Aug 3, 2008

A small yoga regimen for busy people

I am giving here a small set of exercises derived from yoga for those not able to do yogic exercises for long duration becasue of lack of time, environment or fitness issues. It will keep your system in good shape and arrest any systemic decay except if you are abusing your body too badly.
Doing yogic exercises at ease constitute sahaja yoga or easy yoga. Yoga does not want you to over-exert, even if you are a guru for years. The golden rule is: do more moderately, for less time and slower than what your body permits, and do it joyfully.
The entire regimen should be over in 10-25 min.
I am giving notes in do's and don'ts form [click on 'read more' below]. You can find video for doing these pranayamas at the link given in the left column.
Here you go!

easy warm-up: 1-3 min
1. kapal bhati pranayama: 3-6 min
transition exercises: 1/2 - 1 min
2. anulom-vilom pranayama: 3-6 min
transition exercises: 1/2 - 1 min
3. bhramari pranayama: 1 min
4. udgitha pranayama: 1 min
transition exercises: 1/2 - 2 min
5. meditation: optional: 1/2 - 3 min

Easy warm-up [1-3 minutes only]
Find a place that is not too hot or cold or windy. Clothe yourself in comfortable, light clothes. Stand erect barefeet on the ground [if it is rough or is too cold or hot, use a blanket or rug] and move your limbs up, down and in sides. Move your body whichever way you want. If your body permits, do jogging without moving ahead [just jump up and down and move your arms too]. If you can do more, take side swings and twist your body. Even if you can, do not do these side or forward-backward movemtns in jerks and do not do more than your body can permit. If you have had fracture, recent sprain or any such body injury, be extra careful. If you are old, suffering from back pain or arthritis, or have quit exercises for long, take even more care.
Fill your mind with happiness. Even if you are having a bad time, try to bring smile on your lips and make it genuine. If you can, dance [even if you don't know], and dance in joy arising out of the feeling that you have these few moments with yourself - and for these moments only you exist, only you. If you believe in the almighty, try to link yourself with Him in the way your faith has taught you. Make this warm up a celestial dance event every moring.

At the end of warm-up session, sit in a very comfortable posture on a hard surface on which a rug or blanket is placed. Cross-leg with spine straight is the best posture. If you suffer from back pain, take support from wall/ bed behind you and try to sit without rest when the pain has gone. This time is for letting your breath come to normal; and if you have sweated, to let your body cool down to normal temperature. Sit in this fashion for about half minute.

1. Kapal bhati pranayama [3-6 minutes, but initially 1/2 to 1 min only]
Make the sitting posture more formal: cross legs, straighten spine, stretch arms and let the back of your palms rest on the knees [but if that looks tense, relax them and let them fall on your thigh], open all the fingers and then bend the index finger to let its tip touch the base of your thumb.
Now take a deep breath. It should be long breath but without force. When the lungs get a feeling of fullness, exhale with force through the nose. The force has to come not from the nostrils nor the throat but lungs. Your chest and upper stomach have to pull in to give that force. So, inhalation is slow and with expansion of chest and upper abdomen [where lies the diaphragm, a membrane that assists in respiration] and exhalation is forceful and with contration of chest and upper abdomen.
Do this complete set of breathing-in-breathing-out twenty, to start with. This should take less than a minute. Slowly increase it to 5-6 minutes.
Here, let me give a bit of caution: Do not throw the air out with so much force that the inner linings of nostril or the throat are hurt. Initially, do it for a small time and if you get heaviness / any tingling sensation inside nose / coughing tendency / hiccough, stop it. That is the sign that you are either doing it wrong or too fast or too forcefully or more than what your body is presently prepared for. Raise the time to 5-6 minutes very slowly, over many days and weeks.
When you have stabilised for some days and reached 2-3 minutes of pranayama, you can start using this time in healing yourself. For this, while doing the pranayama, think of your body ailments ranging from those that have haunted you since your childhood to the ones you have acquired now. Start with the one you want to cure the first. Feel that the body is healing itself and the damage in that part of the body is getting reduced. Feel it as intensely as you can, but don't fool yourself: you are interested in real results and not a delusion. Where the damage is irreperable by any means, or an infection has set in and must complete its course or in case of a physical damage, the healing may be limited to getting better resistance, better pain management, partial regeneration of tissues, etc. Sometimes, the symptoms of the ailment initially feel more troublesome; it is because you have become more conscious about that ailment. Over time, you will find that your thinkign has helped the body heal itself.

