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Yoga challenge week 3: build your core

Naukasana helps improve digestion and blood flow. Photographs by Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint

Naukasana helps improve digestion and blood flow. Photographs by Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint

This week we add a variation and do the challenging Navasana.

Try and do all the previous exercises continually, especially the Naukasana, a variation of the Navasana that helps improve digestion and blood flow, and strengthens the abdomen, back and legs. It is important to do all the exercises, and not just one, because they help build strength. It is about the build-up to Navasana and getting stronger progressively.

Even if you are able to do the asana, doing the exercises will only make you stronger. To make the whole act more challenging, increase the number of repetitions or slow down the movements.

Naukasana is a variation of the Navasana

Naukasana is a variation of the NavasanaExercise 1: Once you have finished your earlier exercises, lie in a supine position on the floor, face-up.

Sit up with your legs in front of you, and bend your knees, bringing them in towards your chest. Place your hands behind your knees on your hamstrings. Pull your tummy in, ensuring that the spine is straight. Your shoulder blades should be moving down the back, your chest lifting up. Sitting on your buttocks and not your tail bone, lift your feet off the floor. Try and bring your feet to a 90-degree angle.

Your neck is relaxed and your gaze is towards your toes. Keep the belly pulled in and breathe in and out. Take 10-15 slow breaths. Repeat two-three times, trying to stay longer in the asana, bringing awareness to your breath and body.

Navasana requires strength in the legs.

Navasana requires strength in the legs.The challenge: Navasana

Do exactly as you did in the earlier paragraph, only this time lift the legs straight up. Your arms are now slightly away from the legs and parallel to the floor. This will require some strength in the legs and flexibility in the hamstrings.

Let me recount what is really important when practising these exercises and asanas:

uThe belly must be engaged—you do that by pulling your navel towards your spine.

uThe neck and the face muscles should be relaxed.

uThe shoulders should also be relaxed and away from your ears.

uThe breath must be even and the inhale equal to the exhale.

If you are unable to do the full posture, remember, practice makes a man perfect.

Maya Rao is a certified Ashtanga Yoga practitioner.

This is third of the eight-part yoga challenge series. For the previous parts, click here

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