feet off the floor, bringing your legs to 90 degrees. Inhale as you bring both the legs up and exhale as you bring them back to the floor. Try and perform the movement slowly, with an awareness of your breath. Relax the neck and shoulders as you do the exercise. We tend to tighten and contract our shoulders, neck and mouth while exercising. Be aware of this and relax what doesn’t need to be actively involved; focus on the breath and movement together. Repeat 10-15 times, more if possible. Take a break when needed.
After you have finished your sets of double-leg raises, lie on the floor in the same position. Lift your right leg and bring the knee towards your chest in a cycling motion. Inhale as you bring the leg up and in and exhale as you take it down and out. After you have finished with one leg, repeat with the other leg. The focus, again, is on pulling in your navel towards the spine, keeping the lower belly and shoulder blades pressed on to the floor. Do 10 circles in one direction with each leg.
Repeat the same in the opposite direction with each leg.
Lying on your back, bring both your legs up and move them together in a cycling motion. Follow your breath with the movement. Inhale as one leg comes in and exhale as the other leg moves out. The focus should be on both your breath and movement, keeping the belly engaged.
These exercises should not take you more than 10-20 minutes, depending on how fast or slow you want to go and how many repetitions you do. To go slow is always a better choice, for you build control over your muscles and breath. Challenge yourself and try and do one more round when you reach your fatigue point.
These exercises not only help develop core strength but also strengthen leg muscles and help improve digestion. Please do these exercises on an empty stomach or 3 hours after a meal.
Maya Rao is a certified Ashtanga Yoga practitioner.