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Strengthen your body with these yogic leg raises

January 3, 2008
Yogic leg raises are deceptively simple practices. They are tough to do, specially if you choose to either increase the duration in the final pose or increase the number of repeats in each pose.

To do either you must have already practiced yoga for a while and reached an intermediate level of confidence and muscular stamina. But these poses are must-do for beginners too, since they work on the flexibility of the soft muscle called fascia. They also provide a subtle but definitive spinal traction which makes other poses, including advanced poses, easier to negotiate.

Even advanced practitioners cannot become complacent with these poses or stop doing them. In fact, they are ideal warm-ups for inversions and stretches, particularly for such poses like the plough pose (halasana) or paschimottanasana (forward bend).

These poses are part of the pawan muktasana series (energy/joint releasing poses) which prepare the practitioner by purifying, toning, strengthening and rejuvenating the body.

For weight loss, you must build stamina in the final pose. This may take a few weeks, months or years, depending on your current level of physical fitness and your regularity of practice with these poses. Learning to hold the pose longer will have a toning, body sculpting effect. Increasing the number of repeats, will also have similar effect.

Points to note: These poses are contraindicated for those with heart, lower back or BP problems. Focus on learning one leg raise as a beginner. Doing one type of leg raise, instead of all five, as part of your asana sequence is sufficient. The variations are provided here to indicate the variety in yogic poses that can help enliven your daily sadhana. Switching between these poses will also prevent your muscles from becoming 'bored' with just one type of leg raise. After six weeks of any practice, muscles stop experiencing a challenge from a particular exercise movement, so you need to introduce variations to move off this plateau of boredom.

Shameem Akthar, trained with the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center, demonstrates five yogic leg raises.

Text: Shameem Akthar
Photographs: Jahnavi Sheriff
Catch more of Shameem's yoga writings and about her upcoming workshops at jaisivananda.blogspot.com

Harmony Foundation recently published Shameem Akthar's book, Yoga for Silvers. To place an order, please write to: anita.rosario@harmonyindia.org

(This article only attempts to enthuse readers towards yoga practice and complement your existing practice. Yoga is best learnt under the personal guidance of a teacher.)
Also read: Yoga made easy with props!

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