Stretching exercises are important as they provide flexibility to the body muscles and tissues. Performing stretching exercises is important before you sit for a good meditation. One basic principle in such exercises is if you rotate your hands clock wise, you have to compulsorily rotate them in the opposite direction. If you turn your neck to your right, you have to turn it towards your left also. These exercises if practiced with inhalation and exhalation, will give results much faster. For example when you turn your head to your right, you have to inhale slowly along with the movement of your head. The turning of your head and inhalation should synchronize.

In the same way when you bring back your head to the normal position, you should gradually exhale and by the time your head is brought to the normal position, all the air in the lungs would have been expelled. The idea behind this is that your lungs expand when you turn right or left and get back to the normal position when you reach your normal posture. When the lungs expand, they take more air and when constricted, they push all the air out. Thus the impure air in the lungs is totally pushed out. If you understand this basic concept of stretching and breathing, you can design your own exercises. It would always be better this way instead of mechanically following the yoga books. It is easy for you to identify your own body parts that have congestion or tension. Once you are done with these exercises, you have to ensure that you lie flat on your back, with your hands and legs stretched. This relaxation is important to ensure that your energy spreads uniformly in your body.

Now let us look into some of the basic exercises to be performed before the commencement of meditation. Stand erect. Turn your neck to your left by inhaling. Bring the neck to the normal position by exhaling. Turning of neck and breathing should synchronize. Now turn your neck to your right by inhaling. Bring back to the normal position by exhaling. Stand erect. Push your head backwards by inhaling. Do not loose your balance. By exhaling push the head down towards your chest by exhaling. Do not apply pressure and if you apply pressure you may hear some cracking sound from your neck area. This is not good. Rotate your arms parallel to your trunk first anti-clock wise and then clock wise. First do it with your left arm and then with the right arm. You can inhale when your hands move away from your trunk and exhale when they are nearing your trunk. Stand erect. Raise your arms in front of you and keep them in 45degrees angle from your trunk, with your palms open. Keep your feet one foot apart, heels a little closer and toes a little apart. Now turn your trunk upwards to your left as much as possible. Do not apply pressure in the neck. You will feel the stretch from your ankle upwards. Move the palm of your left hand as long as your eyes can watch the left palm. Bring your right arm folded at the elbow towards your left arm pit. When you move into this position, inhale.

Come back to the original position by exhaling. Then turn towards your right and come back to the normal position. Stand erect and keep a distance about 2’ between your heels and your toes spread apart. Keep your hands above your head. Now bend towards your left by moving your left hand down to touch your left thigh. Make an arch with your right hand over your head. Come back to the original position. Then do this on your right side. Inhale when you bring your left hand down and exhale when you bring your left hand to the original position i.e. above your head. Do sit up exercises. Sit and stand alternatively with your entire feet on the ground. We will continue with more such exercises in the next posting. Please note that these exercises are only to ensure free flow of prana and to remove any energy blocks.

Further readings:

Importance of Breathing - Svara Yoga

Breathing Exercise

Basic Breathing Techniques

Kapalabhati Pranayama