Ramadan is a time of reflection, prayer, community and detoxification. It can be quite taxing on the body, however, and there is little opportunity over the day for healthy exercise. Although due rest is a necessary component in a fasting/detox diet, it is advisable that you do not become weakened and emaciated through the process. Moreover, through correct gentle exercise, such as this sequence of yoga postures, it is possible that you can enhance the detoxification. This sequence is also invigorating for the mind, and an all-round uplifting experience. This would balance mental fogginess and fatigue that can often accompany fasting.
I have come to learn through experience with my Muslim clients that there are two window-periods of time over the fasting day in which one could do this sequence. This is either 30 minutes before breaking fast, or later in the evening 2-3 hours after eating the main meal of the day and prayers. It is important to do this when one can drink water directly afterwards, and not on a full stomach. Be gentle with your body; if you get a low-pressure head rush/dizziness, carefully bend onto your knees and fold into child pose (balasana) until it passes.
1.Start in a comfortable sitting posture on the floor. Cross your legs. You can sit on a cushion/bolster to make it more comfortable. Place your hands on your knees and take five deep slow breaths.
2.Tuck your feet underneath you in a Virasana sitting posture. Reach up to the sky with your hands and look upwards. Tuck your pelvic floor under and suck you belly into your spine. Hold for ten slow deep breaths. Then reach forwards as you exhale and tuck your head under on the floor. If this hurts your knees place a big cushion/bolster between your legs. Take hold of your heels and roll onto the top of your head into Shashankasana. Push you bum upwards. Hold for five breaths.
3.Place your hands shoulder-width apart on the floor and your feet hip-width apart and then straighten your legs and push your bum up to the ceiling as you exhale. Push your heels to the floor and hold for five breaths in Adho Mukha Savasana (downward dog). Then fold to the floor in Balasana (child) for five breaths. Place a bolster/cushion between your legs again if needed.
4. Return to downward dog – take one deep breath. Then engage belly and lift your right leg up behind you on an inhalation. Hold for five breaths. When you release the leg place it off the mat, opening the space between feet. Take a deep inhalation and try to grab hold of your right ankle/calf with your left (opposite) hand. Hold for five breaths. If its too hard to hold onto your ankle then remain in downward dog for five breaths. Repeat on left side. Take a break in child pose in between if needed.
5.Walk your feet towards your hands from downward dog. You can bend your knees as you do so. Then straighten your legs and reach forwards with the top of your head to straighten your back on an inhalation. Your fingers will be roughly 40cm in front of your feet in Ardha Uttanasana. Use yoga blocks under your hands if they don’t reach the floor with straight legs. Hold for five breaths. Then take a deep exhalation and fold into Uttanasana by sliding your hands back alongside your feet. Keep the legs straight but use your yoga blocks again under your hands if you need! Hold for five breaths. Roll up to a standing posture (Tadasana) carefully and slowly.
6.From Tadasana bend your knees and squat on an exhalation, drawing your weight to the back of your heels. Open your chest and reach upwards on an inhalation. Look in the direction of your hands. If this hurts your shoulders, reach straight out in front of you. For an extra dimension to this Utkatasana posture, place a yoga block between your thighs and between your hands – squeeze! Hold for five breaths. Release. Then take a deep step back with your left foot, placing it at a 45 degree angle to the front right foot. Bend the right knee. Inhale, open up your arms and push your elbows away from you at shoulder height in this posture – Virabhadrasana I. Work the right hip backwards, and the left hip forwards. Hold for five breaths. Step forward again with the left foot in Utkatasana for a second time – five breaths. Repeat Virabhadrasana I on left side for five breaths.
7.Return to Tadasana. Put left foot into floor and lift right foot on an inhalation, bring the knee to a 90 degree angle, or as high as you can (place your foot on a yoga block if you cannot sustain the balance). Draw your strength towards the midline of the body away from your hips. Open up your arms and look upwards in this variation on Vrksasana. Hold for five breaths and then twist towards the right as you exhale, bringing your left hand to push back on your right upper thigh. Then inhale and stretch backwards with your right arm and open your palm to the ceiling. Look at your hand. Hold for five breaths. Repeat both postures on the left side.
