Back to basics: Asanas for different age groups

  • Soumya Vajpayee Tiwari, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Jun 20, 2015 15:55 IST

Yoga is perhaps one of India's greatest gifts to the world. While the discipline dates back to about 15,000 years, it had gained popularity in India, and various other nations, only about two decades ago. Although this physical, mental and spiritual practice has amassed numerous practitioners in the past few years, it was only in December last year when June 21 was declared as the International Day of Yoga by the United Nations General Assembly at the insistence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

However, this practice benefits different people in different ways. As the day draws close, we get yoga experts to suggest a few asanas that are beneficial for different age groups.

"While yoga can be taken up by young and old alike, children below the age of seven are not advised to perform yoga asanas. Medical research suggests that children below that age might not be able to withstand the yogic practices. The volume of their heart is smaller as compared to the luminal diameter of their blood vessels. This means that their heart is not ready to endure the heightened requirements that yoga asanas require," says Dr Amrapali Patil, yoga guru and founder of Trim N Tone.

From L to R: Virabhadrasana and Trikonasana

Age group: 9-19

How it helps:
This makes leg muscles stronger. It relieves cramp in the calf and thigh muscles, brings elasticity to the leg and back muscles, and also tones the abdominal organs. It builds stamina and provides relief in case of back pain.

Do it right:
* Stand straight with your legs wide apart. Turn your right foot out by 90 degrees and left foot in by about 15 degrees.
* Lift both arms sideways to shoulder height with your palms facing upwards. While breathing out, bend your right knee. Ensure that your knee does not overshoot the ankle.
* Turn your head to your right. Stretch your arms further. Push your pelvis down and hold the posture.
* Breathe in while you come up. Breathe out and bring your hands down from the sides.
* Repeat the yoga posture for the left side too.

How it helps:
This asana stimulates the muscular, digestive, circulatory, nervous and hormonal systems, and makes you agile. It also eliminates nervous tension. Apart from that, it even helps in reducing the fat around the belly area.

Do it right:
* Lie down flat on a mat.
* Breathe in deeply, hold your breath, and then raise your arms, shoulders, head and trunk off the ground.
* Balance the body on the buttocks and keep the spine straight.
* The arms should be held in the same line as the toes. The hands open with the palms downwards.
* Remain in the final position for about five seconds, and hold the breath.
* Return to the flat-on-your-back position and then breathe out.

From L to R: Naukasana and Halasana .

Age group: 20-34

How it helps:
It is a calming asana. It aids growth, amplifies the state of serenity and eliminates anxiety. It also relieves physical and mental exhaustion.

Do it right:
* Sit with your legs stretched, in front of you.
* Cross your shins and widen your knees.
* Bend your knees and fold your legs towards your torso.
* Keep your feet relaxed, so that the outer edges rest on the floor and the inner arches are settled below the opposite shin. Your thighs and crossed shins should form a small triangle.
* Sit with your pelvis in a neutral position. Sit in the position for a breath or two, and then slowly lower yourself back on to the floor.
* Place your hands on your knees, palm down and lengthen your tailbone towards the floor.

How it helps:
This is a classic yoga position that stretches and strengthens your spine, inner thigh area, abdominal and side muscles. It also helps to open the pelvis by stretching the pelvic ligaments. It reduces stress and anxiety, and is good for digestion.

Do it right:
* Stand erect, then inhale and step to the right with the right foot at 90 degrees, left heel turned inward. Keep your heels three feet apart.
* Exhale, reach out over the foot with your right hand, and bend to the right.
* Place the hand either on your shin or ankle, till you will feel a stretch. Raise the left hand vertically upwards.
* Turn your head to look up towards the left thumb, opening chest towards the sky.
* Hold for five breaths. Inhale, come up slowly.
* Repeat on other side.

From L to R: Sukhasana and Vajrasana

Age group: 35 and above

How it helps:

It enhances the supply of blood to the upper part of the body. It improves digestion, and helps build stamina.

Do it right:
* Stand on your knees with the lower legs together and stretched backwards, the two toes crossing each other.
* Lower your body and sit on your heels. Your buttocks will be resting on the heels and the thighs on the calf muscles.
* Keep your hands on your knees. Keep the head straight.
* Concentrate on the breath, and observe the process of inhalation and exhalation.
* Remain in this position for at least five minutes.

How it helps:
This asana strengthens your neck, shoulders and back muscles. Calms the nervous system, reduces stress and fatigue. It also helps women during menopause. It is beneficial for migraines and people with a tendency for high blood pressure.

Do it right:
* Lie on your back with knees bent, the soles of the feet on the ground, and with legs held together.
* Place your hands on your waist with your fingers underneath the back supporting it.
* Exhale and swing your knees and thighs over your abdomen. Raise your hips and torso, and support this position with your hands on your lower back.
* Straighten your legs so that they are parallel to the floor.
* Hold this position. If you are comfortable in the pose, try to touch your toes to the floor while keeping your legs extended.

- With inputs from Sunaina Rekhi, yoga expert; Radhika Vachani, founder, Yogacara Healing Arts and Dr Amrapali Patil

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