There is a reason that every professional yoga teacher prefers warm-up exercises to stretch the body before the yoga practice.
Warm-up exercises reduce injuries, make you more mobile, increase the body temperature, maximize the blood circulation in the body, enhance flexibility in the muscles and tendons, etc. Therefore, one should never miss the initial warmup practice. They make your yoga practice more productive.
Whether you are a new yoga teacher or have started practicing yoga, you must include warmup activities in your practice sessions. The following blog will bring forth such stretches, also included in the 200 and 300 hour yoga teacher training in Rishikesh.
For this stretch, lie down on your back. Keep your lower back locked on the ground and pelvis neutral, try to lift one leg until the leg is perpendicular to the ceiling. If you can keep your leg straight, good; if not, don’t stress over the same, remember, it is just a warmup. Once it is perpendicular to the ceiling, lower the leg and lift the other one. Repeat the same for 5 times and you will feel the stretch. It is great for the legs as it stretches your hamstrings, feet, ankle, front of shines and calves.
Stay on your back, hands on either side and bend your knees. Try to press your lower back against the floor, tilt your pelvis towards your face and release. Repeat this stretch for 7-8 times. This subtle stretch will release stiffness from the body and warm the spine.
Sucirandhrasana (Eye of the Needle Pose)
While lying on the floor, cross your left ankle over the body and place it on your right thigh. Now, lift the right knee and thread your left hand through your legs. Make sure that your hands meet at the back of your right thigh. While exhaling, use your hand and draw your right thigh towards your chest. It will act as a hip opener for your left hip. Keep both feet flexed, continue deep breathing and relax the left knee. Repeat the same on the right knee. It will help you loosen the lower body and gives a good stretch to the hips.
Sukhasana (Easy Pose)
Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position for some time. Once you are comfortable, practice some neck rolls. Let your chin down to the chest, roll it over the shoulder, circle the head back and bring it to the other shoulder. Do 5 rotations at least and then, continue the same in the opposite direction. It will help you stretch the muscles in the neck, makes them flexible and releases stiffness from the body.
Stay in sukhasana and position your arms as in Garudasana (Eagle Pose). Bring your arms in front and make sure they are parallel to the ground. Cross the left arm over the right, bend your elbows and wrap your right palm around so that it meets the left palm. Lift the arms to the shoulders height and hold it till you are comfortable. Repeat the pose on the other side of the arm as well. This stretch is ideal for shoulder blades and center of your back that are difficult to stretch.
While staying in sukhasana, twist to the right and bring your left hand to the right knee and keep your right hand behind the back. Move your gaze over the right shoulder. Repeat the same on the left side. After completing the stretch on either side convert it into a forward bend while in the cross-legged position. Also, stretch your arms in front as you bend forward.
This stretch is a sequence of marjareyasana (Cat Pose) and bitilasana (Cow Pose). While practicing this stretch, focus on synchronizing your breath with the bodily movements. Performing this stretch will bring the motion in your tailbone and release tension from the spine.
AdhoMukhaSvanasana (Downward-Facing Dog)
Getting into adhomukhasvanasana will deliver final stretch to the legs, calves, and hamstrings.
Balasana (Child’s Pose)
Being a resting pose, this asana is the best to bring an end to the warmup session. Exhale as you lay your torso between the thighs and head on the floor. Stay in the position for at least 5 minutes. It stretches your hips as well as thighs and will prepare you internally for the yoga session.
As they are warmup exercises, try to do these with ease without any tension in the mind or body. Also, avoid overstretching. If you are halfway through the exercises and feel uncomfortable, relax. Do not overstretch as you may end up tightening the muscles which may turn out to be painful.
Manmohan Singh is a passionate Yogi, Yoga Teacher and a Traveller in India. He conducts Yoga Teacher Training in India and Program Yoga retreat in Nepal. He loves writing and reading books related to yoga, health, nature, Himalayas and Trekking in India – https://www.yogatrainingnepal.com/