Preparation Exercises and Yoga for Beginners

preparation-exercises-and-yoga-for-beginnersThese exercises can be performed after the initial relaxation  and  before  the  Sun  Salutation.  They are particularly suitable for beginners. They help to  relax  tense  muscles.  These  exercises  should be performed gently. Releasing tensions and per- forming  the  exercises  gently  are  more  important than  being  flexible.  The  greater  your  progress, the more you will be able to do of the Rishikesh Series asanas and their variations.

Eye Exercises

Sit  up  straight,  and  relax  your  shoulders  and  neck. Ideally your forearms should rest on your legs or, if you are sitting on a chair, on a table.

With your eyes open, look alternately from right to left and back  6  times  and  do  not  focus  on  anything.  Make  this movement  harmonious;  try  to  avoid  jerky  movements.

Then   look   alternately   from   up   to   down   and   back 6   times,   again   without   focusing   on   anything   and remaining relaxed.

Variations

  1. Look diagonally  from  top  right  to  bottom  left  and back  and  then  the  other  diagonal,  from  top  left  to bottom right and back.
  2. Roll your eyes in large circles in both directions.
  3. Describe a horizontal figure 8 with your eyes.

After the eye exercises, or whenever necessary, rub your hands  together  hard  for  a  moment  until  you  can  feel them  getting  warm. Then  cup  the  palms  of  your  hands over your eyes like two little caves, the darker the bet- ter.  Then  close  your  eyes.  This  enables  your  eyes  and your neck muscles to relax more easily. Enjoy the pleasant  sensation  of  warmth  coming  from  your  hands. During  this  resting  phase,  breathe  in  and  out  about 5  times.  Relax  more  and  more  each  time  you  exhale.

Effects of the Eye Exercises

Body

The  eye  exercises  improve  blood  flow  to  the  eye  muscles, thereby improving eyesight. Eye exercises can also prevent  headaches.  The  connection  between  eye  and neck  muscles  means  that  the  neck  is  also  relaxed  by the  eye  exercises  as  if  it  was  moving  gently  itself. This kind of relaxation is ideal for people who spend a lot of time  working  in  front  of  a  computer  screen  and  helps avoid a fixed gaze and a stiff neck.

Energy

The lunar and solar energies are harmonized.

Mind

The  crossing  of  the  middle  line  along  the  nose  means that  both  sides  of  the  brain  are  used,  thus  strengthening the links between the left and right hemispheres of the brain.

Mountain Pose – Tadasana

The  Mountain  Pose  helps  you  to achieve   an   upright,   stable   and aware posture.

Stand  up  straight  and  motionless like  a  mountain.  The  insides  of your  ankles  should  be  touching, but not so that there is too much pressure  on  the  inside  edge  of your  feet.  Feel  the  outside  edges of  your  feet  and  then  press  your big toe joint into the floor to pro- duce  a  stable  tension  in  the  arch of  your  foot.  Spread  your  toes. Because   you   are   barefoot,   your feet have plenty of room to move.

The  crown  of  your  head  stretches  up  to  the  sky  and your outstretched fingertips reach for the ground.

Lift your breastbone forward and upward, without hollowing  your  back.  Pull  your  shoulder  blades  toward  your spine and the bottom of your shoulder blades downward.

Breathe  calmly  and  evenly  from  your  abdomen.  The abdominal  wall  should  arch  out  gently  when  air  flows into your lungs.

Practice  this  exercise  often  during  the  day  whenever you  have  to  stand. This  will  make  you  focus  on  ensuring your posture is correct.

Don’t  hold  it  for  too  long,  though,  for  the  vertebrae need to move and your muscles need a break, too.

Shoulder Relaxation

With  your  inhalation,  pull  your  shoulders  up  toward  your  ears,  and  then lower  them  as  you  breathe  out.  It  is important  to  exhale  slowly.  Notice  how the  muscles  in  your  neck  area  move farther   and   farther   away   from   your shoulders each time you breathe out.

Chest Opening

As  you  breathe  in,  pull  both  shoulders back,  turning  your  hands  outward  in the   process.   Stretch   your   fingertips slightly  toward  the  floor.  Relax  as  you breathe  out.  Your  shoulders  and  arms should  only  turn  slightly  backward  as you  do  so.  Breathe  in  and  out  several times in this position.

