The interest in health and fitness has been growing in India for about a decade now and it peaked during the pandemic. As people grew more aware of the need for better health and immunity, yoga quickly became popular, even among the hardcore gym enthusiasts. Many have continued with their practice, boosting its popularity further. Today, the world marks the 9th International Day of Yoga, and all you need is a yoga mat and some time.
Rashmi Saluja, Executive Chairperson, Religare Enterprises Limited, does yoga in the morning to strengthen her muscles and does pranayama breathing exercises after work in the evenings. This, the 49-year-old says, has kept her energy levels high, helped her stay alert and efficient for longer durations.
Policybazaar.com CEO Sarbvir Singh, 51, is an early riser and starts his day with 45 minutes of yoga. IKEA India CEO and chief sustainability officer Susanne Pulverer starts her mornings with either exercise or yoga as she likes to keep herself healthy both mentally and physically. “To find some time for calmness, I rely on yoga and find time to reflect,” says the 63-year-old.
Not all do yoga because they like it, but they still acknowledge the benefits. Take Etsy’s India country head Pankaj Jathar, 49, for instance. He finds yoga very tough but still persists with it because he needs it to remain injury-free for running, his preferred activity for over a decade now. Anindita Das Veluri, 49, Director(Marketing) at Adobe India, says yoga is her second favourite workout routine after walking. “Even though I find doing the sirsasana (headstand) very difficult I love yoga as it really helps me relax my mind and build strength and flexibility,” she says.
Jyoti Arora, a 44-year-old mother of two from New Delhi, has been practicing yoga consistently for a few years now, and tries to never miss it. “I love doing it more and more with age… I thoroughly enjoy it. It calms me down, gives me peace and happiness. I feel rejuvenated. If on a day, I am not able to do yoga, it leaves me irritable and uneasy,” says Arora.
In Bengaluru, Anita Olapally, 43, who has a PhD in psychology, has been doing yoga ever since she developed back issues. She does three to five sessions a week and that has helped her stay pain-free for the most part. Her practice includes postures like the eka pada rajakapotasana (pigeon pose), chakrasana (wheel pose) and dhanurasana (bow) that target the big muscles in the back and hips.
These asanas not only help strengthen your back but also open up your hips and improve the health and flexibility of the spine, explains Bengaluru-based yoga instructor Karthik Kashyap. He also points out that yoga can help manage pain and aid in recovery after injuries. “Pain caused by ligament tears or bone degeneration can be tackled by performing the sukshma vyayama (a relaxation technique involving tightening your muscles and letting go). This must be followed up with strengthening the muscles around the affected area moving them regularly to relax the injured spot. This process improves blood circulation and reduces muscular stress,” adds Kashyap.
Many coaches believe that even dedicated gym goers should include yoga sessions in their training routines. Cult Fit coach Rahul Huidrom is one of them. “Even the buff dudes and gym bros should embrace yoga and practice it once a week at least. The combination of mental health with physical prowess, along with breathing techniques and flows creates mental clarity and calmness, relaxes the mind and sharpens concentration. Yoga practice also increases body awareness and strength, enhances stability, balance and improves the range of motion of joints,” he says.
Like Jathar, plenty of runners have benefitted from yoga. Certain asanas are definitely effective when it comes to helping runners stretch out their tight hamstrings, calves and IT bands. Mumbai-based running coach Girish Bindra, who completed the Comrades Ultra last month, maintains that the triangle pose, the pigeon pose, the tree pose, the child pose, the downward-facing dog, the butterfly pose, the standing forward fold and the low lunge are among the best asanas for runners.
“The triangle pose helps strengthen the hamstrings, glutes, hips and groin. It also increases stability and improves balance. The tree pose strengthens leg muscles, ankles, feet and groin and also improves balance while the butterfly and pigeon poses are hip-openers and also relieve tightness in the hip flexors and improve flexibility. These asanas also help loosen the lower back muscles, hips and inner thighs,” says Bindra.
Shrenik Avlani is a writer and editor and the co-author of The Shivfit Way, a book on functional fitness.