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Yoga: Invert Yourself – It’s Good For You

I’ve talked a lot about Surya Namaskars but another yoga pose that rocks is one called Vipreet Karni.  “Vipreet” means inverted or reversed and “Karni” means action.

Vipreet Karni is classified as a “Mudra”, which also means posture (like Asana).  A Mudra’s goal is to bring stability to the body and mind by focusing the mind on prana – life force, control – with a specific posture. It brings stability to the body through stability of the mind. In that, it differs from Asana whose primary purpose is to make the body stronger and healthier.

Beginning

Here’s a picture of the beginner’s version of Vipreet Karni. Lie flat on your back, arms spread wide for support, lift your legs straight up (and I mean, 90 degrees up) and hold. When you can see your toes, that means your head and chin are in the right position too.

It sounds easier than it is so I recommend that when it is first tried, you do it with your legs supported against a wall.

Before I had learned how to do the more advanced version of this posture, I remember practicing this wall-supported beginner’s version in some very interesting circumstances.

We were six women on our Roman holiday last year. After miles of walking and playing tourist all day in that beautiful city, our bodies were exhausted, our legs and feet aching like crazy. One friend suggested getting into this posture to calm those aching limbs.

So, at the end of a hard day’s work and before our daily wine and dinner “meetings”, we would get ready with Vipreet Karni, the beginner’s kind. That meant assuming this pose on our respective beds, limbs against the closest walls and staying that way for 5-10-15 minutes. And, boy did it help!  

So what if there were six females in weird positions looking a bit loopy?  It was just for a few minutes. And it was so worth it. Thanks B!

That was my first taste of it, and it really was quite straightforward and simple.

Going Beyond The Beginning

Well, a few weeks ago, my yoga instructor introduced the much more advanced version of this posture to me during our regular class.  

No more simply lying on your back and relaxing, oh no. Now, it was time to get your torso up, up and away. 

An attempt at that is pictured above, except you will notice that it’s not quite there yet (it’s from a couple of weeks ago). Legs are not aligned straight with the torso and achieving a 90 degrees angle with the floor is but a gleam in someone’s eye. 

How to get there

Step 1 to get to this version of Vipreet Karni is to start out with the Halasana (Plow Pose) – pictured below:

From here, slowly lift just your legs, straight up, with unbent knees and without moving your hips from the Halasana position.

Ensure that the torso is also up straight (lengthen it!) so that it is at 90 degrees with the floor. It’s not quite there in the 2 week old picture above – simply not straight enough.

All the weight of the body must be on your supporting elbows, forearms and nape. Thankfully, you are allowed to support your body with your arms!  

Once you are there, try to hold that posture for some time. This is one place where your ‘mind over body‘ definitely comes into play.

We hold this position for a count of 80 now – and that will soon increase, I’m sure.  

Would you believe me if I said it was extremely tough and then some, at first? Honestly, 90 degrees seemed an impossible feat for me to achieve (no kidding!). 

But like with anything to do with yoga – you must try, try and then try again.  Here’s a picture that is more recent. 

See, it didn’t take that long for it to improve, and there’s room to continue to hone it with practice. My instructor says – you can do it for one minute, two, five or ten minutes – it can’t help but benefit you.

Vipreet Karni has become one of my favorites. One reason could very well be that I was so sure I would fail at it. Instead! I have been able to achieve it (or nearly there, anyway) and can actually own up to some bragging rights. The other (real) reason  is that it make me feel great. Body and mind.

What are its benefits?

This posture works everything in your body from the legs to the nape, especially the back and the abdomen. Strengthening, lengthening and increasing flexibility. And, let’s not forget, the real intent is to strengthen the mind! To develop control and focus.

Modern teachers believe that Vipreet Karni is good for virtually anything that ails you – Anxiety, Digestive issues, Headaches, Eye Sight, Insomnia, Depression, Arthritis, and on and on and on. What an awesome range that is!

In fact, yogis from ancient times claimed that after six months of Vipreet Karni, “grey hairs and wrinkles become inconspicuous“, and that it “destroys” old age and death.  🙂

Do you need any more inspiration to try it out?  I mean, really?

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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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