It is a misconception that muscles work in isolation. On the contrary, even a tiny movement at any end or part of the body can impact muscles nearby and even those at the far ends of the body. This can be best experienced while doing Shavasana. When the body is in complete rest and you internalise your awareness of it, then even as you wiggle your fingers, you can feel muscle movement in your forearm, upper arm, shoulders, upper back, spine, jaws and feet. It is a good way to find out if you have tensed up or created resistance in the body, thus obstructing the flow of movement.
A healthy muscle strength and tone are crucial for flexibility and balance, which deteriorate as you advance in age, from your 40s. As you gain muscle, your body burns more kilojoules when at rest, preventing fat buildup and helping in weight management.
The following two asanas can take care of most muscles, including those in your arms, legs, core and spine. However, to maximise the effect of your asana, you must practise 30 to 40 seconds relaxation after every set of asana to let the body assimilate the effects.
Santolanasana ( Plank Pose): This helps tone up the arms, thighs, legs and muscles and when synchronised with breathing, tightens the core as well as spinal muscles.
· Kneel down, place your palms in front with fingers pointing outwards. The arms and knees should be aligned and perpendicular to the floor.
· Come to a table top posture from there (hands and knee on the ground, shoulder width apart, body parallel to the ground, arms and thigh perpendicular to the ground).
· Straighten the knee, move the shoulder forward and drop the hips until the body is straight. The arms should be vertical.
· Stretch the legs at the back and straighten them with the feet resting on the toes.
· Raise your head and look forward.
· Take a deep breath and exhale, pulling your stomach in.
· Hold for as long as possible.
· To release the pose, drop your knees on the floor and relax.
· This is one round.
· Do three rounds.
· As a variation, you may lower your arms to dip the body in the plank position and then get back to the plank pose with arms straight. You can do three to five rounds of these dips.
Druta Utkatasana: This targets the legs, pelvic and spinal muscles besides impacting the arms muscles.
· Stand erect with both feet and knees together.
· Join both palms in front of the chest.
· Take a deep breath and raise the arms above the head, keeping the arms straight.
· As you exhale, lower your body by about 30-40 cm by bending the knees, then inhale and come back to standing base position.
· Keep feet and knees together, let the arms remain straight above your head with palms joined together.
· Then lower your body half way down as you exhale and come back to the standing position.
· In the last phase, lower your body fully until you sit on your haunches with arms raised. Inhale, stand up and lower your arms.
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· This is one round. Start with one round and then slowly build it up to three and finally five rounds.
It is imperative that you integrate Shavasana with your practice to help your body in creating muscle mass in the body. Muscle growth is not a linear point to point process. What happens is that clusters of future muscle cells migrate to the area of their future home (in this case the area exercised) and organise themselves there. A state of rest thus helps in formation of muscle growth. Needless to say, a protein diet, be it animal or plant-based, is essential.
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