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Yoga to tone your legs and calm your mind

Last updated on: December 31, 2010 12:58 IST

Yoga to tone your legs and calm your mind

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Shameem Akthar takes you through uttanasana -- the soothing forward bend that will help you stay fit physically and emotionally. Read on to find out more:

This pose, also referred to as Padahastasana or hand-to-foot pose, is very soothing. It is repeated twice in a surya namaskar series. It also has several variations.

Though contraindicated in certain cases such as severe vertigo or low blood pressure or lower backache, it may be tried by others safely. The growth in the pose takes a long while, as the spine becomes more flexible with regular stretching.

It replicates a headstand since it makes you drop your head against gravity.

This also keeps the face young looking and the mind agile.

It gives a very powerful traction to the whole spine, and prevents spinal mishaps.

The gush of blood to the brain is said to soothe negativities and reactive behaviour, by calming the brain and defusing anger.

Its powerful massage at the stomach also helps it in treating many gut problems including constipation. It is de-stressing due to soft pressure on the lower back, where the adrenal (stress) glands are located, over the kidneys.

The legs become supple. The heart's function becomes efficient. Breathing becomes deeper, making the respiratory system maximise its potential.

This also has both an uplifting and calming effect on the entire mind-body complex.
 
Points to note:

Always pair a forward bend with a backbend. In the standing forward bend, the ideal counter pose is the crescent.

Avoid all extreme forward bends in case of lower back problems.

For more of Shameem's yoga writings visit jaisivananda.blogspot.com. Follow Shameem's yoga products on her online shop Yogatique on Rediff Shopping. Shameem's second book Yoga in the Workplace, with photographs by ace photographer Fawzan Husain, is now available at online shops and bookshops across the country.

Disclaimer: this column just shares the columnist's passion for yoga, which is ideally learned under the guidance of an expert.


Image: Uttanasana: the soothing forward bend

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Samkonasana (Right angle pose)

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Stand up straight. Feet together. Inhale, raise both hands over the head.

Exhale, lower hands together, bringing them in front as shown in image. Hands fold at the wrists, as shown. Tilt hip back, to enhance the challenge, and make the legs stretch further.

Look between the hands. Hold the pose for a few seconds. Breathe normally throughout. Inhale, to raise trunk back to standing position.

Repeat a few times.
 
Benefits: Prepares you for the more challenging forward bends. Stretches and tones back of the legs, especially the area at the back of the thighs. Improves sense of balance. Builds stamina.


Image: Samkonasana (Right angle pose)

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Uttanasana or full stretch pose (also Padahastasana or Hand to foot pose -- Basic version)

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Stand up straight. Feet together. Inhale. Raise hands over the head. Exhaling lower them, reaching them forward so that the back of the legs stretch further.

Drop hands as low as you can. Continue normal breathing throughout.

Hang hands loosely, not struggling in the pose but learning to relax so that you feel yourself stretch further as your practice in the pose improves.

To wind up the pose, keeping the hands loose, slowly draw the spine up, resisting the urge to stand up too fast. Continue breathing normally throughout.

Repeat a few times.
 
Benefits: Gives a powerful traction to the spine. Helps fight upper back problems.


Image: Uttanasana

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Uttanasana (Forward stretch, variation 1):

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Repeat what you did earlier, reaching forward this time to place palms flat on the ground beside either feet.

This can be attempted only by those who are extremely flexible and have mastered the basic version mentioned earlier.
 
Benefits: Same as previous, more enhanced.


Image: Uttanasana (Forward stretch, variation 1):

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Uttanasana (Forward bend, Advanced variation)

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Stand up straight, feet together. Inhale. Reach hands above.

Exhaling, reach them forward and downwards, till hands reach ground. Then hold either ankle with either hand firmly.

Continuing to breathe, draw the head towards the thighs (or knees or shins, depending on your flexibility). Hold for a few seconds.

Release and try a few more times. Breathe normally throughout. Release the pose, by letting go of the hands, handing them loosely, and drawing the spine up gently.
 
Benefits: Challenges your sense of balance, tweaking the nervous system and primitive emotional centre, helping you achieve impulse control. Makes hands and legs strong and supple. Improves breathing and circulation. Cures you of digestive disorders. De-stresses.


Image: Uttanasana (Forward bend, Advanced variation)

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Uttansansa (Forward bend, Advanced variation 2)

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Repeat what you did earlier. Then slightly separate the legs at the knees, passing the hands through them, as shown, to grasp each knee with the opposite hand.

The knees are slightly bent while doing this.  Then straighten the knees. This will draw the head closer to the thighs, deepening the pose even further.

Benefits: Same as previous.


Image: Uttansansa (Forward bend, Advanced variation 2):

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