Energy Exercise

Relax  in  the  standing  position.  Close  your  eyes.  Concentrate  on  your  fingers;  perhaps  you  will  feel  a  slight prickling sensation or a pleasant feeling of warmth. Let this  energy  rise  up  your  hands  and  arms.  Feel  this energy  in  your  shoulders  and  up  in  the  back  of  your head. Breathe calmly and evenly.

Then  focus  on  your  toes  and  feet.  Let  the  energy  rise from them up your legs to your pelvis and then up your back to your head.

Breathe calmly and evenly again.

Take a moment to feel this new energy rising inside you.

Self-Massage

Stand up straight. Twist your upper body alternately to the  left  and  right  several  times,  fast  enough  to  make your  arms  swing.  Your  head  should  follow  the  movement.  Your  feet  should  be  planted  firmly  on  the  floor.

Bend  your  rear  arm  slightly,  so  that  you  can  tap  your- self   with   the   back   of   your   hand   on   your   lumbar spine/lower back. In this way, tap as much as your hand can  reach  of  your  whole  lower  back  a  little  at  a  time. Find the places most in need of massage and enjoy the tapping massage.

The front  arm  swings  round  to  the  opposite  side  and gently taps the pelvis.

The  more  you  relax,  the  easier  it  will  be  for  you  to twist. This exercise also mobilizes your whole spine.

Relaxing and Mobilizing the Neck

Lean your head gently to one side with a sigh as you   breathe   out   and   hold   the   position   for several  breaths.  You  can  even  close  your  eyes. Relax more each time you exhale, and let gravity work.  Lift  your  head  again  as  you  inhale  and then lean it gently to the other side and then for- ward.  You  should  avoid  the  passive  backward hyperextension of the cervical spine.

If you already have spasms, avoid the additional pulling of your head toward the floor. Your body would just react by tensing up the muscles concerned even more for protection.

Variations

  1. Push from  the side   with   one hand  and  from the   back   with the other simultaneously.

Upright Head Posture

Place  your  left  hand  on  the  left  side  of  your  head  and push  gently.  Make  sure  that  you  keep  your  head  quite straight.  Do  this  exercise  in  front  of  a  mirror  at  first. Later you can close your eyes to facilitate relaxation of all  other  muscle  areas  and  improve  inner  awareness. Take  several  breaths  in  this  position.  Let  the  tension gently fade away.

Then  push  your  right  hand  against  the  right  side  of your head, and finally push your head from behind with both   hands,   with   interlocked   fingers.   Stretch   your elbows  out  to  the  side  and  stretch  out  your  neck.  You should not feel any discomfort in your throat.

Always relax between exercises by simply shutting your eyes,  standing  up  straight  and  being  aware  of  your breathing.  Each  time  you  exhale,  your  tensed  muscles will relax more and more.

Knee to Chest – for a relaxed lower back

Lie  on  your  back  and  stretch  out  both  legs.  Feel  the curvature  of  your  lumbar  spine  and  be  aware  of  how your lower back feels.

Then grip your right knee and pull it toward your chest. As  you  breathe  in,  your  thigh  should  touch  your  stom- ach, and as you breathe out, pull it closer to your chest as  you  relax  more  and  more.  Your  left  leg  should  be equally relaxed on the floor.

Change sides after a few breaths.

To finish, stretch out both legs again, and feel once more the  curvature  of  your  lumbar  spine  and  your  lower  back. Perhaps you have already gotten rid of some tension, thus enabling  your  lumbar  spine  to  sink  nearer  to  the  floor.

Knee Crossover – for a relaxed lower back

Cross one leg over the other and pull them both toward your  chest.  Hold  the  lower  knee  as  firmly  as  possible with both hands. Breathe in with your thigh against your stomach, and as you breathe out, pull your knee closer to  your  chest.  Relax  as  much  as  you  can  while  you exhale.

Tip:

If  you  cannot  lay  your  head  down  comfortably  because your neck curves toward the floor, place a small cushion under your head. Relax your neck.

Leg Raise – to stretch your hamstrings

As  you  inhale,  raise  your  straightened  left  leg.  Hold  it as high as possible for a few breaths and then lower it as you exhale.

