Missus Em's lazy work-out
Some people count sheep. I do quadriceps clenches. I can't vouch for the efficacy of counting sheep, but I can assure you that clenching and relaxing my patellae works wonderfully. I drop off somewhere between the second and third set of hundred repetitions. There is a story here, but more about it later.
Doing exercises given you by your doctor is one thing, and working out is another. Some people make a religion out of working out, keeping toned and fit. That's actually a nice kind of religion to adopt, come to think of it. Entirely personal, and beneficial. On the other hand, people have their pet disciplines of exercise, and are fanatical about them and are vocally critical of other methods. Best not to carry this analogy of religion too far, then.
I did used to frequent a gym, but I found that where as the treadmill and the stationary bike appealed to me, the weight training seemed pointless. I wanted to keep limber and maintain a healthy metabolism, not to sculpt my body. The instructor and I argued about what I needed. The intensity levels, whether I should stick to my yoga routine, or the routines she designed for me. Since I spent more time arguing than working out, I quit.
I am a creature of set habits. Once you are told that you have to watch your weight (not because you are obese, or even pleasantly plump, but because you might have a knee replacement procedure in your future if you subject your joints to the cruelty of having to bear more than normal weight), you try to make it a point to stay supple and limber, and well within the reasonable weight for one's height, build and age group.
I have practised yoga since I was a teenager, but as age creeps up on me, I find that I don't need to do the complete set of Asanas, in the same order, everyday. The poses I practice address all my needs, working on knees and ankles, spine and waist, and making certain I will never have a paunch. They are all I need to stay supple. And stay supple I must, having inherited the proneness to arthritis and rheumatism from my mother.
Over the years, I have arrived at a method of fitting exercise into daily routine, which then gets done, as a matter of course. I combine some of the Asanas, and do them in the order I find reasonable and some I don't bother with at all.
Take Padahastasana, for instance. It is basically Paschimothanasana, done standing. So why do both? I do it comfortably lying down, and combine it with Bhadrasana, with my own twist in between, which then segues into Gorakshasana, Shakti Chalini and Khandapeedasana, which further flows into Nabhipeedasana, which in turn leads to Yogamudra in all its variations and my own twists to suit my needs.
Likewise, why do Sarvangasana separately when it can be combined with Halasana, which melds into Karnapeedasana? Or why do Bhujangasana or Shalabhasana when Dhanurasana delivers the same effect?
Serious yoga enthusiasts are hereby requested not to write indignant comments, please. This is my take, and this is my blog. This is how I do it.
The advantage of doing something regularly is that you don't have to do repetitions. I find exercising my way, once is more than enough. Doing the most extreme variations, at the most intense, you don't need repetitions. It is all done in less than ten minutes, and I am toned for the day, Hallelujah!
I practice the standing postures in the morning, making my first cuppa, and the sitting or supine Asanas at night, just before going to bed. It's the night routine I am rather proud of. It combines several Asanas, and is the reason why I still have a decent waist. Granted, it is not twenty-three inches, like Victoria Beckham's, but it can still be called slim.
And here cometh the lesson for those of you who would like to know the secret of Missus Em's suppleness and slim waist. It is my night routine, and it takes less than five minutes, and you don't have to pay for it. Unless perhaps you feel like increasing the money I am earning from displaying advertisements on my blog? Thank you.
If you are going to do it my way, first get into your bed, throw the pillow away. You don't need a pillow, not really, and certainly not if you are doing Missus Em's routine. Pillows are bad for you, get used to sleeping without a pillow. You will sleep better, and if you have a tendency to snore it will be reduced greatly.
Oh, and I hope you sleep on a decent mattress, a firm one? You do? Good for you. Otherwise you might be better off doing this on the floor. You can use an exercise mat, but the floor will do.
Okay, lie down. Raise your arms, stretching them overhead. Keep palms pressed together, and stretch. Keep arms close to your head, grazing the ears. You should feel the pull in your waist, along the spine. Stretch. Waist and spine taken care of for the nonce, more will come, never doubt that.
