Getting into Baby Crow (Baby Bakasana)

Why I like this pose?

What I like about this pose is that 1) your are balancing at just 1-2 inches away from the floor – there is neither fear nor consequence of falling, 2) you don’t need to use your wrist here, which prevents wrist injuries due to repetitive stress or excessive loading of weight on your wrist joint. I like it because it was also the first arm balance I was able to take a flight:)

Prep for it

Warm-up

Warm-up is super important. Make sure you do couple rounds of cat-cow to warm up your spine. A few rounds of Surya Namaskara A would be helpful to energize the full body too. 

Bring on the drilling!

Dolphin Plank

This pose helps to engage your core, strengthen your shoulder. 

Dolphin & dolphin push-ups

Dolphin pose

  1. Start in downward facing dog, inhale reaching the hips up.
  2. Exhale, flex one elbow bringing the forearm to the mat, then flex the other elbow bringing the forearm to the mat.
    1. Forearms are parallel to each other.
    2. Inhale, move your torso forward so that your face comes over your hands. Both elbows should be nicely lined up under the shoulders.
    3. Continue to lift the hips up while heels reach down.
    4. Engage the shoulder blades and gaze back toward feet

Dolphin push-ups

  1. From Dolphin pose, solidify your shoulders.
  2. Inhale, look forward and lift the heels
  3. As you exhale, lower your chin toward the earth in between your hands. Shifting your shoulders beyond your elbows.

Getting into it

Starting in malasana with the knees wide with the arms stretched forward.

Turn your gaze forward and plant your forearms to the earth.

Begin to plug the knees into the back of the arms as high as you can get them.

Inhale, begin to lean forward. Shifting into dolphin push-up position.

As you exhale, engage your core and draw the heels in towards the hips, one at a times. Pointing the toes.

Engage:

  • Squeeze the knees into your upper arms.
  • Squeeze your elbows in like you would in a Low Plank (Chaturanga Dandasana), staying very active in your arms and not letting your elbows come beyond parallel.
  • Think heels to butt, and really lift up through the legs.
  • Draw your abdominal wall in and up to help support the weight of the body in the arm balance.

 

Anatomy Tips

  • Shift more weight forward than you think is necessary, and feel the weight in forearms, palms, and fingertips.
  • Envision the whole body engaging and lifting up. Nothing should be loose or disengaged here. Use your hip flexors, core to bring your body as tightly together as possible.
  • Baby Crow Pose might be deceptively harder than crow pose because your center of gravity is so close to the floor. This pose will build your shoulder and core strength, which will be essential in your Pincha Mayurasana practice in the future. 

Yoga & Insulin

What is insulin?

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas, a gland located behind your stomach.

What does it do?

  • Insulin helps your body turn blood sugar (glucose) into energy.
  • Insulin helps balance your blood glucose levels, by
  • Signaling your body to store the excess glucose in your liver and release when your blood glucose levels decrease.

How does it work?

  • Regulate blood sugar levels. After you eat, your blood sugar rises, which triggers your pancreas to release insulin into the bloodstream. Insulin travels through the blood to your body’s cell and causes the cells throughout your body to absorb the glucose. Thereafter, the cells convert glucose into energy.
  • Store excess glucose for energy. After you eat, when the insulin levels are high, the excess glucose is stored in the liver in the form of glycogen. Between meals, when insulin levels are low, the liver releases glycogen into the bloodstream in the form of glucose. This keeps blood sugar levels within a narrow range.
  • Without insulin, your body can’t use or store glucose for energy. Instead, the glucose stays in your blood -> cause diabetes

Understanding diabetes

Type I

Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus (IDDM)

Type II

(Non Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus (NIDDM)

Usually occurs during childhood

Usually occurs during adulthood

Body does not produce sufficient insulin

Body does not respond to insulin production

Caused by the destruction of β-cells (autoimmune)

Caused by the down-regulation of insulin receptors

Requires insulin injection to regulate blood glucose

Controlled by managing diet and lifestyle

How we can manage?

