Anshuka Parwani on How Practicing Yoga can lead to a Holistic, Internal Makeover

“It is through the alignment of the body that I discovered the alignment of my mind, self, and intelligence.”

B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Life

 

For our first installment in our Self-care Month series, we focus on Yoga and its effects on our mental well-being. Our collaborator, Anshuka Parwani, is a celebrity yoga and holistic wellness expert and the founder of Anshuka Yoga. Anshuka started her fitness journey as a national gold medal swimmer but discovered the magic of yoga when it helped her heal mentally and physically after a near-fatal accident. “You are as flexible in your mind as you are in your body and spine,” she says, emphasizing that yoga is for everyone. 


After creating a Wake Up and Wind Down series of asanas with our co-founder Deepika Padukone, she shares the self-care practices that keep her grounded and the science behind how yoga transforms our mind and body.

 

 

When did self-care become a part of your life? What does it mean to you?


Anshuka: Self-care came to me very early in life. I grew up in a family where we were encouraged to express how we were feeling, not just physically but also emotionally and mentally. I have always been an adventure seeker and someone who loves to move. But being a competitive swimmer from the age of seven, I felt a lot of pressure at a very young age. But my mother made sure I had enough time to just sit and breathe. At the time, I didn't understand that that was my way of checking in with myself.

As I grew up, my idea of self-care changed because my responsibilities changed. I work with very different people and there's a lot of energy exchanged between us. But I still like to pause and check in every single day, and if I feel the need to disconnect, I take a nap, sleep in, or pamper myself in another way, without putting pressure on myself. 

 

 

How does practicing yoga benefit the mind as well as the body?


Anshuka: Yoga is the union of mind, body, and soul. Many people think yoga is about sweating it out on the mat. But it’s about an internal makeover, not just an external makeover. When you're doing certain movements while being completely mindful, you automatically feel balanced. I like to say that this feeling is like the warmth of sunshine. And by releasing a lot of endorphins, yoga movement and focusing on our breath taps into our parasympathetic nervous system, which is our “rest and relax” system, and our endocrine system. When our hormones are balanced, we sleep better, are more productive, and feel refreshed in a holistic manner.


When we do balancing asanas, being able to focus our gaze or drishti and connecting that with the body and breath is more beneficial than having eight-pack abs. That also translates into life, right? You learn that “Okay, I lost my balance because I was distracted. I just need to come back stronger and more focused.”

  

How can we include breathing techniques or meditation in a daily self-care ritual?

Anshuka: Ashtanga is what we call the eight limbs of yoga, and asana, pranayama, and meditation are three of the eight limbs. Asana is needed to warm up the body so you can find stillness in your breath. Prana is energy—pranayama means playing with that energy. So through breath work, you can tap into your parasympathetic nervous system which makes you more mindful and focused, balances cortisol and the endocrine system, and releases adrenaline and happy endorphins.  


But we all live in such a concrete, busy world that we have to be practical. Breathwork is approachable because breath is the only constant. You can do it as soon as your eyes open. You don't need any equipment to just breathe. Even if you don’t have time to get any sort of movement in, 10-15 minutes of pranayama can get oxygen flowing through your body—which is a detox of both unwanted toxins and negative emotions. 

 

 

How can beginners to yoga begin a regular practice?


Anshuka: Start by focusing on your breathing. Then, bring movement in with something as small as following a five-minute yoga tutorial at home. Remember to always follow someone who is certified. If you feel pain, stop; when in doubt, don’t. Then you can try to find a class or a teacher that you like.


Beginners can also try Yoga Nidra which is a kind of conscious meditation that heightens awareness and brings you back to the present. I also love the Trataka meditation (candle gazing). It is so simple and therapeutic! You literally stare into a candle flame. It helps with your subconscious mind and focus.

 

How should our community approach the Wake Up and Wind Down routines?


Anshuka: The Wake Up AM routine helps to find mobility and freedom in your body along with breath coordination, which will make you feel rejuvenated and refreshed. The Wind Down PM routine is also very simple and can be practiced by anyone even when they’re lying down in bed. 


We have designed these routines to be really simple to follow, yet effective enough that you will feel a difference after the first time. If you approach it with an open mind and do these every day for a week, I promise that you’re going to end up doing it all the time.


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