Deep breath, raise torso, arms still stretched, mind you. Smoothly bend forward over your legs. You should be breathing out as you do this. Depending on your suppleness, fitness levels and body type, you might be able to bury your face in your knees, while hands rest on toes. Breathe normally as you hold this position.
This is Paschimothanasana, the basic variety; one variation is to grasp hold of big toes and rest elbows next to calves, but that is for sissies. Now the tricky part here is to keep your knees straight, no bending legs to reach the toes. That's cheating. It gets easier as you keep at it, and at the extreme levels, it will be the forearms that will rest on the toes. One count of attention to tummy and the spine each, check. Plus legs getting a lesson, too.
Now comes my variation.
Hold feet, preferably by toes and turn them in so the soles face each other, pressed together. Slowly draw your feet closer towards your groin. Your knees will part, and try to rest your forehead on the bed. Okay, the floor, if you are doing it on the floor. I will keep saying bed, because that's where I do this.
Now I am not saying you will be able to do this in a day, or a week, mind you. But if you keep at it, it gets easier each day. At the extreme position, your face will be resting on your feet. Tummy, spine, knees, thighs, and ankles all attended to. Check.
Stretch your arms forward, okay? Flatten your face and spine. There, one more stretching the waist taken care of, not to mention tummy, spine and your poor suffering inner thighs. Check.
Now grab feet again, raise your torso, sit straight and pull in your feet towards you, as close in as possible. The aim is to get them so close to your groin to finally rest heels against the perineum. This is Bhadrasana, and once your heels are tucked all up, attend to those knees. Don't let them rise up. As close to the floor as you can manage, please. This is good for knees, and does wonders for the inner thighs. You can do another forward bend and try to rest your forehead on the bed again, but that is up to you. I won't insist.
Now the variations I do are to raise the hips and sit on the heels. Gorakshasana. And then to hold ankles and twist feet down or up to press against the belly- Shakti Chalini and the Nabhipeedasana. You are excused, and I won't tell you how to go about them. You are having trouble already, I suspect.
Okay. Let's be kind to those legs now. Stretch them out. Bend one knee and tuck your foot against the opposite thigh, as high up and near to the groin you can manage. Bend over the stretched out leg, grabbing the big toe of the foot. Face to the knee. This is Janusirshasana. Repeat with the other leg. I am not going to tell you about the variations and intensity levels. I can hear the howls, already.
Ha. The legs think they are done. No, they are not. Time to do a full Padmasana. Look, you have any number of books, schools or web-sites offering to teach you how to do that. I am not giving links, so there.
Grab your big toes and bend forward while sitting in Padmasana. This is the easier version of the Yogamudra, I tell you. I do it the other way. So grab your big toes and bend over. Try to rest your forehead on the bed. Last work out for the incipient paunch, last stretch for the spine. Check.
Relax, now lie back. Catch your breath.
I won't tell you what I do next, I think you hate me already. But I tell you, this can all be done in less than five minutes. And this is what lets me sit for hours together behind my keyboard, telling you all about it.
All the doctors, who ever had occasion to treat me, say that I am a model patient; nobody more so, than my orthopaedic doctor, who prescribed me exercises for my knees. If I am on a course of medication, I take it exactly as prescribed and always complete the course. I don't take painkillers, or pop antacids. I follow the doctor's advice, and if it involves adding another exercise routine, so be it. I do as I am told, in other words.
Some years ago, I had strained my knee ligaments. "You have lax ligaments, Lali," said my orthopaedic doctor. "Once you recover, you have to strengthen them. Given your medical history you should never get overweight. What do you weigh, by the way?"
Having been conditioned to truth and one shouldn't lie to one's doctor, anyway, I told him. "You are only a couple of kilos over ideal weight, make sure it doesn't go up." He said, and proceeded to prescribe quadriceps clenches. I asked him how many repetitions I was supposed to do.
"Oh, a thousand a day?" He said breezily. Which is why, dear reader, I fall asleep doing those dratted quadriceps clenches. I still haven't managed a thousand. The closest I came was six hundred.