Transitional exercises [half to one minute]
You can do stretching of shoulder, neck and back muscles by bending back and forth, sideways and roundabout [but if you have spondylytis or an injury, avoid these or do them very very moderately]. Or, you can get up and do half a minute's totally unorganised exercises as you did during the warm-up session.

2. Anulom-vilom pranayama [3-6 min, but starting with 1 minute or so]
This is another simple, even simpler, pranayama. For this, sit comfortably as told earlier, spread the palm of your right hand, bend the index and middle fingers, take this hand above the nose in a way that your thumb touches one side and the ring finger touches the other. Now, take a deep breath. Holding the breath, press the right nostril with thumb and exhale with the left nostril. Once done that, inhale with the same nostril, hold the breath for a moment and lift the thumb while pressing left nostril with ring finger. Now exhale.
What you have done is inhaled from one nostril and exhaled that air from the other nostril, and repeated the same in the opposite direction.
Once you start doing this inhalation-exhalation with alternate nostrils, you will not need to hold the breath in between inhaling and exhaling, and the process will become smooth.
Do this exercise with comfortably long breaths. Keep in mind that the chest and upper abdomen should expand when inhaling and constrict when exhaling, thus helping the lungs to take/give out long breaths.
Start with doing as many sets of in-out as you can comfortably do: maybe ten or twenty. Slowly increase it up to about 6 minutes.
As in the case of kapal bhati, you can try to devote this time in healing your body further or any other useful mind activity such as praying, making a resolve to achieve your goal or resolving to improve confidence/personality.

Transitional exercises [half to one minute]
You can do any type of light exercise as told before.

3. Bhramari pranayama [1 minute or more]
Staring with one or two courses, you can increase it to 2-3 minutes, but if you have less time, stop at one minute.
Sitting comfortably, close eyes. stretch both arms forward and bend them at elbows, bring the fingers above eyes and forehead. Letting the index fingers your forehead [they might also touch each other], take the thumbs over ear holes. Bend the other fingers. Now slightly press the index fingers on the forehead, shut the ears with thums and take a deep breath. Exhale the air slowly through nose, making a humming sound. Your mouth, eyes and ears are closed. Repeat it about 4 times in one minute.
You can take the breath slightly fast but you need to exhale very slowly and let the passing air make a long, unbroken, humming sound that tapers naturally as the air pressure reduces. Do not try to force the last traces of air out of lung; it will lead to hiccough.

4. Udgitha pranayama [1 minute or more]
Sitting comfortably, stretch arms, open palms, bend index finger and rest the backs of palms on the knees. If that makes the posture uncomfortable, let the arms limp and palms rest on thighs. Close eyes, take a deep breath and let the air come out slowly through mouth while making a droning sound. Like in bhramari, let the air come out without too much force and let it give rise to a long, tapering drone.
Do it for about one minute as in the case of bhramari.

Transitional exercises [half to one minute]
As before. If you are tired, take some rest lying down or even sitting.

5. Meditation [half minute or more] optional
While sitting comfortably, try to just not think anything, not see anything before your eyes, not pay heed to whatever you are hearing. Let the body relax as much as it can, let the breath flow very slowly and smoothly. Be in this state for as much time as you can, giving yourself an upper limit of about three minutes.
Even if you are unable to control your thoughts at all, do sit in this posture while observing other disciplines ie relaxing the body, breathing slowly, not analysing the sounds that fall on your ears. Try to be thoughtless even if you can do so perfectly well for ten seconds. Don't mind if you could do so for one minute today, not at all tomorrow, for 10 seconds tomorrow and for half minute the next day. Just do it.

Some more words of caution for pranayamas and other yogic exercises:
Do these exercises in the morning before breakfast. You can do these any time during the day but you should not be very much tired, and should not have eaten anything for about 3 hours.
You can do these exercises even during early pregnancy, chronic diseases, and after recovery from operations and diseases. However, do not exert yourself. Take care if doing during advanced pregnancy, immediately after pregnancy, major operation and injury. It is better to contact a doctor in case of doubt as some body conditions do not allow any activity or can worsen with exercises. Avoid doing these exercises in case of high fever. If the nose is congested, clean it first; however, if the congestion is due to cough/ flu/common cold, avoid doing pranayama or do them at a time of the day when you are not suffering from nose blockage.