Yoga: 5 poses using a gym ball

Yoga: 5 poses using a gym ball

Yoga has always innovated, using various props wherever these enhanced its challenges or initiated a beginner into its difficulties.

This explains the use of the pole and rope in mallakhambh or weapons in kalaripayyattu -- both of which are related to yoga. Today, exercise belts and gym balls have similarly invaded yoga studios. The use of the gym ball can enhance your yoga practice by boosting your ability to balance. The stabilisers or muscles that hold us upright and maintain our balance are thoroughly worked out by a gym ball.

The cerebellum, involved with proprioception or our sense of our body in space, is also worked out. This has a subtle but intense impact not just on our sense of physical balance, but also our mental harmony.

The interesting aspect about combining the gym ball with yoga is that some difficult poses like the wheel (chakrasana) and the four-limbed (chaturanga dandasana) is made negotiable due to the support the ball provides. Intriguingly, the easier shoulderstand (sarvangasana) becomes difficult and more challenging through the use of the gym ball. These differences that the ball brings to the classic practices can infuse your yoga regimen with a certain playfulness that will help sustain it long-term.

Shameem Akthar, yoga acharya trained with Sivananda Vedanta Yoga Center (Kerala), shows you five yogic tricks with the gym ball.
  • Points to note: The following practices are advisable only for those who have some existing practice of yoga or physical activity already.
  • Please remember to prop the ball firmly against a wall or support wherever mentioned, to increase stability.
  • Ensure you are not around furniture or material which you may knock against; the ball is naturally unstable.
  • Smaller balls are easier to use, but you must pick the size according to your own height.
Kandharasana (Shoulder pose)

Place the ball against a firm support, like a wall or some steady and stable furniture. Lie close to the ball. Place both feet flat on the top of ball as shown. Arms may be placed flat on the mat alongside the body, or if advanced student, arms may be interlocked, folded at elbows and placed under the head, to cushion it.

Ensure elbows are flat on the ground. Inhale. Raise hips, pressing down on the ball with your feet. Exhale, lower yourself. This is one round. Do five to ten rotations.

Benefits: It enhances all the benefits of the classic pose, by trimming hips and powering the neck. Respiratory capacity is also enhanced. The natural neck lock which occurs boosts metabolism, aiding weight loss.

Chaturanga dandasana (Four-limbed stick pose)

The classic advanced pose becomes a bit easy with the gym ball. Place the ball in front of you, kneeling before it. Lie on the ball, placing abdomen over it, hands flat on the ground in front. Roll the ball underneath, the body moving firmly forward.

The extent to which you may move -- upto the thigh, for beginners, knee for intermediate level practitioners and ankle or shin for advanced practitioners -- essentially depends on how well you can balance on the ball. Hold the pose, looking ahead and breathing normally. To release from pose, roll back on the abdomen, re-tracing the previous steps.

Benefits: The abdominal pressure is therapeutic in diabetes. The balancing challenge works out subtle muscle, toning entire body. This is a good de-stressing pose.

Chakrasasana (Wheel pose)

Sit with your back against the ball and straighten your arms. Place the back of your arms against the ball. Inhaling, slowly roll your body upwards, pushing against the floor with your feet. The back of the head should be also rested against the ball. Continue breathing normally.

Keep rolling your torso upwards till your hands are touching the ground behind. Hold the pose, breathing normally, as long as you can. To get out of the pose, exhale and slowly roll down, back to the sitting position, with your back still against the ball.

Avoid: If having vertigo and spinal problems.

Benefits: Arms and legs are toned. Metabolism is boosted, helping lose weight. The spine gets a powerful stretch. Posture and breathing are improved.

Eka hasta setu asana (One-handed plank pose)

Prop the ball against a support. Fold your right hand at the elbow, propping your head on it, and leaning against it, with your body sideways on the ball. Your body must form a straight line, feet forming a firm support.

Your left hand may either lie on your waist, or over the head (for advanced practitioners). Normal breathing to be maintained throughout. Relax back to starting position. Repeat entire sequence for the other side.

Avoid: If having weak wrists.

Benefits: Works out the waist, hips, thigh region powerfully, shaping it. Posture is also improved.

Salamba sarvangasana (Supported shoulderstand)

Lie on your back. Place your arms alongside the body. Lift legs, so they are at right angles to the body. Place the ball between your feet and hold it firmly with the insides of both feet. Inhale. Gently tilt hips upwards. Continue breathing.

As the hips lift, place your hands below the waist, using them to prop the body up. Hold the pose, with the ball between your feet. Hold for as long as is comfortable, with normal breathing. Exhale. Gently lower the legs back to the ground, with the ball still between your feet. Relax. You may try this three times.

Benefits: This prevents abdominal sagging. The back is strengthened. Thyroid imbalances are removed. It is anti-aging and a calming pose.




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