One of the most popular forms of non-strenuous exercise, yoga has spread from its origins in India to become a global phenomenon. The recent surge in yoga’s popularity in the West can be attributed in part to high-profile instructors and their celebrity clients. In the past ten years, yoga has become the workout of choice for many, due to the wide range of health and wellness benefits it offers.
Yoga instructor Ramya Gowda has been practicing and teaching yoga for years. According to her, yoga can help keep people grounded and enable them to develop a healthy outlook on life. It brings balance and harmony to her life, and she wants to share her love for this discipline with anyone who will listen. “Yoga helps one stay alert and active,” she says. “Aside from building stamina and strength, yoga can give you a clear mind and help you maintain healthy relationships and lead a clear and organised life.”
Ramya suggests doing yoga in an environment in which you are most comfortable. “I prefer a very ambient setting with plenty of light and open space. The music is also vital; choose whichever sounds make you relaxed and comfortable.” Ramya also tells us that distractions are a huge no-no during workouts. “The yoga studio or class is not a place to socialise. Focus on your exercise and keep your mind attuned to your body movement. Your workouts will be more beneficial.”
Meditation and good living go hand-in-hand with yoga, of course. Ramya shares three key yoga tips that can dramatically improve your physical and mental health:
Practice yoga every day - Even if it’s for a few minutes after your cardio or weightlifting workout. Yoga improves flexibility, blood circulation, and mental awareness. Be as still in your posture as possible, and make sure you take your time in moving from starting to finish positions.
Focus on breathing exercises- To calm your body and gather your thoughts. Slow, steady, deep breaths will allow you to gather your thoughts; unsteady breathing allows the mind to wander and your focus to disperse.
Exercise discipline- In your workout, make sure to commit yourself to doing yoga or your preferred workout routine. Stick to a certain time and challenge yourself to follow through. Many people make excuses and end their regimens before they can settle into the routine. Will yourself to practice discipline and half your battle will be won.
A good, consistent workout will do wonders, but it should be supplemented with a proper diet in order for the benefits to really show. “The most important things to include in your diet regimen are plenty of water and no processed foods. Start the day with a litre of water on an empty stomach, and eat whole foods with a focus on protein, fruits, and vegetables.”
Smaller meals at more frequent intervals is the most commonly suggested way to go, with each meal getting smaller as the day progresses and the body’s metabolism slows. Breakfasts should include most of the day’s quota of unrefined carbohydrates and a healthy dose of protein; fresh fruit or natural fruit juice can add a sweet twist to the meal. Lunch should be packed with protein and a bit of fat to keep you full until the evening (and away from the snack pantry!). After breakfast and lunch, a low-calorie snack can bridge the gap between mealtimes, and keep your metabolism going at a more consistent rate. This helps avoid lethargy and sugar spikes, both of which can result in snacking binges and unhealthy storage of fat. Dinner should be light, preferably focused on vegetables with a protein source to supplement it. Be sure to drink at least two litres of water during the day, and include three servings of lowfat of fat-free dairy products.
Most health-conscious diets are built around natural ingredients and unprocessed foods, eliminating preservatives and saturated fats which do the body no good. Yoga-centric diets tend to lean toward being organic, vegetarian or vegan. Below is a sample diet, one that Ramya uses in combination with a workout regimen of cardiovascular exercise and yoga.
The Yummy Yoga Diet-
A bowl of fresh bananas, blueberries, and strawberries with nonfat yoghurt and a handful of almonds; a large cup of Earl Grey tea with skim milk and honey.
A handful of dried figs.
Two wheat phulkas with fish, spinach, and mixed vegetables
A few wheat crackers with peanut butter.
Pepper-crusted salmon with a salad of baby spinach, avocado, cucumber, and goat cheese.
Supplements (if advised)
Ultimate Omega (omega-3, omega-6, omega-9 fatty acids) and a multivitamin.