THINK ABOUT IT. The most important piece of equipment that you own is your body. After 16 years as an Olympic and professional windsurfer, I have just started to become aware of how important it is to maintain this piece of equipment! As my Dad always told me, “Youth is wasted on youth; why don’t they give it to us who know what to do with it!”
A little over a year ago a doctor friend introduced me to a Yoga Master from India. Now I have been competing in the last three Olympic Games and have met some of the most amazing physical specimens known to inhabit this earth. But after a few days with this Yoga Master, I am more impressed by his strength, vitality and health than I am with any other athlete I have met! The timing was perfect. I was four months away from competing in the 1996 Summer Olympic Games and was burned out by my training and stretching routine. This yogi master quickly awakened me to yoga and I became a determined student of this living art form.
Anyone can practice yoga. You don’t need any special equipment, just a small amount of space and the desire for a healthier, more fullfilled life. In yoga the postures or asanas stimulate circulation, thus lubricating every part of the body. The various positions stretch the entire skeletal system and tones internal organs. Even the nerves, endocrine and lymphatic systems are stimulated. The body is cooled by complete relaxation while pranayama or yogic breathing increases prana, the electric current of your body. This release of physical and mental tension is the beginning of having your body tuned for optimal performance.
Tuning your body is as important to performance as tuning your windsurfing equipment.
In the illustrations, you will find a brief explanation of how to practice the postures. It is best to establish a regular routine, preferably at the same time each day (best upon rising in the morning). Is is best to practice on an empty stomach. Do not use strain or force at any time and be constantly sensitive to the effects of each asana on your body. The postures will have a powerful influence on all systems of the body and will cause toxins to be released and eliminated. Some bodily discomfort may be felt during the initial stages, but will soon pass. Remember to breathe fully while doing each posture, focusing the breath into the part of the body that is being exercised.
TRIKOSANA-TRIANGLE : (middle) Stand with feet approximately 3 to 4 feet apart; the correct distance is the length of your own leg. Turn right foot out ninety degrees. Turn left foot in thirty degrees. For correct balance, place heel of right foot directly in line with middle of left foot. Bend from hip joint, extend torso sideways to the right, in line with the legs. (left) Place right hand on ankle, calf, or wherever it can reach without strain. Extend left arm vertically, gazing up towards left thumb. Hold position, breathing normally. Slowly return to standing position. Reverse pose. (right) REVERSE TRIANGLE: Start as before, right foot to the right, left foot slightly to the right with arms extended. Exhale. Twist torso to the right and place left arm on ground to the outside of right foot. Breathe normally while focusing gaze on right thumb. Reverse pose for opposite side. BENEFITS: An intense lateral stretch to the spine which opens the chest, hips, intestines and abdominal organs. Strengthens legs, tones spinal nerves, and accelerates peristalsis of the bowels. Also increases appetite and relieves lower back pain.
SAVASANA – CORPSE: Lie flat on back like a corpse, hands palm up, placed a short distace from the thighs. Keep back of heels together and allow the feet to fall outward. Start breathing deeply, concentrating on deep and fine exhalations, in which the nostrils do not feel the warmth of breath. Lower jaw should hang loose, not clenched, with the tongue relaxed. Even the pupils of the eyes should be kept totally passive. Relax completely and breathe out slowly. If the mind wanders, pause without any strain after each slow exhalation. BENEFITS: This posture destroys fatigue and quiets the aggitation of the mind. When the nerves become passive, one feels completely relaxed and refreshed, letting the energy flow from the back of the head towards the heels. It is also the easiest posture to assume when starting to meditate.
VIDALASANA-CAT POSE: Kneel on “all fours” with hands and knees slightly apart, arms and thighs perpendicular to the floor. Exhaling, drop chin to chest and push up shoulder blades, making back as round as possible. Inhaling, lift head and arch the back, stretching chest, stomach, and abdomen. BENEFITS: Strengthens the back, loosen vertebrae, and stretches the neck and shoulders. Often recommended by orthopedists for strenghtening weak backs. Also highly beneficial for toning female organs and for pregnant women.
VIRABHADRASANA- HERO POSE: Stand with legs about 4 1/2 feet apart. Join hands together above the head. Turn right foot ninety degrees to the right, left foot slightly to the right. Flex the right knee till the thigh is parallel to the floor and the right shin perpendicular to the floor. Stretch out the left leg and tighten the knee cap. The face, chest and right knee should face the same direction as the right foot. Breathe and look up, focusing on the hands. Repeat pose on opposite side. BENEFITS: Fully expands the chest, relieves stiffness in traps, shoulders and back, tones the ankles and knees and cures a stiff neck. Also reduces fat around torso.
LUNG MERIDIAN POSTURE: Stand with legs three to four feet part. Interlock fingers behind back. Exhale and bend forward from the waist. Extend arms as if to touch hands to ground. Relax into stretch and breathe deeply. BENEFITS: Re-energizes lung meridian, increasing breathing capacity. Excellent stretch for shoulders, traps, and hamstrings.
USHTRASANA- CAMEL POSE: Sit on heels, knees slightly apart. Inhale slowly and reach back, first with one hand to grab one heel, then the other heel with other hand. Push buttocks, abdomen forward, arching back and bending head back. BENEFITS: Expands and develops the chest; strenghtens the lungs, spine and reproductive glands; stimulates digestion,cures constipation and increases flexibility.
URDHVA DHANURASANA- WHEEL: Lie on back, knees bent, feet brought up to buttocks. Raise arms, bend them backwards and place hands above shoulders, fingers pointed towards your feet. Hands and feet should be shoulder width apart. Inhale, straighten arms and rest on head for two breaths. Raise hips up while pushing through arms and legs for maximum extension. Breathe normally. BENEFITS: Gives one great vitality, energy and a feeling of lightness while toning arms, wrists and stretching whole spine. Stimulates all chakras (energy centers) of the body.
SARVANGASANA – SHOULDER STAND: Start on back, palms down. Push down through the hands, raising legs up and beyond the head at a 45% angle. Extend legs upward while supporting body with hands on back, shoulders and elbows as close as possible. Straighten spine, press chin firmly into base of throat. Straighten torso, work elbows close together. BENEFITS: Relieves headaches, asthma, bronchitis, hernias, constipation, insomnia, men- strual complications, ulcers and colitis, just to name a few.