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Yoga – With a Stopwatch!

The Sunday Agenda Continues

It has been several weeks now during whichI have continued the practice of doing 100 Surya Namaskars every Sunday. The pleasure and pain -the yin and yang of this practice continues as well. Strangely, it’s more pleasure after, more pain before as I anticipate the inevitably grueling couple of hours ahead each week. (This tells you that, once again, it’s all in the mind!)

Here’s a rather beautiful Surya Namaskar video that has grace and melody. It showcases a woman (silhouette) performing yoga against colorful, changing landscapes as backdrops. It will refresh your memory of what it’s all about if you are a yoga neophyte, and give you the sheer pleasure of yoga in art form, in case you are not. 

Note: This video link is also accessible here.

I have to admit I don’t see its sheer grace when I am the one actually performing it. I do see lots of sweat and hear plenty of hard breathing, however. 🙂

In fact, my poor yoga mat bears testimony to these working Sundays. Its war wounds expose a scarred and holed surface, the holes appearing precisely where the postures exert and expect the most footwork, with its surface progressively losing its covering every week.  🙂

I really do need to get a new one! But somehow I have not yet made the move to do so; may be seeing it makes my hard work appear more real? May be I need that to gloat? It provides testimony – my very own battle scars and war medal. My mom who was visiting me after a long interval genuinely thought that a friendly neighborhood Mumbai rat (the one that I affectionately(!) call ‘Mumbai Mickey Mouse’) had cut its teeth on the mat!  🙂

So the journey continues. And week to week, I fearfully expect my yoga instructor to up the ante by increasing the total count from 100 to some higher number. Thankfully he hasn’t done so yet.  And I’m not about to suggest it!

A Recent, Noticeable Difference

However, he has begun to do something different instead.

Each set of 10 Surya Namaskars was taking me, on average, almost 8 minutes to complete. I was doing them at my own pace, unhurriedly, while feeling my muscles stretch with each posture. But lately he began timing the sets. He wants me to reach a goal of 4 minutes – that is, cut the time in half. Jeeeeeez!  That’s not easy to do! I was able to achieve it a couple of times, but his intention is to make me do every one of the ten sets of ten in 4 minutes each. 

So, a couple of Sundays ago, out comes his smartphone which he then turned into a dreaded stopwatch!

The best I was able to achieve then – with much huffing and puffing, no less – was 4 and a half minutes for a set with the average being higher, of course.

[He has set his ideal time for 10 Surya Namaskars to be 3 min 20 secs; that’s 20 seconds per, but he told me not to worry about that as a goal. Yet. To give you an idea, in comparison, the performer in the video above does three Surya Namaskars in roughly three and half minutes. Oh, and by the way, the best timing for my instructor – an amazing 2 minutes for 10!]

Even with the acceleration, you have to completely and correctly perform every one of the 12 postures of each Surya Namaskar, you see. There’s no let-up in that requirement, oh no.  

Diamond Mountain students were sponsored to complete 108 sun salutations (surya namaskar) to raise money for the Diamond Mountain campground.:

It’s go, go go. This new goal needs a fast pace so there’s no stopping between each one. All ten Surya Namaskars have to simply happen in one continuous movement. No time to think, just automatically and seamlessly transition from one posture to another twelve times, and then begin again without a pause (what’s that?) for a total of ten whole movements.

Interestingly, when you do it this way, you begin to feel a big difference. When done gradually, you have the time to feel the muscles stretching. As you do these fast-paced postures, you forget about feeling those muscles stretching (although, they indeed are doing their bit) and you become more attuned to speed, beginning to feel the ‘cardio effect’. Oh boy, do you feel it!

You know that age-old debate about whether people who are working out need to spend more or less time with weights versus cardio? Here’s the ultimate gift for you. By doing Surya Namaskars using the “speed” method, you are getting the benefits of both, all at once. And as a bonus, you get to finish your session in about half the time. Win-win-win!

Do try it both ways – one set of 10 at your own pace, quite gradually, and another with a stopwatch in 4 minutes or less. Feel the difference?

[To help you along, here’s a good primer in PDF format of the twelve steps of the Surya Namaskar. Download and enjoy].

Yoga’s ROI (Return On Investment)

I figure we are on to something really good here.  It’s the same but it’s different. And the benefits just keep adding up. So here I am, getting ALL these benefits of yoga, and yet with just this one change in the program, I’m simply getting MORE of each  –

  • Building/increasing flexibility
  • Improving stamina
  • Toning muscles – virtually every one in your body
  • Enhancing strength – of mind and body
  • Losing weight/inches
  • What. Else. Do. You. Want?

So, I’d say the return on investment for the time and effort put into yoga is positively positive, wouldn’t you?

I know I’ve said this before, I lucked out when I found my yoga instructor and that too, completely through happenstance. I can say that again – I really lucked out with my instructor! I may have started yoga later in life than I should have but I sure got something very right when I did. This is helping me make up for that late start.

He and yoga are helping me plumb unknown depths within. ‘They’ put me in a position where I have no choice but to pull out all the stops, using some physical and mental reserves that I had no clue I even had! If you are involved in any activity that challenges you to do this too, you know what I mean, don’t you?

