Feel Great

In The Gym: Pushkar Varde

by Lauren Teng, fitness blogger

Dive Bomb!  This is the name Bombay-born grad student Pushkar Varde and his friends dubbed the exercise they picked up in high school P.E. class.

Part of a yoga asana, this fluid take on downward dog and a pushup is meant to capitalize on your body weight to tone your shoulders, strengthen your arms, core and back and improve your spine’s flexibility.

To get started take it the table top position: hands on the ground shoulder width apart with knees right under your hips, hip width apart.  Next you want to “heart melt,” common yoga lingo for positioning yourself into proper alignment.

With your shoulders right above your wrists and your spine in a straight line from top of  head to tailbone. Think about slowly sinking your chest towards the floor by dipping it below the line of your shoulders.

From this position, as you straighten your knees and push your heels into the floor while lifting your hips to the sky, your chest from its sunken position moves back and up following your tailbone, and your head falls in line in between your two straightened arms.

Welcome to downward dog! The inversion of all inversions that will not only flood your heart and brain with fresh blood and oxygen but, if you buy into it, reverses your chi to reenergize and rejuvenate you.

Here is where Pushkar cautions you to take it slow—meaning, don’t smash your face into the ground in overzealous enthusiasm.  Think about keeping your bum in the air while bending your arms to essentially skim the floor with your nose, then your chest, then your pelvis.  You’ll end up in what’s called cobra, a different sort of background. With pelvis to the ground and thighs and tops of the feet pressing into the ground your heart should still be a meltin’ with your shoulder blades pressed back and together and ribs slightly in front. Be sure to keep your shoulders pressing down though, not towards your ears, and grow up and out like a straight line that runs from your cerebral spine up the back of your head.

From here, engage your core and in one solid motion bring your hips back to the sky, chest and head falling back in suit. Start all over! Take it slower to learn which parts of your core and arms are the weakest, speed it up to challenge yourself. Make sure to inhale in downward dog and exhale as you move through into cobra.

Pushkar advises that you engage your core as much as you can throughout the process to maintain the most control over your dive. Reap the greatest challenge by not touching any of your body to the floor throughout the sweeping motion—it’s harder than you think.

The benefit of an exercise like this is that it focuses on control and using your own body weight. It provides you a different mind/body relationship and awareness than weight lifting or using other exercise devices, which adds an outside variable to the mental and physical task you’re undertaking. Because it’s not all about brute force and moves at a slower rate, it asks more of your will and discipline to stay engaged and committed to your reps and pace.

But this is a good thing! So have fun exploring new worlds with dive bombing and heed Pushkar’s advice: Watch that nose on your first attempt.