21st June is observed as International Yoga Day every year with the aim to increase awareness about the importance of yoga in everyone’s life.
Yoga is known to be an ancient practice which has gained a lot of prominence in recent years thanks to its health benefits. It is believed to calm your mind and body and also improve flexibility making you stronger both physically and mentally. And women are no different when it comes to reaping the benefits of yoga. It is known to help women through every stage of her life right from menstruation and pregnancy to menopause. On the occasion of International Yoga Day, we asked Dr. Kritika Bolia, Executive Physiotherapist, Motherhood Hospital, Pune to shed light on the benefits of yoga for women and list a few simple yoga asanas for women to get started.
Health Benefits of Yoga For Women
Yoga can help a woman to stay fit and healthy right from her growing years until menopause, which are the key stages of growth and development in any woman. Here’s how yoga can be beneficial for women
Menstrual pain: Yoga can help a teenager to fight menstrual abnormalities and symptoms of menstruation such as severe abdominal pain and discomfort. By practicing yoga and exercising regularly, one can not only improve blood circulation to the uterus but also help to maintain hormonal balance which can go a long way to keep your reproductive system in a healthy way. Moreover, it can help you to have a regular menstrual cycle and decrease the severity of pain and discomfort seen during menstruation.
Infertility: Not many women are aware of the fact that yoga can help with infertility in women and up the chances of getting pregnant. Certain asanas like chakki asana (mill churning pose), child pose asana and bridge pose asana can help a woman to boost fertility as well as fight hormonal disorders such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
Pregnancy: Yoga improves your core strength and flexibility which is very much needed during pregnancy. During this stage, many women go through a lot of emotional changes and mood swings which can take a toll on her mind and body. Practicing meditation, pranayama, breathing exercises and yoga during pregnancy can not only help you control mood swings and emotional problems but also help you keep calm and relieve stress. Moreover, there are certain postures which can help a pregnant woman to reduce strain on her back and also aid in a smooth delivery. Prenatal yoga asanas are also known to improve pregnancy discomforts like labor pain.
Post-childbirth: The postnatal exercises usually starts from 6 weeks post delivery to help a woman get on track with her weight, hormones and fitness level. Yoga asanas basically help a woman to work on her glutes, abdominal muscles, uterine muscles and back to improve core strength and flexibility. Remember, yoga leads to slow but consistent results.
Menopause: Yoga in the 30s can help you stay fit even in your 50s and 60s. And when we talk about the 50s, the only thing that comes to mind is menopause. If a woman is practicing yoga from her 30’s, it can definitely help in her later stage and have smooth menopause. This not only means less severe symptoms during menopause such as reduced pain, discomfort but also lesser chances of having tumors, bladder problems like urinary incontinence and osteoporosis.
This is because yoga can improve your bone health, heart health, ease stress and improve hormonal balance. It can strengthen the muscles and joints mobility, improve flexibility and endurance, boost immunity, promote blood circulation, ease your stress levels and maintain hormonal level, all of which play a key role in keeping you healthy and fit even in old age.
5 Simple Yoga Asanas For Women
Here are 5 simple beginner yoga asanas for every woman to get her fitness level on track from today.
1. Chakki Chalanasana (Mill Churning Pose)
This yoga asana works on the uterine muscles thereby preventing painful menses. It also tones the abs, arm muscles, back and opens up the chest. Here is a step-by-step guide to do the asana:
– Sit on a mat with a straight back and legs wide apart. Clasp your hands together and stretch it in the front such that your hands are at the same height as your shoulder.
– Inhale and start moving your upper body in a circular motion (just as churning a mill). You can bend forward and start from the right side and as you bend back, exhale and complete one full circle.
-As you do so, you can feel a deep stretch in arms, back and legs. Make around 5 rounds in one direction and then repeat in the opposite direction.
Note: If you are pregnant, suffering from low blood pressure, back pain, slipped disc or headache/migraine or have a recent abdominal surgery, avoid this asana.
2. Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose)
This yoga asana a gentle stretch of the groin and also relaxes the mind and body. It is best for pregnant women as it opens up the pelvic region. It is also known to relieve symptoms of menstruation, stress, and insomnia. Here’s how to do the asana:
-Lie flat on a mat with your legs extended and hands on your sides.
-Bend your knees so as to touch the soles of your feet together. Let your small toe rest on the mat and legs open. Relax your shoulders.
-Place your hands on your stomach and stay in this pose for at least a minute. Take deep breaths.
-Now slowly bring your feet down on the mat. Fold your legs and hug your knees to release the back and return to the starting position.
Note: This asana is not recommended for people suffering from knee or groin injury.
3. Baddha Konasana (bound angle pose/butterfly pose)
This yoga asana is known to open up the hips and groin area which helps in relieving abdominal discomfort. It can also help with childbirth, urinary problems, and sciatica pain as it strengthens the back and the spine. Here’s how to perform the asana:
-Sit on a mat and keep your legs stretched.
-Now slowly bend your knees and bring your feet closer and touch the soles of your feet together. Make sure the knees are not in the air but touch the floor.
-Inhale and bend forwards so as to touch the feet with your head. Bend as far as you can and rest for at least five breaths.
-Slowly, raise your head up such that your back is in a straight position. Move your legs apart by bending the knees and return to the starting position.
Note: It is advised to not perform this asana if you have a back injury, knee injury, or herniated vertebral disc problem. However, you can perform the pose with blanket support under the thighs.
4. Virabhadrasana (Warrior Pose)
This yoga asana strengthens and tones the arms, thighs and back muscles. It improves stamina and releases stress in the shoulders. It is best for those who have a desk job. Here is a step-by-step guide to do the asana:
-Stand straight with your legs at least 3 feet apart. Turn your right foot out such that the feet are perpendicular and in alignment with the center of the left foot and toes are facing in the opposite direction to your left foot.
-Slowly lift your arms till it reaches your shoulder length and the palms facing towards the ceiling. Make sure your arms are parallel to the floor.
-Bend your right knee such that your right knee and ankle form a straight line.
-Turn your head to the right and look straight. Now stretch your arms further such that you can feel the strain in the arms. Stay in this posture for at least a minute.
-Slowly bring your hands down and return to the starting position. Now repeat the same with the left foot.
Note: You should avoid this asana if suffering from spinal problems, diarrhea, knee pain, high blood pressure, arthritis, or chronic illness. Although beneficial for pregnant women, do consult your doctor and do it under expert supervision.
5. Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)
This yoga asana acts as a great workout for toning the abdominal muscles and reducing belly fat. It also improves the functioning of the reproductive system in both men and women. It also boosts blood circulation and regularities menstruation. Here are the steps to perform the asana:
-Lie on your stomach and place your palms on the floor preferably in line with your chest.
-Inhale and slowly raise your head and trunk with the support of your hands.
-Arch your neck and try to look towards the ceiling.
-Make sure your upper body (from the navel) is not touching the floor.
-Stretch as much as you can and stay in this pose for 5 seconds before you return to the starting position.
Note: It is not advised for people with a back injury, carpal tunnel syndrome or headache. Pregnant women should avoid this asana.
This International Yoga Day, let’s pledge to make yoga a part of our daily life to reap its health benefits and stay physically and mentally fit and healthy.
(The article is reviewed by Dr. Lalit Kanodia, General Physician)