8.From Tadasana, open your legs as wide as is comfortable to you length-ways on your mat. Place your hands behind you and interlock your fingers into a fist. Lock your elbows and look upwards – inhale. Then when you exhale start to tilt forwards from the hips into Prasarita Padottanasana. Keep your legs straight. Bring your arms over head slowly. Don’t force the arms over your head if they are stiff – hold onto each elbow instead for an easier variation. Hold for five breaths. Then as you exhale release your grip and bring your right hand forward, positioned directly under the centre of your chest. Reach up with your left hand as you inhale. Look up. Use a yoga block under your right hand if needed. Hold for five breaths and then repeat on left side.
9.With your legs wide apart slowly come back to a standing position as you inhale. Push your feet into the floor and place your hands on your hips. Then swivel to face your right foot and slowly lower yourself as you exhale in a lunge to the floor. Release your back foot. Inhale and reach upwards into Anjaneasana. Relax your hips! Place a blanket under your back left knee if needed for comfort. Hold for five breaths. Then exhale and place your left hand on the inside of your front right foot. Twist your chest to the right and reach up with your right arm as you inhale. Look up and hold for five breaths. Use a yoga block under your left hand if needed. Repeat both postures on left side.
10.From the Anjaneasana twist, bring both knees back onto the mat, hip-width apart. Place your hands under your shoulders. Take one deep full breath. Then inhale and round the back, sucking your belly into your spine into Marjaryasana (cat pose). When you exhale, lower your chest to the floor, bending your elbows and pushing your hips upwards. In Ashtangasana bring your elbows in close to the torso and draw your shoulder blades together. Take a full breath in and out here. Then when you next inhale slide forward into Burjangasana. Keep the elbows in close the body and try to draw your hands back towards the waistline. Hold for one full breath cycle. Then push back into Uttana Shishosana (extended puppy pose) for one full breath cycle. Repeat all four postures another time, or up to four times if you feel strong.
11.From extended puppy pose, lift you your torso and bend both legs to one side as you sit on your bum and swing both legs forward into Dandasana. Inhale and reach up your spine into the top of the head. Engage your feet and legs. Tighten your core. Sit on a cushion if you need help with a weak lower back. Hold for five breaths. Then inhale deeply and as you exhale fold forward slowly over your legs into Patchimottanasana. Use a strap around your feet if you cannot reach your toes. Place a bolster on your legs if you want a more calming variation. Hold for five deep breaths. Release slowly back into Dandasana.
12.From Dandasana roll onto your back and bring your straight legs up over your head on an exhalation. You will need some momentum so have fun with the movement and kick your legs over in Halasana. If your neck is stiff place a folded blanket under your shoulders and balance your feet on a chair you can position at the end of the mat. Support your back with your palms, elbows bent. If your feet reach the floor, push your bum upwards and release your arms on the floor behind you with your fingers intertwined. Hold for five breaths. Roll out of the posture and you rolled into it. Return to Dandasana, then bend your knees and left your legs into Navasana. Engage the core! Open your chest and stretch into your arms. Hold for five breaths and then slowly roll back onto the mat.
13.Once your back in flat on the mat bring your knees to your chest and hug your legs. Push your tailbone to the floor and inhale and lift your head into your knees in Pawanmuktasana (wind-relieving pose). Hold for five breaths. From here shift yourself to the edge of your mat and up against a wall to get into Viparita Karani (leg-up-the-wall pose. Start by placing your bum as close as you can where wall meets floor – legs will be side-on to the wall. Then swivel yourself around so that your legs are up against the wall and your back is flat on the floor. It takes a bit of wriggling around! Hold for 10 -15 full deep breaths. Relax! Get out of the posture as you got into it in reverse.
14.Return to the centre of your mat and bend your right knee, tucking the foot in towards the left hip. Place the left foot over the right knee. Stretch back with your left hand and place it on the floor behind your sacrum. Reach up with your right arm – inhale – and hook your right elbow on the outside of your left knee. Start to twist – exhale – and look backwards in Ardha Matsyendrasana. If you want to extend this super detoxifying pose, make a bind with your hands by tucking your right arm underneath the left knee – you can make contact between hands by using a strap/tie if needed. Reach up through the top of your head. Take five deep breaths and then repeat on the other side. FINALLY: Slowly exhale and roll backwards onto the mat into Savasana. Dissolve into the floor and make sure you are comfortable, spreading the hands and feet outwards. Use a cushion/blanket wherever you feel its needed. Stay here for a 3 minutes, or as long as you need!