The term 'yoga' can be defined as the summation of activities that are performed by means of speech, mind, and body. The above definition taken from the Tattvartha Sutra, a 2nd century CE text, gives us an idea about the vast nature of yoga. This discipline not only incorporates bodily movements for healing physical ailments, but also takes into consideration the karmic influx resulting from our thoughts, actions, and speech.
Warming Up for Yoga
There are many warm-up moves which prepare the body to perform difficult asanas (postures). Few of these are explained in the following paragraphs.
To keep the eyes healthy, it is necessary to stretch the adjoining muscles. Most of the time it happens that eyes are not stretched (exercised) beyond a certain limit. One should breathe normally (as always) while exercising the eyes. The following exercises help in making the muscles strong and improving eyesight. It is not necessary that the following be performed in sequence, however, the order given below should make it easy in performing them.
- The eyes need to be moved up and down.
- In this step, sideways movement from right to left and left to right should be carried out.
- The eyes are taken to the top-right and bottom-left.
- The action of moving eyes to the top-right and bottom-right is performed in this step.
- In the final step, the eyes need to be rolled clockwise and anti-clockwise alternately.
The exercises for the neck are quite similar to that of the eyes. It is necessary to keep the spinal cord straight while performing these exercises, that help the neck become flexible and toned. These exercises also help in removing the stiffness of the neck or tension in the neck muscles.
- In the first step, the head should be bent forward, and the chin has to rest on the chest. The head should then be brought back to the original position.
- The neck should be bent to the right side and brought back to the original position.
- In this step, the neck is bent backwards and again brought to the original position.
- In the penultimate step, the neck is moved to the left and then raised back to the initial position.
- The last step is a combination of all the earlier steps. The chin is bent forward and rested on the chest. The first movement should be that of moving from right side to the left; the second movement is opposite to that of the first. Then the head is moved from left to right.
- The head is finally brought to the original position.
This is an important warm-up pose to loosen up the back muscles. One has to sit with the legs placed in front; the knees have to be positioned straight. The fingers of the hands need to be interlocked with each other, and positioned in front of the chest. The spine should also be maintained in a straight position. While bending forward, the hands need to stretch forward and the head brought near the knees as much as possible. Getting the head back to the original position completes one repetition. Twenty such repetitions need to be performed to warm up the back muscles.
In this exercise, the muscles of the body, from the fingers to the toes, are stretched. To perform this exercise, one should stand with both feet placed together. The fingers need to be interlocked and raised above the head. Raising the arms above the head brings the arms near the ears. The whole body should then be stretched and raised; while balancing on the toes. In this process, air should be inhaled, which pulls the stomach inside; the whole body is then extended upwards.
The warm-up exercises described in the article above should provide enough exercise to the different muscles of body. Exercises like full body traction have to be performed slowly in the beginning and mastered gradually.