Watch your body, tune your mind

When you practice yoga in the open, or close to nature, delighting in its freshness, you add a new dimension to your mind-body-spirit quotient

Watch your body, tune your mindBasic relaxation, or mind-body quietude, which is also called "progressive muscular relaxation," is actually yoga with a different connotation. Easy-to-learn and practice at home, the technique entails contraction and relaxation of the large muscle groups in the body, one after the other.

Quite interestingly, there's yet another exciting thing you can do. Practice certain yoga poses [asanas] and exercises in water. This is called aqua-yoga. The excursion is not only an elevating experience, but also absorbing by itself.

First things first. Just relax - to practice yoga!

Now, focus inwardly on yourself. Not your surroundings. Make sure you are not disturbed by kids, telephone, or noise, when you practice the technique. Use comfortable clothes. Also, make sure the room is softly lit. Quite cool in the tropics; warm in cold climes.

Lie down on your back on a firm bed or a comfortable mat. You may place a thin, soft pillow under your head. Or, below your knees. Place your arms by your side. Alternately, you can put them across the stomach. Either way, try to remain comfortable. Find out what suits your comfort level best.

However, remember one thing - you need time to master the technique. Have patience. When you have mastered the technique, you will be amazed to "let go" at will - anywhere! You will also delight in the fact that you are able to stay calm and relaxed even in the face of stressful situations. Over time, you will also know how you can stay in tune with your body and even locate where you "accumulate" stress, especially when you begin to get tense.

It is useful to start your first focus at your feet and end up with your face, till each part is free of tension. It is not easy for some people to "let go," or learn the art of muscular relaxation quickly.

With persistence, this can be learned. And - with good effect!

Easy does it

Close your eyes. Let your mind go "blank." Take a few deep breaths. Exhale slowly. Relax completely

Start with your right foot. Twist your toes tight. Crunch your foot. Count up to 10. Let go. Relax. Now, shift your focus to your left foot. Repeat until your foot feels warm and droopy

Tense the calf muscles of your right leg. Hold for a count of 10. Let go. Relax. Focus on the calf muscle of your left leg. Count up to 10, and relax.

In like manner, move up to your right thigh. Count up to 10.

It will take time for you to feel relaxed at this stage. Not to worry. Repeat the step with your left thigh. Let go. Relax. Repeat the process until you feel both the legs are heavy and immobile.

Now, clench your buttock[s] muscles as tightly as you can. Hold for a count of 10. Let go. Repeat the process with your stomach muscles. You should now feel as if you are sinking "into" your bed, or mat.

As you now move up to your chest, take three deep breaths. This will help you work on the muscles around your chest. It also increases the level of oxygen in your blood. Exhale slowly, and visualise your mental tensions being dispersed away.

Now, move to your right arm. Make a fist and "grip" it tight. Hold for a count of 10. Let go. Repeat until your arm is warm and immovable. Repeat with your left arm. You can also tense both your arms together, if you can. Slowly, work up your forearm, on either side, like you did with your thigh.

You now reach the most important part of the exercise - the shoulders and your neck. Since most of the tension in the body is housed in the shoulder and neck muscles, it may take some time for you to relax them fully. So, have some patience and relax - if you can't get it right the first time.

Now - hunch both your shoulders as far as possible. Hold tight and let them drop back to bed.

You can even push your shoulders hard up to your ears, if possible. Hold. Let go. Repeat the sequence 8-10 times, or as many times as possible.

Once you have finished with your shoulders, rock your head from side-to-side. This will help loosen your neck muscles. Now -

Focus on your face. You can grimace, sulk, or bare your teeth etc., Hold for a few seconds. Let go

Try to take a few more deep, even breaths. Imagine your tensions ebbing away into the distance. Recite a short, simple mantra: "I feel calm and nice"

Now, imagine your body sinking deep into your bed.

You may sure feel sleepy at this point in time. Don't go to sleep. Rest and unwind - for about 5-10 minutes.

Come back slowly... or, "shake" yourself up before you get up, and start your work, chore, or anything else.

Aqua-yoga: Water Comfort

The touch of water is therapeutic - looking at water is soothing and refreshing. Aqua-yoga is safe exercise for anyone - it is ideal for people who are overweight or obese, and safe for people who are recovering from injury.

Water yoga helps support the body in a manner that no exercise programme can match. It reduces wear and tear on your joints. More importantly, it adds resistance to your exercise

  • When you do aqua-yoga, your muscles are forced to push against water. This helps you to not only practice different poses, but also helps build strength
  • There is a spiritual connection to water - this is one reason why water has a nurturing and emotionally comforting experience when one gazes at its gentle presence. When you do aqua-yoga, the effect is only heightened, and you "travel" to spiritual planes that you would not have explored
  • Yoga experts suggest that water has a physiological effect on our intuitive and emotional elements. As the great psychologist Carl Gustav Jung outlined, our collective unconscious is akin to water - it connotes deep feelings and hidden motivations within ourselves
  • Among the foremost examples of water yoga asanas [poses] are - the tree pose, the pose of the dancer, the eagle pose, and a modified salute to the sun. Try doing them - as and when you have access to a pool, or wish to
  • Remember: you need to perform asanas, with good balance and poise, because equilibrium is of foremost importance
  • The big bonus is - for those who have difficulty doing asanas on the floor, water offers a good medium of balance
  • Use water and the edge of the pool for balance. As you achieve mastery with your poses, you can add on to your range additional asanas, with which you'd be comfortable. This will further complement your floor yoga exercises - and, also bring in a sense of balance you never found with the practice on hard ground, or terra firma!

If you ever thought of a harmonious workout - one that was comforting and caressing to the body and mind - think of aqua-yoga

Aqua-yoga not only combines the relaxing modalities of yoga with the comforting flow of water, it is also quite unlike any other exercise you'd think of. It is much more relaxing than any other exercise practice.

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Rajgopal Nidamboor
Rajgopal Nidamboor, a trained physician, is a writer, commentator, and author. In a career spanning 25 years, Nidamboor has published over 2,000 articles, on a variety of subjects, two coffee table books, an E-book, and a primer on therapeutics, aside from an encyclopaedic treatise on Indian philosophy.

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