Through Yoga Asanas

  • Rejuvenating pancreatic cells. Yoga postures that aid relaxation stretch the pancreas, which can stimulate the production of insulin-producing beta cells. E.g. Paschimattanasana, Halasana, Parivritta Utkatasana
  • Exercising the muscles. Yoga increases glucose uptake by muscular cells, which in turn helps to lower blood sugar levels, improve circulation and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. E.g. Surya Namaskara A, Surya Namaskara B
  • Increasing blood flow. Yoga practice helps to increase the blood supply to parts of the body, allowing the body to better absorb insulin (at the injection site for Type I) E.g. Salamaba Sarvangasana, Urdhva Mukha Svanasana

Through Yoga Mudras

  • Surya Mudra. Gesture to improve insulin secretion
  • Apana Mudra. Gesture of detoxification
  • Prana Mudra. Gesture to strengthen immunity
  • Linga Mudra. Gesture to lower blood sugar level
  • Gyan Mudra. Gesture of relaxation

 

Through Pranayama & Meditation

  • Stress management is one of the keys of diabetes treatment. When we’re stressed, our blood sugar levels increase and elevated blood sugar levels increase the chances of diabetes and even serious complications such as heart disease. Studies show that yoga can reduce stress-related hyperglycemia and have a positive effect on blood glucose control.
  • E.g. Anuloma Viloma breathing (alternate nostril breathing) A deep breathing technique to increase the circulation of oxygenated blood to the brain.

Beginner yoga practice sequence

Breathing (5mins)

Focus: Deep breathing

Warm-ups (10mins)

Easy Pose: Side stretch, Forward fold

Tabletop pose: Knee to elbow, knee to tricep (5 times each)

Child’s pose: rest 

Asana (~30mins)

fDownward-facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana): 1min, 5 breaths

    – To build and stabilise the foundation 

Standing-forward fold (Uttanasana): 2mins, 10 breaths

    – To extend our spine, lengthen the hamstrings

Mountain Pose (Tadasana): 1 min, 5 breaths

    – To ground, to connect with the earth

Transition: to Plank pose, lower all the way down. Belly & hips come onto the mat

Snake Pose (Sarpasana): 1min, 5 breaths

Baby cobra (Bhujangasana): 1min, 5 breaths

   – Gentle back bendings are heart opener and counter pose for the forward fold.

Downward-facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana): 1min, 5 breaths

 

Low lunge pose (Anjaneyasana): 1min, 5 breaths

Revolved low lunge (Parivrtta Anjaneyasana): 1 min, 5 breaths

[Chaturanga, Downward facing dog, repeat on the left side. end with Chaturanga, Downward facing dog.] 

 3 legged downward facing dog variation: 

   – 1st time: right leg reaches up, shift forward and draw the right knee to the right elbow; 

  – 2nd time: knee to nose;

  – 3rd time: knee to left elbow. 

  – Reach right back, lengthen, and step forward in between the hands. (step into high lunge)

  – Create hip mobility, strengthen the core. 

High Lunge (Anjaneyasana): 1min, 5 breaths

[Chaturanga, Downward facing dog, repeat on the left side. end with Chaturanga, Downward facing dog.] 

Half splits (Ardha Hanumanasana): 3min, 5 breaths on each side

  – Work on hips and hamstrings

Thread the needle pose: 3mins, 5 breaths on each side

  – Twisting. open heart, then relax spine and shoulder

Butterfly pose (Baddha konasana): 2mins, 10 breaths

Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana): 2mins, 5 breaths each round x 2 rounds

 

Cool-down (5min)

Knee-to-chest pose (Apanasana): 1min, 5 breaths

Supine twist (supta Matsyendrasana): 2mins, 5 breaths each side, right and left

Happy baby pose (Ananda Balasana): 1min, 5 breaths

   – to release the spine, back. 

Relaxation

Savasana: 5mins

Shojin Ryori inspired yogic diet

What is Shojin Ryori?

Shojin ryori, otherwise also known as temple or Buddhist cooking, is one of the classic Japanese cuisines. Shojin ryori was introduced to Japan from China by the monk Dogen, the founder of Zen Buddhism, whose practice emphasizes seated meditation. Buddhist tradition forbade killing animals for human consumption, which was believed to cloud the spirit and interfere with meditation. As a result, the meals they ate were made without meat or fish and also abstained from the use of pungent flavors like garlic and onion. These principles became the foundation of shojin ryori.

