The month of Ramadhan is fast approaching us and being a Muslim and a yoga instructor, I have encountered quite a few people asking if it is okay for the general fasting adult to get on his or her mat during this month.
The answer is, without a doubt, yes, of course you can!
This applies to both attending a yoga class at your local studio or rolling out your mat at home.
One of the basic foundations of yoga is to turn inward, and reconnect to what is within you. The pathway to forging this ‘inward relationship’ typically begins with the practice of breathing exercises, asanas and sitting quietly in contemplation. So how can you, as a fasting Muslim adult who is observing the blessed month of Ramadhan integrate what you have been learning in your yoga classes during this coming month?
1. Breathing exercises
There is a line that one of my earlier teachers used to say before our breathing exercises in a class.
“The length of your life depends on the depth of your breath, the deeper and longer your breath, the longer your life will be.”
You can typically observe the difference when something angers you and your breath becomes short, rapid and shallow. Often we hear those around us trying to dissipate tense situations by telling us to ‘take a minute and breathe’. Long, deep and steady breathing does wonders to our nervous system. Not only does it help to increase oxygen supply, it also helps to calm the erratic mind and create ease in your thoughts.
While fasting, simple breathing exercises is a great way to help you feel energised and it can be practised on and off the mat throughout the day. An example is Surya Bhedana Pranayama, which helps to calm the brain and increase vitality. For a guided instruction to this breathing technique, this website provides audio streaming that you can play and follow along quite easily.
It is important to note however that you should thoroughly read or listen to the instructions first prior to attempting the breathing technique. More advanced breathing exercises that involve extended breath retention should be attempted only with the guidance of an experienced teacher.
One of the benefits of fasting is to allow our digestive system to ‘take a break’ from the constant churning and breaking down of food matters. This allows your body to focus on healing itself and releasing built up toxins.
It is advisable to place less focus on energetic yoga asanas that demand a considerable amount of strength or exertion and to practise more restorative asanas that calm the mind and heart.
Forward folds and supported inversions can be safely practised to aid in calming an anxious or tired mind while twists can be attempted to enhance the detoxification process.
a) Forward Fold: Child’s Pose
Begin by sitting on your heels. Inhale and lengthen from the crown. As you exhale, release your forehead slowly and gently onto the floor. Rest your forehead and relax the back of your neck. Take deep and steady inhalation and exhalation with your eyes closed.
What it does: This pose helps with headaches induced by heat or fatigue, calms the mind and provides rest when your day gets too hectic.
b) Supported Inversions: Legs-up-the-wall Pose
The name of this pose is exactly how it is performed. Find a clear wall in which you can put up your feet up and relax. Place a soft bolster to support your back and cover your eyes with a towel or a small eye pillow and rest in this pose for as long as you wish. Just remember to wash those grubby feet first, especially if you happen to have stark white walls at home!
What it does: This pose improves blood circulation to the upper body and head, thus is great in helping to relieve fatigue or stress.
c) Twist: Supine Spinal Twist
Lie down on a comfortable flat surface. Inhale and bend the right knee towards your chest. With the left hand, guide the knee towards the left side of the floor. Turn your head to the right and relax into the pose. Take five breaths, and switch to the left knee.
What it does: The twisting motion in this pose provides a gentle massage to the internal organs allowing for a more efficient detoxification process to occur. Done correctly, it also helps to gently realign the spine as well.
At the end of your yoga practice or at anytime during the day that feels right for you, sit quietly in a place where you will not be disturbed by phone calls, emails, pets or people who might want to strike a conversation with you. Treat this time as ‘your’ time where you are allowed to breathe and enjoy the silence of your own company. As a Muslim, this is also the perfect time to recite the Quran or listen to streaming of Quran recitals to incite peace within the hearts and increase remembrance of our Creator.
Will you continue your yoga journey this Ramadhan? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page!