Yoga Bliss Gambia: Yoga for all

Yoga, the age-old phenomenon. What do you think of when you hear the word “yoga”? Some might say a flexible person’s exercise or contortions, people sitting cross-legged doing all sorts of breathing and humming, chanting, or others might think it’s a type of martial arts or gymnastics.

In all reality, yoga is a way of life that is accessible as well as beneficial to all.  The “yoga” we hear of often is usually the exercise component of yoga called ‘asana’ which translates to poses and the other component which comprises of breathing exercises which is the ‘pranayama’.  This is known to condition your body and mind to its optimal which results in improving your immune system as well as a reduction in stress and sickness. 

The information below will assist you in some fundamental yoga poses that can be practised on a daily basis.  

Before we start make sure you are wearing comfortable stretchy or loose clothes, prepare a calm space for your practice, and an exercise/yoga mat.  If you don’t own a yoga mat, a large towel is just as acceptable too.  Keep in mind that yoga shouldn’t be performed on a full stomach. If you are currently pregnant or have any underlying health conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, sciatica, ongoing joint pains, recent injuries or surgeries please consult your doctor as well as seek guidance from a yoga trainer to practice yoga safely with modifications and the correct use of props when necessary.

Initial preparations, Let’s start!

Take a comfortable sitting position whilst keeping your back straight. Rest the back of your hands on your thighs.  Throughout this practice try to keep in mind that you should be breathing in and out through the nose. 

Gently close your eyes, and start to bring your focus initially to your breathing.  Notice how you are breathing.  See if you can alter your breathing so that when you inhale you are expanding the ribcage and then allowing your stomach to expand like a balloon.  We are creating space in the abdominal area to allow more room for your lungs to expand.  When you exhale, feel that your stomach is coming back in and your rib cage lowering.  Continue this process for at least 12 cycles before starting the asana.

Seated Asanas you can try at home

CAT-COW (Marjaryasana/Bitilasana)

Come onto all four on the ground with your knees and hips, width apart, as well as your hands directly under your shoulder.  As you inhale, start to turn your hip back pointing the tail bone towards the sky following which you curve your spine, gently bring your gaze to the ceiling.  As you exhale start to turn your hip in, tucking the tail bone under, pushing the back of your shoulder blades up towards the sky as well as bringing your chin towards your chest. 

Continue this movement in synch with your breath for about 10 cycles.  As you go through the movement try to create a smooth wave-like flow in your spine, always starting at the base of the spine and moving up to the base of the skull.

CHILD POSE (Balasana)

Kneeling on your knees, allowing your big toes to touch each other.  Keep your knees about hips-width apart and bring your chest down between your thighs.  You can keep your arms extended with the palm placed on the ground, or bring them beside your body with the palms facing up.  If possible relax your forehead down to the ground.  After which try to bring your focus back to your breath.  Stay for 1 minute.

COBRA (Bhujangasana)

Lay down with your stomach on the mat.  Bending your elbows, bring your palms to the side of your chest.  While engaging the legs, buttocks and lower back, start to lift your upper body by pushing the palms down into the mat.  Do not fully extend your arms and lock the elbows.  The lift should be maintained with your strength.  Make sure your shoulders are pushed down away from your ears allowing you to bring your gaze forward towards the sky.  Hold this position and take 6 deep breaths.   With your last exhalation lower your chest down to the ground.  Repeat this 3 times.

STAFF POSE (Dandasana)

Commence by sitting on the ground with your legs facing forward, turn your hips out so you are not sitting on your tail bone.  If you have difficulty turning your hips outwards with your legs fully extended, sit on a hard cushion or a rolled-up towel.  Extend your spine so you are sitting straight, and always maintain the sensation that your spine is pulling up.  Your arms should be beside your body with your palms on the ground beside your hips.  Staying in this posture stretch your feet so your toes are pointing upward.  Keeping this position bring your awareness back to your breath and maintain for 1 minute.

SEATED SPINAL TWIST (Ardha Matsyendrasana)

Continuing from the above-mentioned staff pose, bend your right knee and bring the foot across your left leg.  Keeping your spine extended, inhale up while raising your left arm, as you exhale, lower your arm across your right knee coming into a spinal twist.  Turn your head to follow your right shoulder.  Continue the deep breathing and hold for 6 breath.  Turn back to the centre and return to Staff pose.  Following this,  bend your left knee and bring the foot across your right leg, inhale and while doing so, raise your right arm and extend the spine, as you exhale bring your arm down across your left knee coming into a spinal twist.  Turn your head to follow your left shoulder.

BRIDGE POSE (Setu bandha sarvangasana)

Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet hip-width apart on the mat.  Arms beside your body your palms are facing down beside your hips.  During inhalation, engage the buttocks and core and push your hips up.  Ensure your hips are lifted and your feet pushing down into the mat firmly.  Hold the position for 6 breaths.  With the last exhalation gently lower the back onto the mat and relax your hips down. Repeat 3 times.

KNEES TO CHEST (Pavanamuktasana)

While laying on your back, hug in both of your knees to your chest and hold for 6 breaths.  You can start by rocking gently from side to side or rotate your knees in a circular motion to give your lower back a gentle massage.

Cool Down

At the end of your session, always allocate time for a relaxation pose (savasana). Lie on your back with your legs slightly apart and extended.  Your arms are slightly away from your body with the palms facing up.  Make sure it is a comfortable position for you.  Close your eyes and bring awareness to your breath. 

Once your breath can be maintained, focus your attention on your body by starting from your toes and gradually move upwards.  Maintain your attention on each body part for a few breaths and let it relax, and then move your attention upwards to the next. Continue this relaxation until you reach your head. Following which, bring your attention to your face. Allow your jaw to loosen, parting your lips slightly, and relaxing the areas around your eyebrows.  Now bringing your awareness to the point on the back of your head that is in contact with the mat, as you breathe let that point relax into the mat.  Lastly, bring your awareness back only to your breath.  At this point your body is in full relaxation, take this time to fully enjoy this moment and stay in this position for as long as you feel is needed. 

Enjoy the peace and calm that the practice brings you!

About 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 a visitor in The Gambia, Yoga Bliss Gambia would love to welcome you to their next class.

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