The Library

Basic Yoga Workout



For all round health and fitness remember the three essentials: strength, stamina and  flexibility.  Stiffness is one of the most obvious signs of aging in many people  - keep supple and keep young.


Try to workout in a warm but well ventilated space, indoors or out (but not in burning sun).  The sequence can be done at any time of day.   Allow at least an hour after a small meal - more after a large one.  Wear nothing, or a minimum, to allow the skin to breath and move unhindered.  Remember that Yoga seeks to bring a sense of unity to the whole body, physical, mental and spiritual.


The following practice aims to use every joint and major muscle group, as well as affecting the internal organs of the body.  As a general rule in Yoga breath OUT during any exercise which is closing or constricting the chest, and IN as the chest is opened and expanded.  Try to use slow `abdominal breathing`, where the diaphragm is involved.


This sequence does not require positions to be held, and it is important to be `warmed up` before you do so.  However if you choose to hold any stretching position remember that muscles take at least 5 seconds to stretch and then to relax.  Do not hurry - move slowly with awareness.  Hold your best position for a minimum count of 5, increasing up to about 30 seconds on average for most positions.  Do not strain to hold any position.  You may feel a good sense of stretch but there should be no pain.  If you have any doubts about your health, see your doctor 


The Practice


1.      Lie flat on your back.  Try to become heavy and relaxed for 1 - 2 mins.


2.      Breathing more deeply have a good stretch.


3.      Raise your right leg straight in the air and rotate your foot several times in each direction to loosen the ankle and stretch the hamstrings.  Bring your knee down to your chest, grasp your shin or behind your knee, and hold it in tightly stretching the lower back and buttock.  Return the leg to the ground and repeat with the left leg.


4.      Sitting, loosen the knee by bringing the knee up to the chest and down 2 - 3 times.  Keeping the foot on the ground close to the groin, allow the hip to open by lowering and raising the knee out to the side 2 - 3 times.    


5.      Take hold of the foot and lift it up and down, then push the foot at shoulder level  backwards and forwards, and finally circle the foot horizontally allowing the hip to move,  each 2 - 3 times.  Repeat with the left leg.


6.      Lying on the floor bring both knees to your chest, grasp your crossed feet or behind the knees, and rounding your back use your legs to give you some momentum to begin rocking backwards and forwards massaging the spine and the long back muscles.



7       Sitting, stretch and clench the fingers and `play the piano`; loosen the wrists by very slowly rotating the hands in each direction.


8           Extend and rotate the arms a few times with the elbows straight.


9       Place the fingers of each hand on the tops of the shoulders.  Breathing deeply rotate the elbows in large circles several times in each direction feeling the shoulder joints moving.


10.    If you have any neck problems avoid extreme positions.  To free the neck, keep the spine erect and as you breath out tuck in your chin to squeeze the Adam`s apple.  Breathing in, lift the head to look up towards the ceiling.  Keeping the chin parallel to the ground turn your head from side to side breathing out as you look over each shoulder.  Looking straight ahead tilt your head slowly from side to side.  Repeat each movement several times.


11.    With the eyelids lightly closed move the eyes as though looking up and down, side to side and in circles.  Allow several seconds rest,  Open the eyes and with one finger held about 30cms in front of the face focus backwards and forwards on the tip of the nose, the finger and a distant point.  Rub the palms of the hands together and cup the palms over the eyes to rest them.


12.    Move every part of the face and then give yourself a big toothy grin.


13.    Relax in the Corpse pose again for several minutes.  Try to be aware of any tension and let it go.  Watch your breathing but do not control it.  Avoid drifting into sleep, or allowing external thoughts to intrude, by concentrating on your breathing.  It may help to count the breaths in blocks of 10.


14.    Sitting with spine straight, begin to develop the skill of concentration by gazing at an object, or silently repeating a word such as `Peace`, or a phrase `I am free`, or again focus on the breath and count in blocks of 10 (go back to 1 if the mind wanders), for several minutes.  Don`t give up if your mind wanders, keep bringing your attention back.  Remember if it was easy we shouldn`t need to practise.


The sequence described above acts as a useful warm-up routine before more advanced Yoga posture work and need take only a few minutes. 


Remember that stress builds up slowly over days and years.  Keep it in check by taking an occasional deep breath and a sigh, try to relax and let your shoulders drop.  Take regular short breaks from concentrated work, even if it is only to look around you or to take a drink.  Many of the exercises described above can be fitted into your normal day.  They don`t all have to be done together or in sequence.


 Derek Osborn                                         

Simple side stretch