Then  raise  it  once  more  as  you  inhale  and  this  time, lower  it  immediately  with  your  next  exhalation.  Repeat several times with your left leg.

Stretch  out  both  legs  and  notice  how  your  legs  feel. Which leg feels heavier, warmer or even longer?

Then change sides.

Twisted Pose – for a supple back

Lie  on  your  right  side  and  bend  both  legs  and  arms. Raise  your  left  arm  and  place  it  on  your  left  (side)  as you  exhale.  Let  your  arm  fall  nearer  and  nearer  to  the floor each time you exhale. Relax.

Come  out  of  that  position  by  taking  your  arm  back  as you inhale.

Then  lie  on  your  back  before  doing  the  exercise  on  the other side of your body. Notice this new sensation in your back. Perhaps you now feel as though you are lying on a slope,  with  one  side  of  your  body  uphill  and  the  other downhill.

Tip:

If you feel pain in your lower back or your left shoulder, pull  your  top  knee  back  slightly.  This  will  increase  the twist  so  that  it  is  easier  for  you  to  place  your  arm  on the floor.

Variations

  1. Stretch out your bottom leg to increase the stretch.
  2. Lie on  your  side  and  cross  your  legs  to  maximize the  twist  and  thus  the  mobilization  of  your  spine. Only  perform  this  variation  if  you  are  still  able  to relax in this posture.

Abdominal Exercises – Navasana

Abdominal exercises activate the solar plexus and enhance inner balance. Their place in the exercise sequence is after the Sun Salutation and before the inverted poses.

Clasp  your  hands  behind  your  head.  Press  your  feet gently on the floor, so that your lumbar spine becomes nicely  flat.  Inhale  deeply  and  then  as  you  exhale,  raise your upper body, keeping your elbows by your sides.

In  this  position,  stretch  out  your  head  and  pull  your breast bone toward the ceiling. Even if you find it difficult, try to send your breath right down into your abdomen.  Breathe  deeply  in  and  out  several  times  (through your nose), and then lower your upper body back down again  as  you  exhale  and  relax  by  stretching  out  your legs and arms.

Variations

  1. Perform the  exercise  as  described  above,  but  raise your   legs   beforehand.   Bend   your   knees   at   right angles   and   pull   your   thighs   gently   toward   your chest, not quite creating a right angle with your hips.
  2. If your head doesn’t need to be supported by your hands, you  can  also  hold  your  arms  out  at  your sides.  This  is  less  taxing  for  your  abdomen,  but more so for your neck muscles.
  3. Raise your upper body without rounding your back.

Tuck  up  one  knee  to  stop  yourself  hollowing  your back. Straighten the other leg so that it is diagonal to  the  ceiling  if  your  abdominal  muscles  are  not strong  enough,  or  parallel  to  the  floor  if  they  are. Alternate   these   leg   positions   in   time   with   your breathing:  lift  your  straight  leg  as  you  inhale  and straighten the other one as you exhale.

  1. Bend your  knees  and  hips.  As  you  exhale,  raise your  upper  body  and  turn  it  to  the  side.  Hold  this position and continue to breathe calmly and evenly through your nose. Rest a while before working the other side

The Wave

The  Wave  is  a  complex  exercise  that  consists  of  a sequence  of  4  movements,  and  therefore  4  breaths (2 inhalations, 2 exhalations).

  1. With your  first  inhalation,  press  both  elbows  down into the floor without hollowing your back.
  2. With your  next  exhalation,  roll  your  chin  onto  your chest. The  idea  is  to  stretch  the  back  of  your  neck as  much  as  possible  and  to  lower  your  collarbone. Pull your elbows together. This is not an abdominal exercise; so only raise your head slightly.
  3. With your  next  inhalation,  raise  your  pelvis  as  you lower your head and your elbows.
  4. With your  last  exhalation,  unroll  your  spine,  verte- bra by vertebra and lay back down on the floor.

This  exercise  sequence  supples  and  relaxes  your  back. So  that  you  can  hear  your  tensions,  hum  “mmmm”  as you uncurl your spine in step 4. Listen carefully. Do you hear a continuous humming or are there a few jerks or even breaks?

Repeat the whole exercise sequence several times until the humming sounds continuous and even.

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