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Yoga Preparation

Standing Warmups

These are some of the standing warm-ups that help to prepare the muscles for exercise. They can be done as a prelude to yoga or any physical activity as they help to release tightness form the body, warm the muscles helping to maintain flexibility and function of the body. As such, they can be done every day for general well-being and maintaining a clear mind. They are also good for those with respiratory problems. 

Remember; no stretch should be uncomfortable. If you experience discomfort, please get help.

Foot flexion:
Combines an exercise in balance and maintaining ankle mobility.

  • From Tadasana, extend one foot forward and consciously try to:
  • stretch the ball of the foot and  toes toward the floor - parsiflixion
  • pull the foot and toes back towards the shin as you extend through the heel - dorseflection.
  • rotate the ankle 5 - 10 times in each direction
  • lift the knee and let the foot hang, sway the lower leg to side to exercise the hip joint
  • give the leg and foot a shake
  • place the foot down and repeat on the other leg.
  • If you can't balance, use a support - if balance is easy, do with eyes closed.

Hips

Hip rotations
To begin loosening the hips, stand with the feet hip width, slightly pigeon toed and in uniform contact with the floor - image right.

  1. Lateral flexion
    Keeping the head centred, move the hips side to side as far as possible, try to feel your limit of movement and the actions of the leg and hip muscles.
  2. Hip Rotations.
    From the side position, make full circles with the hips 5-10 times each way.
    Do your best to keep the head in the same space and rotate the hips to feel the hip joints working.
    As your body moves, keep the feet flat to the floor and do not roll your weight to the side sides of your feet with the body movement.

Anterior-posterior Pelvic tilt

  1. With the feet slightly less than hip width apart, tuck your tail under and back for understanding and control of the hip flexing and rotator muscles.
  2. Lateral pelvic tilt
    Keeping the feet flat, keep the head centred and alternately bend each knee to drop the hips side to side.
  3. Pelvic rotations - think hula hoops and belly dance.
    Keeping the feet flat and the head centred, alternately bend one knee to drop the hips to one side, then tuck the tail under and co-ordinate to the other side, (combining exercises 3 & 4 above).  Imagine your perineum as a pencil point and you are drawing circles. Do the same number of rotations to each side. In effect this is similar to using a hula hoop and primary moves in belly dance.
Some more ideas

Many find 4 & 5 above near impossible, so don't be to worried, with regular practise these will come. At home, look oneself in the eye in the mirror and practice keeping the head still while performing the exercise. Get that hula hoop out or attend a few belly dance classes and when you are confident, perform with eyes closed.

Please remember the principal of balance in the feet as in tadasana as you do your best to do these exercises.  These moves can be advanced by doing them with fingers interlocked behind the head or extended above the head palms to the ceiling as in the palm press image A right.

Simple shoulder rolls
These are good to do several times a day to counter upper body stresses.

  • Extend the arms to the sides and make circles with the arms in as great an arc with your hands as you can 5 - 10 times each direction as in swimming breast stroke and
  • repeat in the opposite direction as in back stroke
  • pay attention and identify that the shoulder blades and the ball socket joints of the shoulders are exercised.

Head/neck exercises from standing tall
Note; Do not do head rotations as that can damage some necks.

  • Keeping the neck straight, turn your head slowly from side to side. Pause to feel the stretch.
  • tip the head up and back, at the end of the stretch, part and close the teeth to stretch the throat muscles
  • tilt the chin down, place your hands behind your head and let your arms hang passively to stretch the back of the neck.
  • put you chin forward and back like a chicken
  • put your head side to side like and Indian or the late Michael Jackson.

Vertical and lateral stretches:
These can also be done with your back to the wall, so your back body and thumbs touch the wall ensuring you stretch evenly on both sides.

  • A. Palm press
    Rotate your palms outward and with an inward breath, raise your arms above the head. Maintain the extension from the floor up the arms and through your fingertips as you extend up.
    Many people will have difficulty straightening their elbows due to either very tight shoulders or stiff and damaged wrists or elbows caused by occupational overuse or carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • B: Lateral stretch
    As above, be like the jack in the box extending up and to one side as you breathe in and keep extending as you stretch to the side.
    Return to centre and repeat to the other side.
  • Try Not To Let Your Hips Move Away From Centre.

Upper chest stretch:
This opens the shoulders, allows deeper breath into the upper chest and is an excellent exercise to help prevent breast sagging. Note that if woman's bras may accentuate the sag of her breasts or even contribute to breast cancer so these exercises should be done without bra so the breasts are not distorted.

Proper hand grip with an example of non alignment

  • Bend the elbows and interlock your fingers behind the back of the head, relax the shoulders down and lift the elbows as far back as possible without putting any pressure on the back of the head.
  • try to have your elbows equal height and your body straigh
  • Other exercises can be done with the hands/arm in this position as B above.

Shoulder Stretch:
Provides a good upper chest and shoulder release. Right image, effects and notes as above above.

  • Interlock the fingers behind the back with the palms tightly clasped and most people will find that the elbows nestle into the back of the waist as per the right image.
  • Without collapsing the head and shoulders forward, lift the hands and arms, but keep extending out through the knuckles.
  • Maintain the pose without collapsing your shoulders or leaning forward and take a few deep breaths.
  • Many people cannot clasp their hands like this and they may have an open palm grip but still maintain the interlocked fingers.
  • The line has been drawn to show alignment, but one needs assistance to check.

Alignment is important in all poses because we are trying to balance the body in all aspects so that the left mirrors the right, and that we may even become ambidextrous. Many are unconcerned about such minor details. However, they are important as they contribute to the greater integrity of not only the physical structure, but the character of the person.

Lateral Stretch 2.

  • Stand tall hands at sides
  • Rotate one arm out and raise it above your head as per second image right
  • Extend up and over to one side as you breathe out then
  • Rotate your arm, palm upward and breathe in as you return to vertical
  • Breathe out lowering arm to side
  • Repeat several times each side
  • As you lean, let your ear sink towards the shoulder.

To help, this can be done standing beside a wall and as one stretches, the leg & hip remains in contact with the wall.

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