As one of the most misunderstood practices, yoga has often borne the brunt of being seen in extremes: of yogis in pretzel-like contortions at one end of the spectrum, and young Instagram-led, erstwhile-overweight beach posers at the other. The truth is that yoga is what you want it to be — the ultimate customisable exercise form. For a runner, it may mean lengthening muscles to gain flexibility, while for someone who is hyper-flexible, it could be a way of enhancing core strength.
For a minute, dispel all the mental images and stereotypes; forget the jargon of ‘opening up,’ ‘flow,’ ‘nidra,’ and ‘balance’. Focus on what you need for your body. If you aren’t sure, begin here — with just one asana. It’s one of the basic ones that I lead every class with. You can do it as a stand-alone piece or begin with it when you’re at the gym. Just make sure you don’t hold the pose for too long if it’s at the start of the workout. If you’re ending with this, then by all means, hold the pose.
The Trikonasana, or triangle pose, stimulates the function of the entire body and gives a lateral (side) stretch to the spine. It helps reduce blood pressure, stress, and anxiety. Practise this asana every day and you’ll gain strength in the ankles, thighs, knees, hips, calves and hamstrings. All standing poses build the cardiovascular system, so the more you do it, the better your stamina. The aim is never to overdo it, but to engage regularly, so that you get stronger and more stable over time.
Trikonasana: Triangle Pose
– Stand with your feet three to four feet apart, arms by your side. If you’ve never done it before, use the wall for support.
– Open the right foot to 90 degrees and turn the left foot slightly in, towards the right.
– Inhale; raise both your arms out to the side, palms facing down.
– Exhale and extend the torso towards the right, bending from the hip joint, not the waist.
– Start the movement by strengthening the left leg and grounding the heel firmly to the floor. If you’re new to this, feel free to bend the knee ever so slightly.
– Rotate the torso to the right, keep both the sides equally long and ground the right leg.
– Rest the right hand on your shin, ankle, or the floor outside the right foot. Using a yoga block to place the hand helps here.
– Stretch the left arm towards the ceiling, making sure that both the shoulders are in line. Keep your head in line with the spine gazing towards the right big toe. As you get used to this, aim to look at the ceiling. Hold this position, and breathe deeply for five breaths or for 30 seconds.
– Inhale to lift up, pressing right foot firmly on the floor.
– Repeat the same on the left side. You can do this on both sides, three or four times.
Seema Sondhi discovered yoga when she suffered three lumbar slip discs and was advised complete bed rest. She built up her physical and mental strength through yoga and meditation. Over the last 18 years, she has trained and been certified from the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre and Matthew Sweeney.