Anyway, I am happy to report that it’s never a dull moment for me – a new goal to aim for as soon as one is accomplished. I hope you’re as lucky on your yoga journey, and I mean that in all seriousness and sincerity.

Of course, a wonderful journey doesn’t exempt me from the arduous work (i.e. the investment) needed each Sunday. When I have a minute…I mean a second, okay, make that a micro-second to actually think as I go through the motions quickly, quickly, quickly, here’s the thought that flashes by – if it doesn’t kill you, it will make you stronger.

This works. It keeps me going.

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P.S. Today’s update: The best timing for moi this Sunday almost had me in shock – an awesome (even if I do say so myself – and you had to be there in the beginning to know why I say this!) 3 minutes 35 seconds for one set of 10.  Yeah!!!!!

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Photo Credits:

Yoga sculpture at IGAI: By Wiki-uk (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Suryathon [Diamond Mountain students were sponsored to complete 108 sun salutations (surya namaskar) to raise money for the Diamond Mountain campground.]: By Diamond Moutain [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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What’s Your Sunday Like?

After a tough week at work, my Sundays in Bombay are turning out to be well-planned days of sublime perfection.  Let me take you through my “itinerary” and see if I can entice you to do something similar. Of course, you may be on to something even better for your Sundays, in which case, you can just ignore this!

Sunday is normally a day for rest and relaxation.  But before you get to the R&R part, it helps to have accomplished something more. That way, the R&R when you get to it is that much more meaningful and momentous.  You know, the yin and the yang.

For the past several weeks, every Sunday has turned into a time for my yoga marathon session. I’ve made it into one of my healthy habits. 

A couple of months or so ago, I achieved the feat of doing 100 Surya Namaskars during one session. It was a one-off “trial” – after which we were left feeling exhausted but awesome (not to mention earning me some nice bragging rights).

Not to waste this awesomeness on just that one trial, I along with my yoga buddy and teacher have been getting down to doing those 100 Surya Namaskars every Sunday since then. Best decision we made!

For this, we allot roughly two hours and do them in bite-size chunks of 10. That sounds so much easier….just 10 sets of 10.  

Perhaps this is more for the yoga practitioner than the novice. But consider this! Merely a year ago, my experience with yoga was non-existent. I had the stiffest body in the universe. And no real (working) knowledge of yoga.

100 Surya Namaskars – is it tough to do, you ask?  DUH.

But, what is that feeling you get at the count of 100, while sweaty and achy all over? Total over-the-top exhilaration!  

I want YOU to feel this way too. Very little compares to this fabulous feeling of accomplishment. And because it is an expanded workout, so too our gains in all these areas are expanded (greatly):

  • Physical stamina, check.
  • Flexibility, check.
  • Toned arms, legs, abs, everything. Check.
  • Mental peace of mind, check.
  • Emotional strength and well-being, check.
  • A test of will power and determination, check.
  • A sense of accomplishment. Oh, yes!

Here’s a one minute video that shows the Surya Namaskar variation we perform. It’s not the best (like my yoga teacher’s!) but it is good.

The way I feel lately…my body is a temple and these are my Sunday services where I worship at its alter. Yeah!

The best thing to do is to make it a habit. Grab a yoga video (or buddy). Start at 20 Surya Namaskars, or 10.  Or one.  Just start. And then build up.  Sunday works for me for an extended yoga session because I have no set deadlines and nowhere I need to be (well, sort of).  Here’s the thing, notwithstanding the many benefits you gain for body and soul by following this regimen, I would highly recommend that you follow-up the tough work-out by planning to reward yourself well soon after.  🙂

Only then will it truly be a holistic Sunday!

And so… the curious Bombay-Sunday-Personal-Yogathon habit is formed:

  • Stretch-your-limits-yoga from 8 to 10, followed by a refreshing shower.  
  • Then my appointment with Aamir Khan that starts at 11 sharp, at least for the next few weeks. This gets even better when joined by good friends.
  • During this, a cool drink or two (chilled Pinot Grigio if you have it, otherwise a skinny, i.e. homemade, mojito with fresh mint, lemon, soda and rum…yummy!), after which your body is ready for a filling lunch.
  • This is followed by a most welcome afternoon nap, which I float into oh so naturally, barely a page turned of the latest book in my hands.
  • Evening is for a heavenly back rub or a massage if you can get it.  Bliss!
  • Wrap it up with a bit of writing (like now), and it’s time for bed, looking forward (well…) to Monday.  

This is why Sundays were created!

So, can you see how nicely – even easily – such a habit can be cultivated? It’s easy when you know how awesome you are going to feel  each step of the way. By describing the yin and the yang, I am hoping to turn some of you into regular yoga practitioners. I can’t help it…I’m becoming a fanatic about this.

So, what’s your Sunday like?  If you decide to push yourself and give something like this a try, I guarantee you won’t regret it!

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Interested in my yoga journey (and what could be yours)?  Here are some of related posts. You can see how far I have come (and how far you can go), in a little over a year.

Step 1 – Just Starting Out

Step 2 – In Awe

Step 3 – Progress

Step 4 – Stretch Goal

Step 5 – Accomplishment

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Photo Credits:

Yoga Pose by: By Tia Tran [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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