Yoga has not only therapeutic value. Actually, yoga was designed to build stamina so that spiritual seekers did not waver from their goal. So, though the initial value of yoga in your life may be therapeutic, as you advance in your practice it will contribute immensely to your physical, mental and emotional stamina.
The ability to hold your pose without wavering and with steadiness is called asana jaya (victory over the pose). Such steadiness requires strong muscular and respiratory support. This steadiness also arises from the yogic mental ability to analyse pain and understand whether it may be borne or is dangerous. This special ability is peculiar to yoga, which is why it is regarded a perfect pain management tool.
In yogic therapy, on the other hand, the poses are gentle. Even when 'difficult' poses are learnt, they are not held for too long. But when you use yoga for toning your body, and as a more effective substitute for gym-based exercises you must gradually build up stamina in each pose. Only then will muscles become toned and taut and your respiratory capacity leap-frog. Physical stamina and vigour will be assured and emotional stability, the original intent of such exercise, is a given.
Shameem Akthar, yoga acharya trained with the
, guides your
through five yoga poses that guarantee all this. Sivananda Yoga Vedanta
This is an advanced version of the bhujangasana (cobra pose). Lie on your stomach and place your chin on the floor. Place your feet close to each other with your palms flat on ground, on either side of your chest. Inhale and hoist yourself off the floor, with the body supported only by palms and toes. The knees and stomach should be lifted off the floor.
Continue breathing normally while making the following adjustments. Arms should be straight; this deepens the arch at the lower back. Head tilts back, further deepening the arch. Hold this pose as long as comfortably possible, breathing normally. Release and relax to the starting position with while exhaling.
Avoid: If having weak wrists or lower back pain.
Benefits: It is a powerful stamina-builder. It tones the arms, spinal nerves (elevating mood and mental control) and legs superbly. Removes wrinkles from neck and face. Improves voice and balances thyroid hormone flow. Boosts respiratory capacity and is therapeutic in digestive problems (like constipation, sluggish metabolism), diabetes and uro-genital problems.
Adhomukha svanasana (Downward-facing dog)
This pose is also referred to as the parvatasana or mountain pose. Kneel down and lean forward placing palms flat on ground in front. Exhale and hoist hips off the floor, pushing down shoulders as you continue breathing, making the following adjustments.
Push down your heels. Focus your attention on your stomach while applying pressure from your shoulder blades. Move your head as close to the ground as possible. Hold the pose as long as you can. Do several times initially. Later, build up the stamina to hold the pose for a minute or so.
Benefits: This pose is a powerful stamina-builder. It boosts calmness due to blood flow to brain. Balances blood pressure, both low and high. Alleviates all spinal problems. Tones arms and legs, giving the entire body a work-out. It also removes wrinkles.
Stand up straight, bend the right leg at the knee. Place right foot on left thigh; resting the back of your right foot high on the left thigh. Inhaling, raise both your hands above your head. Exhale and lower your hands to floor, bringing head as close to the left thigh as possible. Hold the pose, breathing normally. Release and return to normal. Repeat for the other side.
Avoid: If having lower back problems, heart problems or high blood pressure, vertigo, or if you cannot balance on a single leg for long.
Benefits: This pose is a stamina builder. It provides super traction to the spine. Increases respiration building capacity. It tends to make the mond more extroverted due to impact on the cerebellum.
Dandasana (Stick pose)
Lie on your stomach. Inhaling, push yourself up, into the classic push-up position so body is rested on palms and toes. Exhaling, lower yourself by bending elbows, but ensure your body remains off the ground, though very close to it. This is an extreme push-up position. Hold for a few seconds. Lower yourself back to the ground and repeat thrice. Later, build up stamina to hold the pose for 15 seconds to one minute.
Avoid: If having any spinal problem, weak wrists, heart ailment or high blood pressure.
Benefits: One of the most challenging poses; it is used in military-style training to build muscle, stamina and mental focus. It strengthens the entire body superbly since it is a powerful resistance-training pose.
Uttitahasta merudandasana (Raised hands spinal column pose)
Sit with your legs out in front of you. Hold each big toe with either hand firmly. Bend your legs at the knees as you pull up the legs, exhaling. Continue normal breathing as you bring your legs together, still holding the toes. Hold the pose firmly, focusing on your toes.
Release to relax legs back to the original position. Initially, you may have trouble balancing. But gradually build stamina in the pose, to hold it for a minute or more.
Avoid: If having heart problems, extremely high blood pressure or lower back problems.
Benefits: It ejects worms. Firms the abdomen and builds stamina, through improved muscular strength, respiratory capacity and mental focus. Helps control diabetes and works on the entire spine powerfully, preventing problems.