This first Yoga asana, the Corpse Posture, is one of the most important and although you may be itching to learn something a little more spectacular 1 do want to impress on you that stretching and relaxation is the beginning of all Yoga. It calms the mind and renews the body with energy and the life force which is known as PRANA. SO do practice Savasana wherever and whenever you possibly can.
Many people make their first mistake of the day the moment they open their eyes in the morning, and they start a chain reaction which echoes throughout the day. They open their eyes, look at the clock, and leap out of bed in a frenzy. The poor human body is built to withstand an appalling amount of abuse but to subject it to this kind of punishment, day after day, is simply courting trouble. Think what happens to your nervous system when you wake up and hurl yourself out of bed in the morning. Shock and an unspeakable buffeting. Is it necessary? Give yourself a little time to return to this world from the threshold of another. Set your alarm clock just five minutes earlier than usual, try this Yoga waking up routine, and see the difference to your whole day.
Waking up Routine
The word stretching is reiterated throughout this book and it crops up here too, first thing in the morning. Stretch up your arms with your fingers interlaced and palms upwards, stretch your legs, open your mouth wide and yawn several times. As you lie in bed, still half asleep, keep on yawning and stretching like a cat and then finally relax your body and do the following leg stretching exercise.
Leg stretching exercise
This is very simple. While lying in bed with your feet together push one of your legs down towards the bottom of the bed as though you were trying to lengthen it. Point your toes and you will feel a pull from your hip right down to your heel. Hold this position for one minute only and then relax. If you haven’t a clock with a minute hand then simply count to sixty as you push your leg forward. After a moment’s rest repeat the exercise with the other leg. As this is a very potent exercise for the nerves do not repeat it more than once at a time for each leg. It may be repeated when you go to bed at night if you so wish.
After the Leg Stretching exercise very slowly get out of bed, stretch once more with your arms above your head and I assure you that your usual morning half dead feeling will be conspicuous by its absence.
I will end your first lesson in stretching and relaxation by describing an exercise taken from the ancient system of SOORYA NAMASKAR OR SUN EXERCISE because it is practiced facing the sun as it rises, or at least in the early morning. There are twelve positions which bring flexibility to the spine which is so vital if one is to perform the more strenuous Yoga asanas. Of the twelve, which stretch various ligaments and give different movements to the vertebral column, I have selected a series of five which the average reader will not find beyond his capabilities. In this series a full round constitutes nine movements, that is five forward movements and four retracing ones.
Soorya Namaskar or Sun Exercise
1. Stand erect, feet together, hands at your sides. Take a deep
slow breath, raise your arms above your head with the fingers
interlaced and then bend backwards as far as you can
without overbalancing. (See Fig. 8, page 39.)
2. Now exhale as completely as you can and at the same time
bend forward and place your palms flat on the floor about four
or five inches in front of your toes. Keep your knees absolutely
straight. The correct position is shown in figure 2.
One important feature of the SUN EXERCISE is the chin lock, which simply means pressing your chin tightly against your chest. The Yogis maintain that this has a beneficial effect on the thyroid glands. Remember while performing the SUN EXERCISE to maintain the chin lock through stages 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, and 8.
3. Inhale again, step back with the right foot as in figure 3 so
that the other knee is bent and the chin lock is maintained.
4. Exhale once more and move the other leg back as in
figure 4, keeping the knees as rigid as possible and trying to reach
the floor with your heels. This is not possible of course but the
action of trying to reach the floor with the heels will increase the
pull on the calves and thighs. Remember to maintain the chin lock.
5. Inhale again, slowly and deeply and at the same time release
the chin lock and, while keeping the upper part of the body as
steady as possible, lower the legs and abdomen slowly. Balance
throughout stage 5 on the toes and palms until you are in the
cobra-like position in figure 5. Arch your back as fully as pos
sible, keep your knees rigid and press back your neck and your
head while keeping your arms straight. Only your palms and
your toes should touch the floor.
6. Having performed the five exercises you must now retrace
your steps to the starting position thus: from stage 5 assume the
position in figure 4 with the body making a bridge. (See Below.)
Bring one leg forward as in figure 3.
Bring forward the other leg and you are now bending for
ward with your palms flat on the floor as in figure 2.
Very slowly straighten up, take a deep breath and then lie
down for a few moments and relax.
It may take you a little time to perfect the Sun Exercise, as it has taken you some little time to read it and look at the illustrations but the actual performance of it should take you no more than sixty seconds if done correctly. It is not really complicated and once you have learned the simple sequence of movements they should follow one another with fluid simplicity. Nothing should be hurried. Every movement of the SUN EXERCISE should be held for as long as possible before proceeding to the next.
The benefits are manifold. Soorya Namaskar stretches the spine in several directions and helps to keep it supple. It stretches and contracts the abdomen and so helps to relieve congestion and constipation. It tones and limbers up the muscles and has a bracing effect on the entire body. Soorya Namaskar is one of the most complete and beneficial exercises in the whole Yoga range and should never be omitted from your practice schedule.
I will now outline a schedule for those of you who are convinced that you cannot find the time to practice Yoga asanas. It requires but twelve minutes but if you can find more time in which to practice so much the better.
Leg stretching exercise, sixty seconds each leg 2 minutes
Savasana or Corpse Posture preceded by con
centration on relaxing muscles, tension of
muscles or Angle Balance 5 minutes
3. Sun Exercise performed slowly four times 4 minutes
The extra minute is to give you time to wake up. Twelve minutes is so very little time out of your whole day but you may soon find that these minutes become the most important part of your day because of your increased feeling of relaxation and well being. In time that alarm going off twelve minutes early will not seem like a monster but more like a welcome friend.
Tension and emotional stress
You are not alone, you who are tense, nervous, worried, unable to relax even in bed. You seem to be tied up in knots and you sometimes feel at your screaming wits’ end. And you take relaxation pills, pep pills, tranquillizers, anything to give you a ‘lift’ and then wonder at the resulting unpleasant side effects. Can Yoga help? But of course it can. Yoga doesn’t like drugs and you know, your body does not either so if the so-called orthodox methods have failed to establish an easing of tension in your overworked body and over-worried mind then why not try Yoga’s way ? Yoga has often been known to succeed when medicine has failed.
Proper breathing is intrinsically linked with relaxation, with the emotions, with the health of the body itself. The thoughts are reflections of the breathing habits and so if the breathing is faulty then the mind cannot but be affected. You can prove this for yourself by your day to day experiences. When you are absorbed in a book, watching television, or listening to an interesting talk on the radio your breathing processes become slow. When your mind is afflicted by anger, or sorrow, the breath becomes irregular and choppy. When you are frightened you gasp and hold your breath, and when you are bored you open your mouth and yawn.
The exercises formulated by the Yogis of ancient times in connection with the respiratory tract are all based on a close observation of the body’s natural impulses. This most vital of the body’s functions is so neglected by the average person that the majority of people take in only enough oxygen to keep themselves from falling dead.
Mind and breath, then, being interdependent, you must learn how to breathe properly if you want to calm your mind and rid yourself of your worries and frustrations in everyday life. When you are at peace your breath is slow and even so if you reverse the process and learn to breathe slowly and deeply your mind will follow suit. You cannot be worried and upset if you are breathing in a calm and controlled manner, nor can you be calm if your breath is coming in hurried jerks.
So first things first. I want you to try the Yoga COMPLETE BREATH which employs the lower, middle and upper lung. It is sometimes divided into three—diaphragmatic,...