Work from home surely has its benefits but sitting on the bed for nine hours a day and typing away until midnight surely isn’t one of them. In my pursuit to get outta bed and give the WFH-induced inertia a break, I took to social media to hunt down celebrities who not only inspire, but also move, lunge, squat, and plank their way to fitness and inspire fitness noobs like me by giving access to their workout routines. Excited to see how things turn out, I took this news to our boss lady for an easy story that I could file sitting on my couch and much to my surprise, she said: "Try them out and share your experience with our readers". The lazy bum in me wasn't expecting this response, but I took it up because all it required was 15 minutes! That day, I took 15 minutes off work to try them out and here’s how that went:
In the mood to get inspired, I stumbled upon none other than 45-year-old Shilpa Shetty’s IG account where she shares hacks, tips, tricks with her fans. That led me to her wellness app, Simple Soulful, where she is offering three pre-recorded meditation and yoga programmes, promoting exercises that are an integral part of her own fitness routine. These include 12-minute pranayama (a yogic breathing exercise), three-minute meditation, and a specially curated three-minute session on yoga to cool down during summer, comprising four types of pranayama and Shavasana (for yoga nidra meditation) – all voice-guided.
Start with meditation
I started with the three-minute meditation. I wasn’t ready for 12 minutes of pranayama, as the last time I practiced this yogic breathing exercise was back in 2009, my final year at high school. And, over the years, my ability to focus has decreased. Anyway, I put my earphones on, took a chair (yes, you can sit on a chair with your head and spine upright) and sat in one corner of the living room. As soon as I switched on the meditation video on the app, a soothing voice (it was Shilpa) led me into the session. Since I have practiced meditation in the past, I chose to keep my eyes closed and follow the audio instructions.
It took me a minute to focus and ignore the chatter in the living room. But, what if I miss an important call or message, or that Instagram LIVE discussion I had been waiting for? What about pending work? Thoughts like these kept my mind racing. I was listening to the audio and working on my breath, but the thoughts got the best of me and, before I knew it, the session was over. The goal here was mindfulness and breath regulation, and I had achieved none.
Move to Yoga
Determined to focus better, I moved on to the yoga session. A demo video by Shilpa showed how to perform four types of pranayama (one rep each) – sheetali, sheetkari, chandra bhedana and nadi shodhana -- and shavasana. The programme’s name and description were quite clear of its end goal – cooling down one’s body, and I must admit that the sheetkari pranayama did manage to give that feeling. The other benefits included overcoming stress and anxiety, improving respiratory efficiency and overcoming the feeling of exertion. Did all this happen? Read on to find out.
Do the prayanams cool your mind and body?
I failed to perform the first pranayama, sheetali aka cooling breath. It required me to roll up my tongue to make it seem like a tube, inhaling through it and slowly exhaling through the nostrils. This had to be repeated 10 times but I gave up by the 3rd rep because my tongue just wouldn’t roll! The second one, sheetkari aka hissing breath was an easy one, and I think I actually exceeded 10 reps here. It involved joining the upper and lower row of teeth, inhaling through the mouth and exhaling through the nostrils. I could actually feel cold air in my mouth.
But did this lower my body temperature as promised in the description? I couldn’t tell. Now that I think of it, I could have checked my body temperature before and after this session to know. Eh! There’s always a next time.
The third pranayama technique is Chandra bhedana pranayama in which you inhale through your left nostril and exhale through the right and vice versa. This breathing exercise was the simplest to understand and complete. Next up was the most popular anulom vilom, or the nadi shodhana pranayama. Here, I had to place my index and middle finger between my eyebrows, and at the same time, inhale and exhale through opposite nostrils. By this time, I was so engrossed in the technicalities of the exercises that I left all my worries behind and I was aware and focused of the activity I was performing – *achievement unlocked!* I am sure this was the part that was meant to calm my mind and body because it certainly worked.
The final leg of the yoga session in the summer programme came to an end with shavasana or corpse pose, an asana known to help relieve physical and mental stress, and promote mindfulness. I had to lie down on a yoga mat (fortunately, we had one) with my legs straight and arms relaxed at the sides, and just breathe. As soon as I closed my eyes, I wanted to start counting my breath, but my mind was distracted with the surrounding noise to I could hear a couple of crows cawing loudly at a distance and also hear the ocean waves crashing on the rocks outside the window. Now, I let this go on for about a couple of minutes, even though the app said 10 deep breaths, which is approx. a minute and a half. Catch a glimpse of the session here:
End with daily pranayama
I saved the 12-min daily pranayama programme for the night because I had read that pranayama improves sleep quality. This programme includes practicing kapalbhati, nadi shodhana and bhramari pranayama for two minutes each. Chandra bhedana pranayama for a minute, and deep breathing for three.
During kapalbhati, which involves taking a deep breath and exhaling it with full force while squeezing your stomach, I couldn’t help but laugh. Visuals of Baba Ramdev literally sucking his stomach kept me amused. Still, I managed to do it for about a minute. The rest of the breathing exercises I managed to complete as per the app’s clock. Although I faced a few instances when my mind had wandered off to think about unfinished tasks from the day. But hey, this was just a day’s practice, so not complaining!
To conclude, each of the three programmes by Simple Soulful gives a basic overview of the principles of yoga poses, breathwork and mindfulness. The overall pace and level of instruction make them perfect for first-timers like me. The fact that the programs aren't too complicated and don't require any special equipment, make these easier to practice anytime and anywhere. The focus on breath and how to use it to relax your mind and body is at the core of these voice-guided sessions. And, the longest session is 12 minutes, which means you won't fall back on your daily schedule.