Take a deep breath, stretch, and enjoy some ‘recreational yoga'. It is a great way to beat stress.

“Stay still like a tree,” instructs Dr. M. Hari. I balance on one leg, raise my hands above my head, and try to stay upright. That is Vrikshasana. “When you place your right foot on the thigh it compresses the femoral artery, which directs blood to the brain and improves circulation. Vrikshasana benefits the spine,” he explains. “Any asana when synchronised with breathing is like giving a good massage to the internal organs,” chips in Dr. S. Sowmya, Hari's wife.

It is a fruitful Sunday morning when I am instructed on ‘recreational yoga' at Siva Shantha Mother & Child Healthcare Services in Vadavalli. It promises good health along with fun. They teach the gomukhasana or cow face posture next — it stretches and relaxes spinal cord. They give a demo of the 12 steps that constitute Surya Namaskar. We move on to Vajraasana (kneel and sit on the heels) posture, and practise naadi shuddhi (breathing through nostrils). Finally, an instant relaxation technique of breathing leaves you refreshed.

Stretch and relax

Soumya and Hari say that deep breathing gives a spark to the internal organs. Recreational yoga is for every one, students, parents and professionals. It is especially beneficial to those with a high-stress lifestyle. It includes a set of basic exercises, postures, stretches, loosening of muscles, breathing techniques (pranayama) and relaxation. “For those who follow a sedentary lifestyle, the simple stretches and breathing techniques shake up the rigid muscles and lubricate them,” says Nirmala Ramesh, administrative officer of Siva Shantha, a unit of Shivanjali Trust. Siva Shantha Mother & Child Health Care specialises in “Three months to three years care” – care of child from three months of conception to when they turn three. To reach out to lower middle class people, they also organise a mini health check up for individuals and corporate employees at subsidies rates.

“Recreational yoga is a lifestyle change — a treatment for both body and mind. When there is an imbalance between the mind and the body, it results in ailments. How you live the first 30 years of your life decides how you live when you are 70,” says Hari.

Going outdoors

Hari and Sowmya have conducted sessions for employees of Pricol, Ford, Kirloskar, Cochin Port Trust, Wipro and Infosys. “When corporates come as a team, we take them outdoors, observe their body language in group activities and help them strike a balance. Recreation is also an exercise of the mind. We combine it with laughter therapy too,” Hari says. “It brings out the child in you,” he smiles.

These simple techniques, he says, identify the root cause of stress, and tackle it.

“It improves personality, social interactions and promotes sharing. It helps the body release hormones and produce enzymes that work against stress. For instance, hormones like oxytocin and relaxin are produced in the body when you are happy, and it works against adrenaline.”

Healthy and happy

Though yoga here is recreational activity, it also packs in physiological benefits, says Hema. “This includes increased oxygen supply to organs, secretion of feel-good hormones, controlled breathing and general well-being.”

Cut down on your food intake and keep a watch on what you eat, Nirmala advises.

“Fruits and raw vegetables are digested easily and give energy. Eat a fruit before a meal. Along with a healthy diet, these simple exercises make you aware of your body, and you become conscious of your breath. Once you take in more oxygen, you feel refreshed and rejuvenated.”

Nirmala says, “Ageing process starts at 20. If you want to look good when you are 40 adopt a healthy lifestyle from the 20s. We read about 25-year-olds getting heart attacks. This is largely because of a sedentary lifestyle. “

“How many times do you breathe in a minute?” asks Hari.

“When was the last time you actually touched your feet while sitting in your chair? When did you give yourself a good head massage?” Recreational yoga allows you to take note of these things and your physical, mental, social and spiritual well-being becomes a way of life.”

Health tips

Drink three litres or eight tumblers of water a day

Have healthy meals

Try and fast once in a week

Exercise daily for 30 to 45 minutes

The session

The workshop is for one hour each for five days, or, two hours each for three days.

At the end of the session, you are advised on treatment (if necessary), diet changes and tips on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Hari and Soumya visit corporates on invitation to conduct the sessions. For details, call: 99943-41313

Visit www.sivashanthahealthcare.org