Being one of the popular forms of exercise, yoga focuses on breathing, strength, and flexibility. It has innumerable physical and mental health benefits. Since 2012, the percentage of people practicing yoga has increased to a good number in adults as well as children. It encourages to exercise more, inspires to eat more healthfully, improves sleep quality and reduces stress levels.
In the time of this deadly pandemic, we all are staying home and searching for healthy outlets to survive. Through general research, it has been established that “yoga” is one of the trending activities that people are opting for in this situation to stay positive. Different experts are conducting online yoga classes and Bisha Shabir is one of them. She is the founder of a yoga studio called “The Yoga Wall”. Her tips are as interesting as her sessions to pull through this time in a productive and refreshing way.
We had a short conversation with the yogi and she definitely has important points to share.
Tell us about yourself?
I first started practicing yoga in 2002 and taught for the first time in 2011; since my first class, yoga has always been a way for me to create greater physical space and emotional awareness in my body.
The joy I feel from teaching comes from being able to deconstruct physical postures and theories (traditional/contemporary) in a way to make them accessible to everyone. Yoga can look and feel so different to two individuals and it is empowering to understand what works for your body. And that for me, is the foundation of self-healing.
I have studied anatomy and biomechanics in the context of movement as well as diving into work through understanding the nervous system and mindfulness practices. All these help bridge the gap between mind and body. Everyone and I mean EVERYBODY can practice yoga. You just need to figure out what that may look like for you and through this, I hope to inspire my students to develop long-term, sustainable practices for better health. Concepts of mindful-movement and therapies of the like support the development of yoga on and off the mat.
As a teacher, I am registered with The worldwide Yoga Alliance (as an E-RYT 200, RYT 500 and YACEP) and credit my teachers Holly Warren (YogaLondon), Jason Crandall (Vinyasa Method), Judith Hanson Lasater (Restorative Yoga), Tara Brach (Mindfulness Meditation) and Eka Ekong (YogaWorks). I am also fortunate to have studied with and/or influenced greatly by the teachings of Tiffany Cruikshank, Corrie MaCullum, Andrew McGonagall, and Celest Perera.
What exactly is “The Yoga Well”?
The Yoga Well supports my dream to see the individuals depend on their relationship with their inner selves through practices that promote connection to the physical self and awareness across mental states. The human experience is a closed-loop, with the players being the physical body, the nervous system/mental space and our external environment. Mindfulness (awareness-based practice) helps the circulation within the loop to move smoothly.
The studio plays host to yoga classes, courses, free talks and by the end of the year, Yoga teacher training!
When did you realize you wanted to be a yogi?
A coach of mine made a suggestion that I add yoga to my training; I was 16 at the time and like most, I had preconceived notions on what the practice looks like.
I remember falling in love with yoga in my first class; since then, my personal practice has evolved and been a great influence on the way I view the world.
Teaching was happenstance- I was asked to assist in a workshop and then shortly after cover a yoga class. After that, as they say, the rest is history.
How do you keep yourself motivated for yoga every day?
After experimenting with different ways, I figured that I am motivated by choosing smaller, shorter practices. This may range from laying on my back with props for five minutes in the day to a stronger, hour-long session. I discovered that the more planning involved kept me from getting onto my mat. So I choose according to my mood at the moment; what is calling out to me that particular day. I do have one requirement though- that I do something for at least five minutes a day.
This has been my personal experience but not necessarily how others may work. Some individuals thrive by setting out a specific time each day to do something on their mat; others need guidance in a class setting that may motivate them to practice regularly.
“Yoga doesn’t help you lost weight” – Your views?
I think weight loss through yoga is an individual experience but cannot be marketed widely. Weight loss through yoga may be a by-product for some individuals but it is not guaranteed for all; burning fat is a metabolic process and while some people’s fat-loss is supported through a yoga practice, they are likely making other lifestyle changes to facilitate it.
I believe that yoga should not be approached as a means to influence the physical shape/outline/body fat percentage but to better understand what your mental habits are, how you move and how all of it reflects in your overall lifestyle.
It is important for me to reiterate here that yoga is a practice for the mind more than the body. Working in a physical way is a resource and tool to prepare the mind space.
Depression is home to the empty mind, what do you suggest for working women\men to do while working from home?
I encourage everyone I meet to take some time to develop a short mediation practice every day. It takes five minutes to sit and notice your surroundings, eventually resting the attention on the breath to get you in the habit of meditating regularly. There are many helpful phone apps that can set you up!
5 general steps to stay away from depression these days?
– Movement of any kind: yoga, training, running, climbing stairs, whatever gets your muscles moving. Remember to start small!
– Talk to people! Social engagement is important; it stimulates a safety response in our nervous system; thus alleviating stress and anxiety from being in self-isolation.
– Eat nutritious food; healthier food boosts your immune system, keeping your energy levels (and your mental state) balanced
– Take a pause every now and then. Just a minute or two to connect to your breath. Notice what it’s like. It’s depth; how it makes you feel. Is it full? Shallow? No matter what the reasons may be, simply notice what the breath FEELS like.
– Similar to the breath practice, it helps to journal your thoughts a few minutes a day. Write about ANYTHING that comes to mind.
Are energies real? Do they really affect us?
You’ve probably heard the statement “your vibe attracts your tribe.”
What we as humans project out energetically is what you bring back to ourselves. If you view the world through a guarded filter, you in effect, bring more of guarded energy to your life. If you view the world through the lens of understanding, compassion, you can better respond to challenges that arise.
How important is it to introduce physical activities in our routine in the current situation?
There is an anatomical principle: “if you don’t use it, you lose it;” It’s super important for our muscle and mind memory to continue working, even from home.
Movement and brain health are interconnected; doing something every day can reduce a feeling of restlessness. Our landscapes have changed drastically and the mind is still trying to catch up. By moving, you can bring back familiarity to your routine.
What has been your favorite spot in the north where you love performing yoga?
I can’t choose one spot but I’ve had the pleasure of practicing outdoors in spaces with minimal human intervention. There is a certain peace and joy from being in an open space.
What are the 5 yoga poses that can help reduce stress and should be incorporated in daily routine?
1. Savasana (Corpse Pose)!
It’s usually the last and final rest pose we practice in all yoga classes. A little tip though, you can practice Savasana on its own too! I teach restorative classes that only focus on different shapes of this pose and it’s incredibly grounding and stimulates a healing response in your body. It’s also very simple to do!
2. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog)
Downward Facing Dog is incredibly therapeutic. It energizes the body through strength as well as stretches bigger sets of muscles.
3. Viparita Karani (Legs up the wall)
Laying on your back with your legs elevated is deeply relaxing and soothes the nervous system. Great for those who have trouble sleeping.
4. Set Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge pose- best with props)
Laying in the bridge, with support under your sacrum is quite comforting, You can add some stretch by straightening your legs forward.
5. Balasana (Child’s pose):
Again, a passive pose to help you slide inward.