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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.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: Challenging yourself with the lotus pose