I was lucky enough to attend a high school with two years of Hatha Yoga
available for PE credits (1.5 credits of PE were required), taught by a senile
, 80-year-old German woman
named Marianne Srinivasan. Within this Writeup I have detailed the daily warmup routine which was done before each and every workout.
These should be performed before attempting any other Yoga exercises lest you pull a muscle in your back or neck. As with any other Yoga exercises, you should perform them on some sort of padded surface, like an exercise mat.
Do not practice Yoga on a full stomach, it interferes with digestion.
Do not practice any inverted pose if you have high blood pressure or an infection.
Do not practice forward bends, abdominal lift, intra-abdominal pressure poses when there is an enlargement of the spleen or inflammation of other such glands.
People with varicose veins should avoid exercises with legs folded back.
It is advisable to consult a doctor if a back problem exists. Mild back problems improve with the practice of yoga exercises as long as certain back bends are avoided(none of the ones in this warmup)
Also, women are discouraged from attempting inverted poses during menstruation, or an increased chance of infection will occur.
The first exercise you must master is the Diaphramatic breathing exercise. Simply perform this exercise for 5 minutes before you start the others:
Start laying down with your eyes closed, and your concentration centered on your lungs. Have your hands on your chest pointed at each other, so that your two middle fingers barely touch in the center.
Begin to breathe in so that your lungs expand out to the side, rather than expanding your diaphragm and causing your belly to come up. When you get it right, your two middle fingers should come apart (they are resting on your ribs, when you breathe in correctly, your ribs expand, expanding your fingers). Count to between 3 and 5 seconds, concentrating on the numbers and your lungs expanding in your mind, as you inhale; as you exhale, pull your abdominal muscles in as far as you can towards your spine or the floor. You should count twice as long exhaling as you did inhaling (ex. if you inhaled for 4 seconds, exhale for 8 seconds). Set a timer so that you can do this for 5 minutes before you begin the rest of the warmup. As you begin to exercise your lungs and diaphragm, you may have to yawn; do not suppress it, it's normal.
The next warmup exercise is the spinal massage. It will prepare your back muscles for the rigorous exercises to follow.
Begin sitting with your knees to your chin, with your toes sort of pointed, touching the mat. Roll over on your back so that your legs are over your head, at a 90 degree angle, with your hands resting on the mat behind your body. Hold this for 20 seconds (I prefer to count using the "one-one-thousand" method to get the correct amount of stretch time, but you can use whichever method you want), then roll back into the half-lotus position, diaphragmatically inhale deeply as mentioned earlier, and then deeply exhale as shown earlier. Repeat it twice more.
The second position in the exercise starts off like the first, rolling onto your back, except this time your legs are straighter, and pointed more toward the ceiling(or sky). Practice it the same way as the first, 3 times for 20 seconds each.
The third position is like the first, except let your knees come down and rest wherever the will rest (For me, they rest on my face or on the mat around my face; I've known some who can only let them rest a few inches above their face, but whatever floats your boat.), 3 times, for 20 seconds each.
The neck stretch is practiced sitting up in half-lotus position, with the hands resting on the knees. Hold your two pointer fingers so that they touch; you can use them to help concentrate on your counting (tap the two fingers together on each hand every second).
There are eight positions to the neck stretch. Each must be exited with a deep inhalation and exhalation before starting the next one, and held for 20 seconds besides. Sit with your back as straight as possible, with your mind focusing on your lungs or the count.
The first position is acquired by drooping the head down as far as possible first, then rotating the head to the right so your chin can tuck into the area around the edge of the chest. Hold down your left shoulder so that you feel a stretch on the left side and back of your neck, and hold for 20 seconds. When you come out, first straighten your head (without turning it yet) while inhaling, and then turn it to face forward with the exhalation.
The second position is acquired by simply touching the right ear to the right shoulder, or as close as you can get it, and then pulling the left shoulder down, and counting. When you come out of it, inhale as you bring your head up, and then exhale.
The next position is kind of confusing, because you go to the other side; start by turning your head as far as you can to the left. Then tilt the head back, and roll it over the right shoulder, pull up the right side of the jaw, and pull down the shoulders. You feel a stretch on the front-right area of the neck, around all those neat glands. Again, when you come out, first lower your head as you inhale, and turn it to face forward as you exhale.
In the fourth position, tilt your head back as far as you can, put the lower lip over the top, and pull it up (like Popeye!). Come out of it as you would the second position.
The next three positions are the same as the first three, on the opposite side.
The eighth position is a fairly hard one to achieve (at least as a man, I've found).. droop your head forward, tuck your chin into your chest, and pull your shoulders down. You should feel a stretch on the back of your neck, around the cervical spine, though I never felt this one until the second year of Yoga.
After you finish the neck stretches, sit with your back and neck straight for a few seconds, and try to concentrate on your inhalation and exhalation as long as you can. Don't let any other thoughts in. I'm willing to bet you can't do it for more than a few seconds as you start. Work on it.
This warmup is essential for everyday practice of Yoga. If you do Yoga without it, your back may become tense; your neck may become sprained; or you may faint from improper breathing (that has happened to me on several occasions, performing difficult exercises without first warming up).
See also: shoulder stand.
So, good luck, and happy Yogaing!