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Yoga Bliss Gambia: Maximize your Benefits of Fasting

My Magazine 2023/04
5 min
Author: Melissa Kuwahata Daswani
Whether you are fasting for Lent or Ramadan or for any other purpose, practicing yoga asana and pranayama during the fast can be very beneficial.  Yoga and fasting work well together by maximizing detox capacity of your body by stimulating the digestive organs.  It increases the energy level, brings clarity to mind by reducing sluggishness and lethargy.  It’s important to keep active during fasting, but not to exert yourself by performing high impact exercises, aerobics, or asana sequences.  Low-impact yoga asanas bring about enough movement to the body to bring about an optimal stimulation to your muscles, organs, and mind without draining your energy.

I recommend that you either perform the following asanas a few hours after beginning your fast, or, if possible, even just before you break the fast. Before we begin, do make sure you’re wearing comfortable clothing that doesn’t restrict movement, you have a quiet space where you can dedicate to yourself either a yoga mat, exercise mat, or a large towel to practice on. Please keep in mind that if you have any medical conditions get a clearance from your doctor first before attempting any asana (postures).

Come into your practice space. Starting in a comfortable sitting position, allow your arms to comfortably be by your side, resting the palms or the wrists on your knees or legs. Close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths in and out through your nose. Notice your posture; try to adjust your posture so your spine is centred and erect, feeling some extension in your spine. Just make sure not to bring tension to your neck and shoulders. Wiggle the toes, the fingers, and soften your face. Release any tension that you may be holding in your jaw, eyebrows, behind the ears. Start to bring your mind back to your breathing. Notice how your breath feels through your nose, notice how it feels though the back of your throat, and then notice how it fills and empties your lungs. Now notice your rhythm of your breath, and the depth of your breath. Are you settled in your breath?

 

Nadi Shodhana Pranayama (Alternate nostril breathing)

Bring your right index and middle finger to your third eye area, closing your right nostril with your thumb. Exhale out of your left nostril, hold, and inhale through your left nostril.  Close the left nostril with your ring finger, open the right nostril and exhale out of the right nostril. Hold, and inhale through the right nostril, close the right nostril with your thumb, open the left nostril.  Exhale out the left nostril and continue breathing through the alternate nostrils.   Try to stay for 3 to 5 minutes.

Breathing through the nostrils stimulates the energy channels.  By alternating the breath between the nostrils, it balances out the energy of the body and mind.  Bringing calmness and clarity to the mind.

 

Butterfly (Baddha konasana)

From your sitting pose, bring the soles of your feet together.  Draw the heels in as close as you can to the groin while keeping the spine erect.  Start to shift your knees up and down like butterfly wings.  Warming up the hip joint and bring some smooth movement to the joint. Continue for about 1 minute.

 

Cat-Cow (Marjaryasana-Bitilasana) Chakravakasana

Come into a tabletop position on your knees and palms. Allow hip-width space between the knees and keep the position of the hands directly under the shoulders. Starting with a neutral spine and inhale, as you exhale, gradually come into a cat pose. Tuck the hips under, round the back, push the centre of your shoulder blades up as much as you can. 

Look towards your belly button and tuck the chin in. As you exhale, gradually come into cow pose, start to turn your hips out, curve the spine down, open the chest and look upwards to stretch the throat. Continue to transit between the cat and cow, with the pace of your breath. Keep the awareness with the breath and the sensation in your spine. Continue for 1 to 2 minutes.

 

Balasana (Childpose)

From a tabletop position on your knees and hand. Start to push the hips back towards your heels and lower your forehead down towards the floor. Arms extended forward, relax the shoulders and neck. Try to sink your hips down towards your heels. As you breathe in and out through your nose, notice your stomach expanding and deflating against your thighs. Stay here for 2 to 3 minutes.

 

Bhujangasana (Cobra pose)

From child pose bring your chest forward until your legs are extended out, and you are lying on your stomach. Bring your palms to the side of your chest, engage your legs and bottom and start to lift the upper body off the mat. Keep the elbows tucked in and only lift up as high as your lower back allows you to. Keep your gaze ahead or slightly up, and maintain your shoulders down and your neck extended. Stay here for 6 breaths. Repeat 2 more times. Return to child pose, allow your lower back to extend and release any tension.

