Jumping up and down, touching your toes rapidly a hundred times is not the way a yoga student loosens up for the practice of Hatha Yoga.
Keep fit exercises are; of course, very good for the body, but this is not the way or approach the yoga student uses. You are not only handling your body but all of yourself – mind, emotions and spiritual aspirations by becoming aware of the Life Force within you.
Mechanical movement does not bring about awareness of the wonderful way in which your body functions. Your body has a language of its own and our task is to tune in and listen to it.
Movement should be slow and steady. Any great rush will only excite and disturb the nervous system bringing about fatigue in the body and restlessness of the mind.
Everybody finds it difficult to get into some postures. By starting your yoga practice with easy, slow sets of movements such as Salute to the Sun, the Swan and the Cat we gradually warm up the body and gently train our stiff joints to unfold.
It is amazing how the human adult has lost the art of stretching, while animals and babies instinctively know this technique.
Step 1: Sit on the floor in The Kneeling Pose. Exhale and bend forward keeping your buttocks on your heels. Put your elbows together in front of your knees and rest your head on the inside of your elbows.
Step 2: Inhale and slide your head forward along your arms until your chin is resting at your fingertips. Your buttocks will lift up off your heels in this movement.
Step 3: Still inhaling flow upwards by straightening your arms and rolling your head back so that you look up to the ceiling. Your back in this position drops and becomes concave. Be aware that your buttocks being thrust upwards. Pause with lungs full.
Step 4: Exhale. Bend your elbows so that they touch the floor together, keeping your buttocks in the air. As your elbows bend, keep your chin up and your back straight. Now rest your chin in front of your fingertips.
Step 5: Inhale. Straighten your arms but keep your head hanging downwards. Arch your back into a convex shape. Tuck in your buttocks and pull up your stomach muscles towards your backbone. Pause with lungs full. Warning: if you are pregnant do not pull up your stomach muscles.
Step 6: Now exhale, sit back on your heels, bend your elbows until they touch the floor and rest your head on the inside of your elbows.
Repeat this series of movement 6 times in the beginning and work up to 12 times as your body grows stronger and more flexible.
The Cat works on the spine and pelvic region. It makes them supple, elastic and strong. It firms up the buttocks and the stomach muscles. Pregnant women have found that this movement gives relief to any discomfort in the lower back.
Watch your cat the next time it stretches and observe the ease and grace with which it is done.