Slip on those yoga pants and strike a pose as the UAE marks its third International Day of Yoga today. Even though the festivities roll out a day earlier than the United Nations marked global movement, local experts share their love for yoga with Gulf News tabloid!, revealing secrets to finding the right balance of mind, body and spirit with their favourite styled pose.
Years practicing yoga: 7 years
“I was attracted to yoga when I saw yogis looked calm, peaceful and yet energised — at this time I was a long-distance runner and felt quite weary and worn out after my long runs. It is an all-round practice for the body, mind and spirit.”
Favourite style: “Downward Facing Dog or Adho Mukha Savasana. I think this pose is accessible to most people and has many benefits. It is an incredible balance for the body and mind; it targets the upper and lower body and at the same time you can feel it in the hands, arms, shoulders, back, hamstrings, calves and the feet. Also, as the heart is above the head, it is classed as an inversion and is therefore an energising and calming posture.”
Difficulty rating: 2 out of 5
Years of practicing yoga: 9 years
“After completing my Dance Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Toronto, I found myself practicing yoga to compliment my dancing. It helped with my balance, flexibility, strength and ease. After years of practicing, I decided to deepen my knowledge in yoga by completing my 280 hour teacher certification in 2013.”
Favourite style: “Natarajasana or Lord of the Dance pose. I love this asana as it is a glorious heart-opener that asks us to be stable, yet at ease, committed yet non-attached, and fully engaged, yet at peace. [It] stretches the shoulders and chest; stretches the thighs, groins, and abdomen; strengthens legs and ankles and improves balance.”
Difficulty rating: 3 out of 5
Years of practicing yoga: 7 years
“I knew I wanted to teach at the end of a really sweaty donation-based yoga class in Santa Monica, while in tears in a Savasana. It was a way to connect to my body and unwind my mind.”
Favourite style: “Vinyasa. It helps to counteract the damage we do by living in a “stiff society” — always sitting and hunching. It also increases flexibility and mobility, along with improving stamina and cardiovascular health.”
Difficulty rating: “It’s for all levels. You can challenge yourself to your own level.”
Years of practicing yoga: 15 years
“I had a fascination for body and movement when I was young. I enjoyed sports at school and started folk dancing, followed by gymnastics — my team was competing on a national level in Finland. I studied psychology at school, which initiated an interest in the mind and expansion of consciousness. Yoga connects the mind and body on level. Through yoga, I realised the depth of the connection and it keeps challenging both mind and body.”
Favourite style: “Urdhva Dhanurasana or backbending. This pose has been one of the most challenging for me because it affects the areas which are the weakest: tight shoulders and back, weak legs and stiff quadriceps and Iliopsoas muscles. The pose strengthens and opens all of these areas. It also helps to open the front of the body in a way no other posture can. It strengthens the legs enormously and helps to open and stabilise shoulders.”
Difficulty rating: 5 by far.
Age: 36 years
Years of practicing yoga: Few years
“My sister-in-law is regular to the practice and I saw the benefits of yoga through her. With our hectic lifestyle we forget the basics of living, style of breathing and how our spine plays such an important role in our well-being. I wanted to bring calm to my life and what better way than to know the basics and be your own teacher. I now share this knowledge and learning that I received from Sivanada Yoga Vedanta Centre in Tyrol, Austria.”
Favourite style: “The Sirsasana or the Headstand. Since I had never attempted it; I really couldn’t do it at first. After three months of countless falls, I allowed my body to prepare for it, as yoga is a combination of mental, physical, emotional and spiritual belief. And one fine evening, I tried again and instantly I knew, today is the day. The headstand relieves stress, increases focus, improves blood flow, strengthens shoulders and arms, and improves digestion.”
Difficulty rating: 4 because it is more mental than physical.
Years of practicing yoga: 7 years
“Teaching yoga was more secondary to my own personal practice. After six years of practice and several teacher trainings, I taught my first class. The energy that I received from the practitioners was so overwhelming that I knew I wanted to keep teaching.”
Favourite pose: “Inversions. These reverse the blood flow in the body and improve circulation. They further increase immunity and prevent illness, along with energising, relaxing, improving balance and increasing core strength.”
Difficulty rating: 4-5
Years of practicing yoga: 19 years
“Yoga unites both the mind and body, encouraging focus through movement. I am a believer in using everything available to us to move better and more efficiently in daily life and in whichever sport/exercise we choose to do. Yoga has a mix of fiery sequences and cooling sequences, depending on what the body needs that day.”
Favourite style: “Surya Namaskar or Sunrise Salutations. The plank incorporates the entire body and challenges that ability to sustain tensegrity (tension with integrity) within us. When you get this right, it strengthens everything from head to toe, and you might even find an internal stretch between the two.”
Difficulty rating: Done well, it is a 3.
Years of practicing yoga: 9 years
“I was looking for an activity that would help me cope with the various stresses and uncertainties in my life. Today, as a working mom of two, I sometimes find it difficult to balance the time I give my family with the time I give my work, and also myself. Yoga gives me the tools to find that balance.”
Favourite style: “Savasana or Corpse Pose. Combined with downregulating breathing, such as belly breathing, Savasana helps relieve anxiety, stress and insomnia. It also alleviates muscle tension and allows the body and the mind to relax by slowing down the heart rate, reducing blood pressure and taking the body into a state of rest and digest.”
Difficulty rating: 5. You wouldn’t think that Savasana is difficult, but this pose is a practice in and of itself. The ability to remain still when our world is constantly moving.
Years of practicing yoga: 5 years
“It was a means to balance work life and a rigorous gym workout. It was also that yoga required a mental stretch — stretching limitations and possibilities.”
Favourite style: “Arm balances. It improves balance, core and arm strength. It also improves mental focus as it forces you to challenge yourself and move past self-imposed fears and limitations. It creates heat in the body and is a great cardiovascular workout.”