When the Gods are in celestial sleep and the Dakshinayana begins, it's a good time to begin a metabolism-boosting yoga regimen—especially since June 21st is also International Yoga Day.
Yoga may be centuries old, but yoga day is not even a decade old yet. It was first proposed at the UN General Assembly by India’s current Prime Minister Narendra Modi in September 2014: “Yoga is an invaluable gift of India's ancient tradition. It embodies the unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfillment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with you, the world and nature. By changing our lifestyle and creating consciousness, it can help in well-being. Let us work towards adopting an International Yoga Day.” And so in 2015, it came into being on the 21st of June, which is also the summer solstice—the longest day in the northern hemisphere, and the shortest in the southern hemisphere.
In terms of yoga as well, this day is of importance as it marks the beginning of the six-month period from summer solstice to the winter solstice when the Gods are said to be in celestial sleep. This is the time for purification. This was the time when Shiva became the first yogi (Adiyogi) and began to teach as well, becoming the first guru (Adiguru). He took on his first seven disciples—the Saptarishis at this time. And from then on, it is believed the seeds of yoga grew into blooming trees.
So believing in yoga and the ancient yogic wisdom of past, let’s use this day to start a new regimen. One of health and wisdom as well as peace and meditation. And since it’s the time to purify, a great way to begin is to stoke the inner digestive fire (Agni) into a beautiful blaze and get rid of the undigested (Ama) as well. This will provide us with all the nutrients we need, and detoxify us as well—for us to be in optimum health with increased vitality and youth. So here go seven asanas that are thought to increase metabolism to nourish and purify us from inside out.
Tree Pose (Vrikshasana)
The tree pose may look easy, but in fact, it is a powerful standing pose that not only increases your balance, muscle tone, and core strength, but also concentration and, of course, metabolism.
The method: Begin by standing straight with feet shoulder-length apart. Balance on one leg and slowly raise the other, bending the knee in a transverse position. Slide the foot to the ankle, calf or inner thigh of the standing leg firmly and “lock” your muscles into position. Bring your hands to the prayer or namaskar position. Taking a deep breath, slowly raise your arms and look up. Imagine yourself as a tree—your legs rooting you to the ground while your branches reach to the sky. Tackle any balance problems by looking at a focal point (anything you can hold your gaze at). Lower back to standing position and switch legs—do each leg five times.
Eagle Pose (Garudasana)
The eagle pose strengthens muscles but also energizes the whole body—which in turn sparks digestion and better metabolism.
The method: Assume a standing position and bend your knees slightly. Lift the right leg up and around the left leg and hook the right foot behind the left calf. Sink the hip down and back, the way you would if about to sit on a chair. Cross your arms at the elbows and wrists and hold them in front of your chest. Hold this pose for 30-60 seconds before you come out of the pose and switch sides. Repeat each side five times.
Twisted or Revolved Chair Pose (Parivarta Utkatasana)
Most twisting poses increase circulation and use just about every muscle there is in the body. Twisting shocks all internal organs awake, and by doing so optimizes hormonal secretions as well as digestive processes.
The method: Stand with your feet and legs together and begin to sink your hips lower and backwards, bending at the knees, as if you were about to sit on a chair. Fold your hands in front of your chest and rotate your spine to bring your right elbow to your left knee. Keep your chest lifted up and shoulder straight. Hold for 45-60 seconds and straighten up and out. Repeat on the other side, each side five times.
Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)
The Bow pose is a backbend that stretches the front of the body and strengthens the back muscles. Since there is pressure on the abdomen and stomach, the digestive fires burn brightly after this pose.
The method: Lie face down on the yoga mat and bring your hands down towards the legs, palms facing upwards. Bend your knees and lift up your face and chest. Reach back with your hands and firmly hold the ankles, with legs hip distance apart. Lift your heels up and away from your body, and feel your chest being lifted from the floor. Do not hunch and keep those shoulder blades down. Hold for a minute or 30 seconds and release. Come back down and rest your head on the floor, turned at one side. Repeat thrice in total.
Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
The bridge pose is an inversion pose that works against gravity to bring better metabolic and respiratory health to you. The pose helps in sparking up the thyroid gland, which makes the hormones that keep your metabolism in good working order.
The method: Lay on your back on the floor with knees bent. Keep feet hip-distance apart and flat on the floor. The feet should be in touchable distance to your hands. Press your weight into your feet while you lift your hips towards the ceiling/sky, keeping thighs parallel. Bring your arms underneath you and clasp your hands together, holding the pose for at least 30 seconds. Release and rest, repeat twice more.
Fish Pose (Matsyasana)
Fish pose reduces stress in our body and also helps in stretching the thyroid gland—prodding it into action. It’s great for those who work on computers for long hours. While it is traditionally done by sitting in Padmasana, let’s teach you an easier version first.
The method: Lay flat on your back on the mat, and bring your hands (palms down) under your butt. Bend the elbows and lean on them, putting your upper body weight on them. Lift your chest up to the ceiling, so arch the back and bring the elbows towards each other as well. Dip your head back and hold for 30-60 seconds. Relax and repeat twice.
Supine Spinal Twist (Supta Jathara Parivartanasana)
It the easiest and the most relaxing of all poses that boost metabolism, and should be done at the end of your session. This will boost appetite as well as relax the body to face the day.
The method: Lie on the mat on your back. Gently lift your knees and bring them to your chest. Hold the right knee into the chest and straighten the left leg back on the floor. Bring your bent knee across your body, keeping shoulder firmly pressed to the floor and twisting at the waist. Turn your head and look over the right shoulder and hold this pose for a minute. Now bring the left knee back up and straighten out the right leg, completing the asana on the other side. Five times on each side is good.
We hope this International Yoga Day you can start on your new regimen of yoga that boosts your metabolism, and your health. Namaste.