Divya Sachdev, YES+ teacher, shares instructions and experiences of yoga warm-up exercises in The Art of Living International Center, Bangalore.
It was a beautiful Friday morning. I sprang out of my bed as I was looking forward to a wonderful morning yoga session at the meditation hall of The Art of Living International Center (a place I call home). Usually Dr. Sejal, an Art of Living Yoga teacher, leads the morning yoga sessions through a series of graceful yoga postures. We follow suit – perhaps not as graceful, yet with complete sincerity. It is beautiful to watch hundreds move synchronously while chirping birds provide the background score. This morning was no different.
Firing up with a smile
We started on-the-spot jogging and jumping, feeling a surge of energy well up. The pace increased as we heard Dr. Sejal say, “Jog as if your feet are on fire”. We jogged vigorously, moving our whole body - swinging our arms, bringing our knees to the hip level and moving the upper torso forward and backward. The next few moments we heard the 'thuds' of hundreds of feet people shouting "Fire" with a smile. And as we relaxed, I realized that I wasn’t sleepy anymore.
Yoga for the face
Then we did some Sukshma Yoga exercises for the face. We massaged our head, eyes, eyebrows, ears, cheeks and our chin. Dinesh Kashikar, senior Art of Living Yoga teacher, says "Warm-up sequence should flow in one direction, either head to toe or toe to head." That day we were perhaps following the head to toe order. Yet it didn’t really matter to me. That moment was all about the gentle massage I was giving my cheeks. That simple movement made me feel so free and relaxed. I was ready for the next round.
Dance of breath and yoga
Five to six neck rotations followed. Slow movements synchronized with the breath. Thanks to the Art of Living Yoga teachers, I have come to expect instructions on how to breathe in different yoga postures. It’s simple. Just as toothpaste and toothbrush go together,so does following a breath pattern with each yoga posture. Dr. Sejal's instructions followed soon, “Breathe in as you take your head up.” And breathing out, we brought our head down to touch the chin to the chest. We followed the same breathing pattern while rotating other parts of the body, such as shoulders, wrist, waist and knees. Nope, we didn't forget the elbows. Breathing out, I threw my arms outwards and breathing in I placed my palms on my shoulder.
Ghost walk for foot massage
We walked using the inner side of the foot and then the outer side while twisting our hands in various ways and laughing making different sounds, sometime 'hee hee' or 'haa haa'. My friends call it the ghost walk. We walked like this for a few minutes and met a few other laughing ghosts.
Some tips while creating your warm-up sequence
- Move your joints and muscles in all possible ways
- Follow a breath pattern
- Move in one direction during warm-up, either head to toe or toe to head
- Get creative with fun ways to warm-up
Yogic sitting on 'seat'
“Now, let’s all sit down comfortably,” came the next instruction and we followed our leader into the Chair Pose. We bent our knees keeping the upper body straight, hands ahead parallel to the ground. If you prefer sitting on a sofa, you can straighten your smile and relax like you are sitting on a sofa! Bending a little more from the knees… and a little more, we finally sat on our yoga mats.
Just as a car needs to be warmed up before starting it, I was now warmed up to go on an inward journey. We completed the morning yoga session with Padma Sadhana followed by Sudarshan Kriya.
Warm-up exercises have immense benefits. What we did on that Friday morning was just one way of putting together a few postures and creating a warm-up regimen. You can create your own series of warm-up exercises and practice a different one each day. Let us know your favorite warm-up sequences on the Art of Living Yoga Facebook page.