The big stretch

The sketchesare for representational purpose only. Illustrations/Uday Mohite

From traditional asanas to combinations with other forms of workout, the ancient practise of yoga has evolved a lot over the years. Recognising its universal appeal, the United Nations proclaimed June 21 as the International Day of Yoga in 2014. While four Mumbaikars tell us how yoga became a part of their lives, Shraddha Iyer, master yoga trainer at Sarva and Diva yoga studio, shares how to get the poses right and their benefits.

Shraddha Iyer
Shraddha Iyer

Vanika Choudhary, chef and founder of Sequel


A severe bout of food allergy led Choudhary to yoga 12 years ago. “There was a phase when I was practising it just because it was a fad, but later, it became a way for me to just focus on myself. When I quit my job five years ago, the first thing I did was to get trained as a yoga teacher,” she shares. As an entrepreneur who’s juggling multiple things at the same time, the practise has helped her stay focussed and positive in turbulent times. “For me, it’s a form of self-care,” she adds.

Go-to asana: Upavistha konasana or wide-angle seated forward fold, which has helped her stay calm and work on her spine.

Benefits: Stretches the outer and inner muscles of legs, strengthens the back muscles and opens up the groin area, says Iyer.


Dos and don’ts:

  • Keep the kneecaps engaged, with the toes facing the ceiling.
  • Lengthen the spine and use a prop in front like a bolster.
  • Hinge yourself from the hips, with the shoulder blades together.
  • Keep your palms down and then bend the elbows softly.
  • Do not tilt the knee in or round the back.
  • Don’t do this asana if you have any lower back injury or hip pain or recent surgeries in the area, or if you have any abdominal issues.

Donn Bhat, musician


“I used to run and developed some problems with my knee joint. I was on a bunch of vitamins, and tried different things to solve the issue. Then, I joined a yoga class, and the knee pain was gone in five to six months,” says Bhat. “Yoga helps to stretch parts of your body that you don’t. This gets the blood circulation going, which helps me as my work involves sitting at the desk,” he explains.

Go-to asana: Ek Pada Rajakopatasana or pigeon pose, which helps anyone sitting around for a long time.

Benefits: Relieves tension in the hips and stimulates abdominal and digestive organs.


Dos and don’ts:

Warm up before the pose, focussing on hamstrings, glutes, shoulders and back.
Take help of a block under the back thigh or use a yoga belt to reach the ankle.
Don’t bring the bent knee in the centre; keep it in line with the shoulders.
Don’t do this asana if you have any knee or ankle injuries.

Anuja Kale, theatre practitioner and production manager


Kale was introduced to yoga very early in life, in the form of rope mallakhamb. “I started doing rope mallakhamb which is basically yoga on ropes at the age of seven. I have noticed that my body is very precise because of yoga,” says the theatre artiste. As someone whose work often does not have fixed timings, she feels the practise has increased her strength level. “Even if I work for 13 to 14 hours a day, I don’t feel the fatigue,” she adds.

Go-to asana: Salabhasana, which has strengthened her core.

Benefits: Helps stretch back muscles, tone love handles, aids spine flexibility and is good for those who have to sit around for a long time.


Dos and don’ts:

  • Warm up your back and lift your knees off the mat. Engage your hips and imagine holding a block between your thighs.
  • Keep the pubic bone pressed down.
  • Don’t keep your palms under the thighs if you have tight shoulders; just place them next to the hip or lift them up in front of you.
  • Avoid this asana during the menstrual cycle if there is severe pain; during pregnancy; if you have severe sciatica issues; slip disc or any recent back surgeries.

Atul Kasbekar, photographer


Kasbekar’s Instagram handle is proof of his dedication to yoga. He tells us he drifted into yoga while doing kickboxing. “Part of kickboxing was flexibility drills and my trainer said I should take to yoga. Eventually, I stopped kickboxing, but continued with yoga. It has made a huge difference in my life,” he tells us, adding that it has instilled a greater sense of discipline in him. The overall practise, he says, has led to the elimination of a chronic back pain that he had been nursing since his college days. For someone who’s in a hectic profession, it has also given him a sense of calm, the photographer adds.

Go-to asana: Shirsasana or headstand, that has helped open up his hip region and gives him a sense of

Benefits: According to Iyer, the asana helps increase oxygen flow to the face and brain, reduce anxiety, and strengthens the arms, back and core.


Dos and don’ts:

  • Always warm up before doing it, and practise the preparatory poses.
  • Do not forget to do the counter pose or shashankasana after the practice.
  • Measure your palms by crossing them, and then interlock your fingers.
  • Keep the core engaged as you lift the legs up.
  • Avoid it if you have blood pressure problems; glaucoma; weak shoulders or any recent injuries on the shoulder, head or neck. Don’t rush into the practise as it can cause serious health issues if not done in the right way.

Tune in, breathe out

The Yoga Institute has lined-up events with chef Ranveer Brar, nutritionist Rujuta Diwekar, among others, to address healthy living.

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