 

A typical shojin ryori meal is centered around soybean-based foods like tofu along with seasonal vegetables and wild mountain plants, which are believed to bring balance and alignment to the body, mind, and spirit.

What is Yogic Diet? Sattvic, Rajasic and Tamasic?

Before we talk about Yogic diet specifically, we need to understand what is “Guna”. Guna is a Sanskrit word that signifies “rope”. In an abstract use of the word, it can signify “subdivision”, “species”, “type” and generally “quality”. According to the Bhagavad Ghita, a Guna is the subtlest quality in nature and exists in all human beings, in various grades of concentration and combination, moving in different physical, emotional and mental levels. Basically, they are three qualities that compose the universe.

 

Guna is one of the three tendencies: Tama (dull, inertia, ignorance), Sattva (grace, kindness, pure), and Raja (passion, energy). They are in charge of categorizing behaviors and natural phenomenon, and can be utilized in medicine as well. Ayurvedica is used in diagnostic systems with various conditions and diets. According to Ayurveda, medicine and food are Sattvic, Rajasic, or Tamasic, or a combination of the three. 

As such, the food that we eat can be also classified into three types – Sattvic, Rajasic and Tamasic. Here is a quick look at some foods and how they are categorized.

Sattvic FoodsRajasic FoodsTamasic Foods

Grains such as rice, wheat, and oats, legumes, moong dal (whole green gram)

Meat and fish, excessively spicy, salty, and sour foods

Meat and fish, white flour, food with preservatives, food kept overnight

Fresh green vegetables such as spinach, green beans, steamed vegetables with moderate spices

Pungent vegetables, excessive intake of potato, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower

Foods with excessive starch, canned and tinned food

Fresh fruits such as pomegranates, apples, bananas, oranges, and grapes

Jams, jellies, flavored and preserved foods

Jams, jellies, flavored and preserved foods

Fresh fruit and vegetable juices

Wines, alcoholic drinks, soda, cola, and coffee

Hard liquor like whisky and rum

Fresh or lightly roasted seeds and nuts

Fried food, roasted and salted food, and mustard

French fries, chips, foods preserved with salt

Fresh buttermilk, fresh curd (yoghurt), butter, and ghee (clarified butter).

* Fresh milk is Sattvic but once pasteurized, it turns a little Tamasic.

Sour milk and cream

Too cold or pasteurized milk, curds, and cheese

Coconut oil, sesame oil, and olive oil

 – 

Excess intake of fats, oils, sugars, and pastries

Spices such as ginger, cardamom, dalchini (cinnamon), saunf (fennel), dhaniya (coriander), and haldi (turmeric)

 

Chilies, garlic, onions, pickles, and vinegar

 – 

Honey, jaggery and raw sugar

Brown or black chocolate

White sugar and white flour

(Reference: Written with inputs from Dr. Sharika Menon, Vaidya, Art of Living)  

Being of Sattvic or “pure” mind is the goal when we practice, and this quality is also present in the food that we eat. Ideally a yogic diet would be rich in sattvic foods, which are freshly prepared, light and healthy and do not go to any extremes of tastes.  

According to Ayurveda, this is the best diet for a Yogi to adopt. It helps purifies our body and calms the mind.

Shojin Ryori inspired yogic diet – what’s on the Menu?

Now, it is not hard to tell Shojin Ryori diet is somehow largely in line with what we envision for a sattvic diet. That said, Shojin Ryori diet might contain certain elements that we wish to modify or remove to make it 100% sattvic. Foods in Shojin Ryori diet that we might want to avoid: tempura (deep-fried foods are generally considered Tamasic), miso, or fermented soybean paste (fermented foods are generally considered Tamasic), mushroom (considered tamasic because it grows in the dark).

 

For that, here is a Shojin Ryori inspired menu curated just for yogis! Bon appetite!

 

Carbohydrate:

Option A: Brown Rice

Option B: Soba

 

Sides:

Edamame

Steamed vegetarian gyoza

Chawanmushi (egg-option)/ Tofu (vegan-friendly)

 

Vegetables:

Option A: Vegetable salad with roasted sesame dressing

Option B: Vegetable shabu-shabu

 

Dessert: seasonal fresh fruits

Drink: buckwheat tea