Yoga is probably India’s greatest export since the turn of the millennium. In fact, it has become quite in vogue to include yoga in the list of things you enjoy. But for some people, yoga is more than just a form of exercise; it’s a way of life.

Meet Natasha Noel, a yoga star with 83,000 followers on Instagram, and one of a new breed of yoginis who’re making yoga fun and accessible. #QueMag spoke to Noel and got the lowdown on what she does to ensure that not a single minute of her yoga workout is wasted.

These are Noel’s tips on how to get the most out of your yoga workout: 

Before Yoga

Before you begin, empty your stomach completely. This is of vital importance, because when you practice asanas there’s a lot of twisting and bending involved and an empty stomach presents less problems during this. You could also drink hot water and lime. This further helps cleanse the stomach before you start your session. Finally, perform some pranayama (breathing exercises) because this builds the awareness of your inner self.  

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During Yoga

The main thing to develop is your awareness, which you need at heightened levels to ensure that you’re keeping proper form and doing everything perfectly, and this can be built through:

Breathing: Ujjayi breath, which is a specific deep-breathing technique in yoga, ensures that your concentration is focussed on your breathing. 

Drishti: The Sanskrit term for sight, direction or focused gaze, it is a tool used in asana practice, traditionally Ashtanga, to bring you closer to dharana (concentration) and pratyahara (sense withdrawal). Practicing drishti teaches you to control your wandering eyes, limit your intake of external stimuli and thus manage your mind instead of allowing it to manage you. 

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After Yoga

Once you’re done with your asanas, it’s time to switch to some meditation. This is the perfect time to practice it, since you have just trained your body in the right way and, having strengthened and stretched your muscles, the body is more capable of going into meditation and you can commit to it for a longer duration. 

When you’re done with this, drink some coconut water. It’s the best thing to have after a rigorous session of yoga and really helps to soothe your entire body. Another important thing to do is to have a warm water shower because warm shower opens your pores and flushes the residual toxins in your body.

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Yoga Is About More Than Just the Poses

Respect the limits of your own body. Your body is your seed, so you must nurture it with love and care. Not everyone is naturally flexible or strong; some people must work their way towards that. Just keep practicing your poses and understand that the mental and internal work is more important than the physical aspect.

Respect and honour your yoga practices. Yoga is not just a physical exercise, it is moving towards your inner nature. Practice asanas with awareness, inwardness and with a feeling of honouring your body. This will bring an increased grace and beauty to your asanas.  

Do yoga on the yoga mat and live yoga off it. What this means is that there are many principles and learnings from yoga, which can be used in your daily life to your benefit. For instance, can you remain stable and breathe through the pain in difficult situations, just as you use your breath to stabilise difficult asanas? Or you can correct your posture at work by using basic yoga principles. The possibilities are endless!

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4 Yoga Poses to Try

Cobra pose: It takes both strength and flexibility. While your feet are grounded to the floor, your head is looking upwards. If this asana teaches you anything, it’s that no matter how high you go, always keep yourself rooted. Always stay humble. 

Headstand: Fear always governed my life and when I finally mastered this asana, I came face to face with one of my fears.  

Puppy posture: Other than the fact that I love dogs, this is one asana I can completely relax in. 

Cat posture: This is my go-to posture, whenever any part of my spine or neck feels stressed out. The breath-synchronized movement increases coordination, fosters intentional focus, and invigorates prana (the vital life force in the body). Here’s a video on how to do it:

As told to Neil Balthazar

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