Staying Fit during Ramadan

Delna Anand gives you simple yoga positions to keep you fit during the Holy Month
Staying Fit during Ramadan

Ramadan is a time to refresh the soul and body but more often than not, we end up piling up a few extra pounds by the time Eid arrives. In this part of the world, with world-class restaurants laying out fabulous Iftars and Suhours, it’s quite easy to fall off the fitness wagon. The thought of going to the gym on an empty stomach, without any water and slightly sleep-deprived during the long summer days, sounds unmanageable. Yet, fitness experts strongly advocate not to stop working out and continue doing some light exercises, as it helps to keep the system working and blood circulating. The goal should be to maintain current fitness levels and lean muscle tissue.

On a practical level, fasting lets the body’s digestive functions rest and reinvigorate. On a physical level, going without solid food clears the intestines and gives the system a break. And on a subtler level, fasting can markedly increase flexibility and help energy flow better.

When fasting is accompanied by light exercising or yoga stretches, the benefits are immense, leading towards deeper states of awareness.

START WITH A FEW MINUTES OF MEDITATION

Pranayama

Sit in a comfortable position keeping your eyes closed and spine erect. Focus on your breath, expanding your tummy when you inhale. Hold your breath for a few counts and then exhale slowly through the nostrils, allowing the tummy to relax. Repeat 10-15 times, ideally on an empty stomach early in the morning. But you can also do this when you feel you’re getting edgy or irritable and want to centre your energies.

And follow this with light, low intensity exercises within a couple of hours after the early morning meal if possible, and keep your routine, short and of low intensity.

Tree Pose

-Stand with your feet firmly grounded on the mat, with your arms at your sides.

- Shift your weight to your left foot. Bend your right knee, then reach down and clasp your right inner ankle. Use your hand to draw your right foot alongside your inner left thigh. Adjust your position so the center of your pelvis is directly over your left foot.  Then, adjust your hips so your right hip and left hip are aligned.

- Rest your hands on your hips and lengthen your tailbone toward the floor. Then, press your palms together in prayer position at your chest, with your thumbs resting on your sternum. Keep your gaze fixed on a point below eye level.

- Draw down through your left foot. Press your right foot into your left thigh, while pressing your thigh equally against your foot.

If possible, extend your arms overhead, reaching your fingertips to the sky. Rotate your palms inward to face each other. If your shoulders are more flexible, you can press your palms together in prayer position, overhead.

Hold for up to one minute. To release the pose, bring your leg down to the starting position. Repeat for the same amount of time on the opposite side.

Warrior Pose

- Stand straight with your legs wide apart. Turn your right foot out by 90 degrees and left foot in by about 15 degrees. Make sure that the heel of the right foot is aligned to the center of the left foot.

- Lift both arms sideways, parallel to the ground, to shoulder height with your palms facing upwards. Or bend one arm towards your waist.

- Breathing out, bend your right knee, making sure that your knee doesn’t overshoot the ankle.

- Turn your head and look to your right. As you settle down in the yoga posture stretch your arms further. Make a gentle effort to push your pelvis down. Keep breathing as you go down.

- Breathing in, come up. Breathing out, bring your hands down from the sides.

- Repeat the yoga posture for the left side.

Triangle Pose

- Begin standing at the top of your mat with your feet hip-distance apart and your arms at your sides.

- Step your feet wide apart. Turn your right foot out 90 degrees so your toes are pointing to the top of the mat. Pivot your left foot slightly inwards. Your back toes should be at a 45-degree angle.

- Lift through the arches of your feet, while rooting down through your ankles.

- Raise your arms to the side to shoulder-height, so they’re parallel to the floor. With your palms facing down, extend the arms from fingertip to fingertip.

- On an exhalation, reach through your right hand in the same direction as your right foot is pointed. Shift your left hip back so your tailbone and pelvis tilt toward the wall or space behind your left foot. Fold at your right hip. Keep your right ear, shoulder, and knee on the same plane — do not let your torso drop forward. Turn your left palm forward, with your fingertips reaching toward the sky.

- Rest your right hand on your outer shin or ankle. If you are more flexible, place your right fingertips or palm on the floor to the outside of your right shin.

Hold for up to one minute. To release, inhale and press firmly through your left heel as you lift your torso. Lower your arms.

Shoulder Stand Pose

- Lie on your back with hands by your side.

- With one movement, lift your legs, buttocks and back so that you come up high on your shoulders. Support your back with the hands.

- Move your elbows closer towards each other, and move your hands along your back, creeping up towards the shoulder blades. Keep straightening legs and spine by pressing the elbows down to the floor and hands into the back. Your weight should be supported on your shoulders and upper arms and not on your head and neck.

- Keep legs firm. Lift your heels higher as though you are putting a footprint on the ceiling. Keep breathing deeply and stay in the posture for 30-60 seconds.

- To come out of the posture, lower knees to forehead. Bring your hands to the floor, palms facing down. Without lifting the head slowly bring your spine down completely to the floor. Lower the legs to the floor. Relax for a minimum of 60 seconds.

Cobra Pose

- Turn on to your tummy with your legs extended behind you, spread a few inches apart. The tops of your feet should rest on the mat.

- Place your hands under your shoulders with your fingers pointing toward the top of the mat.

- Inhale as you gently lift your head and chest off the floor. Keep your lower ribs on the floor.

- Turn your shoulders back and your heart forward, but do not crunch your neck. Keep your shoulders dropped away from your ears.

- Begin to straighten your arms, lifting your chest off the floor. Press the tops of your thighs down firmly into the floor. This is Low Cobra.

- Hold the pose for up to 30 seconds. To release, exhale as you slowly lower your chest and forehead to the mat.

Shavasana Pose

Never underestimate the power of the humble shavasana. End your practice by lying down on your back, lengthening the spine along the mat. Let your arms and legs rest in a comfortable position beside you, and keep your attention on your breath.

Diet Recommendations

- Drink enough water. Of course, you can’t tank up for the rest of the day, but have as much as you can and also stay hydrated through the night (if you’re awake).

- Have a high-fibre, low-GI breakfast with added protein. Pick a low-GI cereal that’s high in fibre (oats, perhaps) and ensure that you have enough milk and yoghurt with your cereal to provide a bit of protein, calcium and fat-soluble vitamins. Also include a slice of high-fibre bread or crackers with a protein serving, such as chicken, egg or peanut butter. For a vegetarian alternative, try hummus, beans or lentils with some rice or pasta. Have at least one fruit with breakfast. This helps to balance the protein, carbohydrates and fat in the breakfast serving.

- Eat food items like grains, barley, wheat, oats, millet, semolina, beans, lentils, bran, green peas, apricots, prunes and almonds.

- Break your fast with a date, but before that have a few sips of water.

- Avoid high fat, empty calorie snacks. They fill your plate and tummy with useless calories. If you must have snacks, try baking them instead of deep-frying.

- Have enough fresh fruits as the fibre helps avoid constipation. You can also drink prune juice to avoid digestive problems.

- Your dinner meal should be a balance of protein, carbohydrates, fat and vegetables. Avoid big meals and eat slowly.

- Have a late-night healthy snack! Throw in some fruit and yoghurt, a slice of toast with peanut butter or cottage cheese, dried fruit, nuts and seeds and the like.

- Adding a multivitamin might be a good idea if you struggle to keep your diet balanced.

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