 

Salabhasana (locust pose) to child pose

From child pose, bring your chest forward and lay on your stomach. Bring your arms down beside your body palms on the mat. With your inhalation, engage your body and lift your legs, chest and arms off the mat. Lift off the ground as high as you can but also maintain your breath as deeply as possible. Stay for 6 breaths. Exhale as you lower down and relax the body. Repeat another 2 times. Push back into the child pose and relax your lower back.

 

Toe squat

From the child pose, tuck the toes under and gently lift the chest up to stretch the soles of your feet.  If you are able to put weight on the toes, take your hands off the mat and bring the palms into the prayer position. Bring your awareness back to your breath, and maintain this position for 1 to 2 minutes. Return to tabletop position.

 

Low lunge – low lunge twist

From the tabletop position, step your right foot forward to come into a low lunge. Bend into your right knee and push the hips forward to increase the stretch in your hip muscles. If you are comfortable with your balance, start to lift your arms and chest up, gazing forward. Hold for 8 breaths. Return your palms back to the mat if they’re held up. From a low lunge stretch your right arm up to come into a twist. Your chest should be opening to face the bent knee. Hold for 8 breaths, and lower the palm back to the mat. Gently withdraw your right foot back, to return to the tabletop. Repeat on your left leg. 

 

Bridge pose

Lie on your back with your knees bent and the feet on the mat with the heel placed close to the bottom. Maintain space between your feet and keep your arms resting beside your body with the palms facing the mat.  As you contract your buttock and your stomach, bring your hips off the floor. Push the hips as high as you can and hold the posture. Hold for 1 to 2 minutes and release the spine gently down to the mat and rest the hips down.

 

Pawanmukthasana (knees to chest)

Lie on the mat on your back with your legs extended. As you inhale, lift both legs straight up towards the ceiling. As you exhale, bend the knees and hug in the knees towards your chest. Then bring your nose towards the knees by lifting your head off the mat. Feel the stretch along the spine. Hold for 5 breaths and release. Repeat another 2 times.

 

Savasana (Corpse pose)

Lying on your back, allow some space between your legs and space between your arms and body. Allow your feet to tilt slightly outwards and your palms to face up. You may like to prop a rolled towel or pillows under your knees, neck, or your back. Once you settle yourself in this position, close your eyes and bring your awareness to your breath. Relax your shoulders, arms, hips and legs. Soften your face, releasing any tension that you maybe keeping in your jaw, eyebrows or forehead. Let your eyes rest down deeper into their sockets. Bring your focus to your breath, feeling the inhalation and exhalation as you breathe through your nose. Notice the sensation of air passing in and out of the nostrils. Notice the air passing the back of your throat and filling the lungs. Notice your chest expands. Similarly, as you exhale, notice your chest relaxing, the air releasing from the lungs and the air passing through the back of your throat and out the nostrils. Stay with the path of your breath until you feel centred and relaxed. If any thoughts pop up, let it pass without much consideration. Let the thoughts pass through without contemplation to the thoughts, then bring yourself back to your breath once again. Maintain this for 5 minutes.

It's always important to maintain a regular practice. We often reduce our activities during fasting, but including gentle movement-based exercises such as yoga asana and pranayama are beneficial to you!

All photos courtesy of Kimi’s Klicks

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Melissa Kuwahata Daswani
Founder, Yoga Bliss Gambia and Yoga Bliss Creations
Melissa Daswani is a professional yoga teacher trained and accredited in Hatha Yoga from Rishikesh, India. She was introduced to yoga in the early adolesce by her mother who often practised yoga at their home and still continues to practice to date.
Melissa started to indulge in yoga with a keen interest in her 20’s after researching the benefits of practising yoga.
In order to expand her knowledge and practice, she initially enrolled on official training in India during 2009. Her initial stint in yoga teaching began in 2012 in Togo, followed by expanding in the Gambia from 2016. Melissa’s style of teaching incorporates the fundamental and crucial steps of yoga called Hatha yoga, which encompasses the basis of all other styles of yoga. Melissa believes that every individual has something to gain from Yoga which is not limited to mental, physical or spiritual.
Yoga is not a religion but more a spiritual exercise as well as a practice that can universally be incorporated into your daily routine. Melissa offers regular weekly classes in Fajara, the Gambia, which is open to all levels.
She also runs a weekly beach yoga class which is very refreshing and energizing.
It’s her love and dedication towards teaching which allows her the opportunity to share the essence of yoga and its benefits to people from all walks of life.
Whether you reside in the Gambia or are a visitor in The Gambia, Yoga Bliss Gambia would love to welcome you to their next class.

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