Yoga Mail

By Rutharra

Being healthy in today’s world while living amongst stressed members of humanity in the rat race deemed necessary for survival may sound like a difficult feat to accomplish.

This is why many tend to skip daily exercise due to misinformation, thinking that only food is needed to keep the body functional.

This may not necessarily be right as food also suffers due to the rat race. The production of fast food, for instance, contains almost no proper nutrition and therefore will affect the body negatively if nothing is done to rectify this issue.

However, living a healthy lifestyle may not be as difficult to achieve as we may believe. A healthy lifestyle includes a nutritious diet, sufficient physical activities and having a healthy mind. In this piece, we will be focusing on achieving a healthy lifestyle through the practice of Yoga.

Wriggling toes

We can start off by working on our feet and legs. Gently wriggling our toes, squeezing them every now and then in this manner: As we gently inhale, gently squeeze the toes and hold the squeeze and the breath for a couple of seconds comfortably. Exhale as we stretch the toes and then hold the stretch and breath for a few seconds comfortably. This helps to promote better blood circulation to our feet. This is important as many of us tend to be seated for an extended period of time without putting any pressure or using the muscles of our feet. Bending and stretching the knees also helps to promote blood flow, preventing cramps due to being stationary for too long and can also tone up our leg muscles.

Rotating wrists

Moving on to the hands, many of us are now dependent on our mobile appliances to get us through the day, be it for communicating, entertainment or work. Thus, our wrists and fingers are always at work but in the same stiff position. This usually causes many to have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. This can be easily prevented by resting our wrists during fixed intervals. We can start off by gently rotating our wrists in both directions and then pointing them upwards and downwards every 30 minutes. Making a tight fist and then releasing our fingers one by one also helps to relax our fingers and hands.

Turning neck left & right

Next, we can also work on our neck joint as part of using simple yoga to achieve health. We tend to keep our necks at a fixed position and stiffen it while working on our laptops, desktops and mobile phones. We can relax our neck by gently tilting our head upwards and downwards, turning to the left and right and also by tilting it to the left and right with our chin facing up. These exercises help to stretch and work on every part of our neck and also stretches our shoulder joints.

Eyes exercise

The last physical part that we can focus on is our eyes. Staring at screens for an extended period of time can definitely cause our vision to be impaired sooner or later. However, we can help relieve our eyes and also maintain our vision with some simple eye exercises done every twenty to thirty minutes. Spectacles should be removed during this practice for more effectiveness. We can start by keeping our head still and moving only our eyes to look up and down, then left and right for multiple sets. Then, we make diagonal crosses or ‘x’ shapes and also draw circles with our eyes. Lastly, we look down at our nose tip and up to the centre of our eyebrows for a few seconds each. This exercise also helps to improve concentration.

Pranayama - breathing techniques

Nadi Sodhana

Next, we can move on to a couple of breathing, or pranayama, techniques that can help promote health. The first and second techniques are both cooling techniques, respectively known as sheetali and sheetkari. Sheetali is done by rolling the tongue and forming an ‘O’ then breathing in through the mouth followed by breathing out through the nose. Meanwhile, Sheetkari is done by breathing in through the mouth with our teeth clenched tight and tongue rolled to the back of the mouth then breathing out through the nose. These two practices help to generate cool air in our mouth, which is very helpful for dealing with the hot Malaysian weather. This also helps us stay away from iced water or other cold products when trying to cool ourselves down.

Yet another pranayama technique is the Nadi Shodana, or alternate nostrils breathing exercise. This practice can help to clear out blockages in our nasal passage and relieve any minor respiratory issues. Nadi Shodana is done in three steps. Firstly, block the right nostril with the right thumb and breathe in through the left nostril. Then, hold your breath for a few seconds. Lastly, block the left nostril with the right ring finger and breathe out through the right nostril. Then, perform these steps in the same sequence but with the alternate nostril. Doing this for multiple sets with breath awareness in between can be relaxing and also instantly relieving.

Yoga practices can be done anywhere and anytime. These are some of the simple Yoga poses and stretches that can be done at home, at the workplace or even while commuting. Just remember that we practice the exercises according to our capacity and with breath awareness, which means slow inhalation, a gentle pause in between, a slow exhalation and another gentle pause after. Most of the exercises mentioned in this article are from the Hatha Yoga practice of the Pawanmuktasana series, which is also known as joint exercises. With the awareness that health is not out of reach and can be achieved through Yoga, we can definitely hope for better health amongst Malaysians.