Shy? Try yoga

Shy? Try yoga

Most people are unaware that the balancing poses in yoga are used therapeutically to help overcome extreme shyness and social phobia.

In fact, they are also recommended for other related issues such as stuttering, anxiety, neuroses and hyperactivity amongst children.

Shameem Akthar, a certified yoga acharya with the internationally acclaimed Sivananda Yoga Centre, Kerala (the centre has its headquarters in Canada) guides you through five yoga poses that help you overcome shyness and social awkwardness.

Those suffering from anger issues and stress can greatly benefit from these poses.

What is even better is that there is a scientific basis for all of this. The part of the brain called the cerebellum (also referred to as the `little brain') is involved in maintaining our physical balance. It was recently established that the cerebellum also has much to do with an individual's social balance -- it plays an active role in the expression of our social selves.

Sensory functions that we take for granted are the work of the cerebellum. Some of the functions are:
  • Co-ordinating floods of sensory data and interpreting them accurately.
  • The ability to pay attention and focus on a particular task at hand.
  • prominent say in cognitive ability (problem-solving skills).

Recent research also shows that chemical imbalances in the cerebellum could well be linked to social problems we face, such as an inability to maintain a meaningful conversation, or failure at sustaining relationships with others.

Importantly, since balancing poses also require you to work out both sides of your body equally, they harmonise the left and right hemispheres of our brain. These represent the logical and the creative sides of our personality respectively.

When these two sides are in harmony, we are able to see the holistic picture. This, in turn, defines and strengthens our psycho-socio profiles.

Points to note

Balancing poses may be tough to practice at first. Take some support, from say a wall or strong furniture, to give yourself confidence. Slowly increase stamina so you are able to hold each pose for longer periods of time -- from 15 seconds to one minute, for more impact.

Ardha Chandrasana (Crescent pose)

Stand up straight, feet one metre apart. Flare out your left foot and inhale.

Exhaling, lean towards the left, bending your left leg at the knee; the right hand remains extended up in the air.

Simultaneously, place your left hand on the floor close to your left foot (if your body is very stiff, you can place your hand on a small stool/ chair instead of the floor).

Inhaling, straighten out your left leg with the right hand still stretched upwards. Look ahead (after sustained practice, you may look up at the raised hand). Hold the final pose for a few seconds, breathing normally.

Exhaling, stand up straight, returning to the starting position. Relax. Then repeat the entire sequence with the other side.

Caution: Though this pose is not physically demanding, those who are tense tend to stiffen their muscles. You must learn to consciously relax your mind and body before attempting such balancing poses.

Benefits: It is therapeutic for most spinal and knee problems. Also, it powers your confidence, concentration and memory, and tones the entire body.

Natrajasana (Dancing Shiva pose)

Stand up straight. Inhaling, raise your left hand outward. Simultaneously, the right leg bends at the knee, and is lifted backwards as you reach your right hand behind you to hold your right ankle.

Exhaling, bend forward as low as you can, right hand holding the right ankle. The left hand bends in front.

Hold this pose, breathing normally.

If it is difficult to maintain your balance in this final pose, place your left hand on the wall, or support yourself using furniture (like a table, since its height would be right). Release.

Repeat a few times. Relax. Repeat the entire sequence on the other side.

Caution: Avoid bending forward too much if you have lower back problem. Instead keep the torso straight.

Benefits: Same as the Crescent pose, with the added benefit of slimming the back of your thighs.

Garudasana (Eagle pose)

Stand up straight. Twist and wrap your right leg around your left leg, from the front, as shown in the photograph. Simultaneously, bend both arms at the elbows.

Place the right elbow on the inside of the bent left hand. Pass your left hand around the right wrist, bringing your palms together in a namaste gesture. Hold the pose, breathing normally.

If shaky about balance, lean back lightly against a wall. Relax and repeat on the other side.

Points to note: How deeply you twist your limbs around each other depends on two things: balance and flexibility. This will take time to develop.

Benefits: Same as the Crescent and Dancing Shiva poses. Limbs get particularly supple and toned.

Ekpada Ardhapadmasana (One-legged Half Lotus)

Stand up straight. Bend the right leg. Place the back of the right foot against the left thigh, as high up as possible. If that is difficult, place it where you can on the left thigh.

Join your hands overhead (or at the chest) in a namaste gesture. Hold the pose, breathing normally. Relax and repeat with the other leg.

Points to note: This is an advanced version. For a simpler variation, place the sole of the right foot on the inside of the left thigh.

Benefits: Same as the Crescent, Dancing Shiva and Eagle poses.

Pashnee (Flying Bird pose)

Stand up straight. Keep your feet a foot apart. Spread both arms outwards, at shoulder level, palms facing backwards. Inhale.

Exhaling, lean forward. Simultaneously, stand on your toes, as high as you comfortably can. Hold the pose, adjusting and bending forward some more. Breathe normally throughout. Relax. Repeat a few times.

Benefits: Same as the Crescent, Dancing Shiva, Eagle, and Lotus poses. Also aids in weight loss, by working out subtle muscle mass or faschia. Shapes the leg muscles and boosts respiration.


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