Yoga asanas are a great way to relive muscle stress and improve flexibility. Many people incorporate yoga asanas in their daily exercise regime and have found them to be highly effective. Vikram Ashok, who is mobiefit’s fitness icon and also a martial arts enthusiast with a black belt in karate and kobudo, credits yoga for enhancing his body movement. In this video, he shows you how to stretch right with 4 asanas: tolasana, paschimottanasana, setu bandhasana,and chakrasana. Not only will these asanas help you stretch those stubborn muscles, but they will also enhance your movement and flexibility.

Tolasana

Tolasana or the scale pose is a good exercise to start your warm-up session with. The exercise places a lot of pressure on your arms and wrists, hence strengthening them. Because it requires one to be elevated, it engages the abdominal muscles to implement balance. As is staple to all yoga asanas, the breathing pattern one maintains is also crucial for this exercise to be effective. When done correctly, tolasana aids in toning the ab muscles and strengthening the underlying organs.

You begin the exercise in the padmasana or lotus pose. Once you have placed yourself in the cross-legged position, place your palms on the floor, beside your hips. Concentrate on the pressure you place on your wrists and arms as you lift your body off the floor. Lifting your legs and buttocks off the floor will activate your abdomen and arms. Hold yourself in suspension and take 2-5 deep breathes. Gently lower your legs and buttocks back to the floor. Once back on the floor, perform Padmasana with the opposite leg on top and repeat tolasana for the same number of breaths.

Rebecca Pacheco swears by yoga for improving muscle structure and flexibility (Image: Dina Rudick | Boston Globe)
Yoga is great for improving muscle structure and flexibility (Image: Dina Rudick | Boston Globe)

Paschimottanasana

Paschimottanasana or the forward bend pose, stretches out your body from head to heal. It helps to improve the flexibility of the spine and also strengthens it. Simultaneously, it also helps in reducing fat deposits in the abdominal region and tones the pelvic and ab muscles. Start by sitting down straight with your legs extended in front of you. Keep your neck and spine aligned with hunching. Extend your arms forward and place your palms on the respective knees.

Next, bend your head and torso forward to grip your toes. Remember that you need to keep your knees straight and avoid bending them. Take a deep breath and exhale slowly. Bend your elbows as you lower your head down to touch your knees. Breathe out completely and hold your breath as you maintain this position for 5 seconds. Inhale and slowly move back to the starting position and resume your regular breathing pattern. Perform this asana at least 3-4 times.

Setu Bandhasana

Setu Bandhasana or the bridge pose works on stretching out your whole body. Because it requires for the buttocks to be lifted, this exercise especially helps in stretching out the lesser known hamstring and glute muscles. It alleviates back ache and other ailments related to the spine.

You will have to begin by lying flat on the ground with arms to the sides and palms facing downwards. Maintain a comfortable distance between the hip and feet, so that both your legs lie parallel to each other. To lift your body into the bridge pose, press your upper arms and feet into the floor and raise your hips towards the ceiling. Concentrate on distributing your weight equally. Once you are off the ground, lift your chin up and move your chest towards it. Pull in your tailbone and lift your hips as high as you can without breaking the position. You can support your back with the support of your palms if you have trouble doing this exercise. Hold this position for 5 breaths. As you roll back to the starting position, exhale slowly.

Chakrasana

Chakrasana or wheel is taking one step further from the sethu bandhasana, as it requires balancing your entire body on just your  palms and feet. Again, this exercise too benefits the flexibility of the spine and helps in strengthening it. It is also known to increase lung capacity as it stretches out the chest.

The steps to perform the chakrasana are the same as the sethu bandhasana. Lie down on your back with both legs parallel to each other. Bring your palms under your shoulders, as you begin to lift your body off the ground. Lift your lower body off the floor by placing your feet firmly downwards. Inhale and move your hips upwards. The spine should form a semi-circular arch and it can be pushed further out depending on your body’s flexibility. Remember, that unlike the setu bandhasana, the chakrasana requires you to simply balance on your palms and feet, but not the elbows. Hold this position as you breathe 5 times and then slowly return to the starting position.

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