Main Look 15 Years Younger: The 15-Minute-a-Day Yoga Plan
Look 15 Years Younger: The 15-Minute-a-Day Yoga PlanBarbara Currie
Britain's biggest name in yoga, Barbara Currie, who at 60 has the figure she had at 21 here shares her secrets. With all the latest research as to how yoga can beat the signs of ageing, this book provides step-by-step 15 minute routines to help you lose weight and look younger.
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LOOK 15 YEARS YOUNGER Barbara Currie To my wonderful family: my mother Babs, my husband Gordon, my daughter Lysanne, my son Mark, my daughter-in-law Rachel and my brother Richard and his family. I am most grateful to you all for your kindness and unconditional love and support. Table of Contents Title Page Dedication Introduction What Is Yoga? The Seven Stay-young Secrets of Yoga Before We Begin How to Use This Book PART ONE: 15-MINUTE MIRACLES Chapter 1: Stage 1 Chapter 2: Stage 2 Chapter 3: Stage 3 Chapter 4: Stage 4 Chapter 5: Stage 5 Chapter 6: Stage 6 PART TWO: GROWING YOUNGER WITH YOGA Chapter 7: Your 15-Minute Facial Chapter 8: Arms, Neck and Shoulders Chapter 9: Flat Stomach Plan Chapter 10: Bottom, Hips and Thighs Chapter 11: Your Ageless Body Chapter 12: Amazing Age-defying Anti-gravity Movements Meditation The Power of Visualization My 30 Tips for Looking and Feeling Young For Ever Acknowledgements Copyright About the Publisher Introduction Since the beginning of time, man has searched for that magical something to give him eternal youth. Today this searching is at an all-time high, with billions being spent on miracle ‘get young’ face creams, neck creams, eye creams, cosmetic surgery, botox injections, collagen implants and facials, all with the ultimate quest of looking and feeling younger and halting the advance of the years. But why do we want to be and look younger? When we were young, did we appreciate it? Didn’t we curse the spots and pimples, the lack of self-esteem, the school exams, relationship problems, etc? We had unlined skin, but did we appreciate that? Didn’t we cover it with make-up and try to look years older than we were? So what is it that we yearn for about youth? Do we really want to put the clock back and go through all those years again? – I doubt it! George Bernard Shaw once said, ‘Youth is wasted on the young?’ Isn’t what we are searching for something quite, quite different? Wouldn’t we rather keep our present age but have the radiance, amazing energy, excitement, flexibility and agility of youth? Wouldn’t we like to get rid of the sagging muscles, aches and pains, excess weight, diminished eyesight and hearing and memory loss and replace it with a toned, firm and beautiful body, amazing energy, glowing, unwrinkled skin and improved memory, eyesight and hearing? Wouldn’t we like to be able to stay calm under stress, sleep really well at night and wake with that good-to-be-alive feeling and keep making new goals and planning new ventures regardless of our age? If you are answering ‘yes’ to any of the above, then yoga is for you. I became a yoga addict at my very first yoga class over 30 years ago. I was stiff, tired, tense and out of sorts when I enrolled to try yoga for the very first time, but the sight of my teacher, then in her late fifties, will stay in my memory for ever. She was perfectly toned and, as she stood to demonstrate posture after posture, she did it with the flexibility, ease – and body shape – of an 18 year old. She didn’t look tired or tense, but radiated a wonderful zest for life that was contagious and I left my first class walking taller and feeling better than I had felt for ages. As I continued to learn yoga, from time to time I received some jolts or wake-up calls as ancient legends and parables were recited to us teaching us age-old truths. This is one of my favourites. It goes something like this: Once upon a time there was a king with the most amazing palaces, beautiful gardens and parks, servants to cater for his every need and riches beyond his wildest dreams. He did not, however, enjoy good health or happiness. He desired these two qualities more than anything else in life, and sent his servants out far and wide to find someone with the secret that they could share with him. Eventually, after many, many years of combing his kingdom, his servants found an old woman in the mountains who made a very special herbal brew. The King sent for her immediately, but she refused to come, saying that the brew had to be made freshly and the herbs grew only around her small house in the mountains. So one day the King, reluctantly, went to see her. She insisted that he stayed in her house alone with her for a least a week, and again, reluctantly, the King agreed. The old woman gave him simple fresh food and took him for long walks in the beautiful mountains that surrounded her home. They watched the sunrise and sunset and marvelled at the bright starry skies. Each night before bed she dosed him with the special herbal mix, saying it would bring him health and happiness. The King slept better than he had done in years. At the end of the week, he said happily that the herbal brew had worked wonders and he needed to take a large supply back with him to his palace, for which he would reward her handsomely. The old woman replied, ‘There was nothing in the brew that had any special power at all. The secret of happiness and health is and has always been within ourselves.’ All she had done was reveal this to him. Isn’t this what we are really looking for? When you are happy and healthy inside, your face and body glow with a youthful inner radiance that no amount of expensive face creams or cosmetic surgery can give you. The Yogis of ancient India realized this well over 5,000 years ago. What Is Yoga? The word yoga means ‘yoking’ or the joining together of body, mind and spirit with the universal spirit. Realizing that for positive health, happiness and peace of mind, both mind and body must work together in complete harmony; the yogis developed this wonderful system of personal development, the science of yoga. Yoga is comprised of slow, deep, healthy breathing practices to stimulate oxygen to every cell, physical exercises to tone 100 per cent of the body both inside and out, balancing postures to strengthen the body and help us learn the power of concentration and focus, inverted positions to reverse the adverse ageing effects of gravity, stretching movements to keep the joints and spine in perfect condition, deep relaxation to help us release tension and relax, and meditation for calm, deep, inner peace. The exercises, coupled with a healthy diet, keep the body in radiant health. The body becomes firm and beautiful, the skin glows with health, posture is corrected, stresses and strains vanish, and agility and tremendous flexibility are restored. In my opinion, yoga is the best elixir of youth. By practising daily you will soon start to reap its magical benefits. Inside each and every one of us is a force of energy called prana, literally translated as ‘lifeforce’. This life-force flows freely through the body in youth, but can dwindle with age if the body isn’t cared for correctly, resulting in such things as lack of energy, stiffness in the joints, tension, insomnia, obesity, depression and memory loss, together with poor posture, wrinkled, sagging skin and dull thin hair – i.e., the conditions we refer to as ageing. The modern way of treating this process lies in a special pill, potion, miracle cream or remedy – but these provide only temporary relief as you are treating the symptoms, not the underlying cause of the problem. The cause is obviously within ourselves. Yoga proves that with proper exercise it is possible to stimulate the vital force within us. This doesn’t come about by applying a miracle cream to your face or by sweating it out in the gym, but by proper breathing, stretching and working your body so that tensions blocking the life-force around every organ, gland, nerve, tendon, cell, blood vessel, joint and bone are released and your body becomes nourished, revitalized and perfectly toned from within. This, combined with alleviating stress with deep relaxation and meditation and programming the mind to think and be 15 years younger, is the real secret to eternal youth. This wonderful thing called youth cannot be found ‘out there’, no matter where you look, how many expensive face creams you buy, how far you travel or how much surgery you have. The secret of youth is within you. All you have to do is learn the seven major rejuvenating secrets of yoga and commit to 15 minutes daily practice seven days a week, and you will do more for your body, mind, looks and feeling of well-being than you ever thought possible. You will look, feel and be 15 years younger. The Seven Stay-young Secrets of Yoga 1. The Secret of Energy The body has a natural energy flow that gives rise to a wonderful feeling of glowing health and well-being. It is, however, easily blocked or interrupted by feelings of tension, worry, anger, guilt, depression, etc. The tensions of the mind can lead to tension in the body, which can weaken the body and can eventually lead to disease. Yoga gets rid of tension by allowing you to stretch your entire body from top to toe, both inside and out. The deep breathing that accompanies yoga practice increases the oxygen level in the bloodstream. Life-giving oxygen is needed by every cell; the brain in particular has a tremendous need for oxygen. By stretching out tension, breathing deeply and then performing postures with your head below your heart, oxygen is carefully distributed to all the body’s parts, including the brain, and as a result you will feel and look refreshed and revitalized on finishing your yoga workout. As you continue your yoga practice on a daily basis you will find that your whole body starts to feel better, and you will start to understand that daily stretching to unblock your energy zones, eating fresh, vital foods, learning to relax, and meditating to calm your mind and receive new ideas puts new life into you. The energy of youth is restored and you acquire a new and real zest for life. An extra benefit comes from visualizing energy flowing through your entire system as you perform your yoga postures. As you concentrate on doing the movements, all negative thoughts will slip from your mind. Negative thoughts are the main energy-drainers, but no matter how tired you are before you start your yoga you will feel calm, focused and energized afterwards. Motion changes emotion. Whatever you can do or dream you can begin it. Boldness has genius, magic and power in it. Begin it now. GOETHE 2. The Secret of Perfect Shape Yoga works 100 per cent of the body, carefully stretching, toning and firming all the muscles in accordance with their natural movements. This gives the body a beautiful shape, corrects posture and rebalances weak areas – correcting ugly, fatty deposits and giving the body the famous streamlined yoga look. Yoga will never give you a hulky-bulky, tight muscular appearance, as this is totally against yoga principles. If you tighten your muscles you are like a puppet whose strings are too taut, inhibiting the natural flexibility of the body and so limiting its movement, leading to unnatural ageing and stiffness. Firmness of the muscles is essential to prevent the skin sagging and wrinkling and also to keep the internal organs in their correct place. Nothing looks worse than a dropped abdomen, and movements such as the Abdominal Lift are brilliant for keeping this area firm, toned and youthful. The bottom is toned and the back strengthened with movements like the Full Locust. The thighs get an amazing workout with the Camel, Sideways Leg Raise and Heron postures. The arms are perfectly toned with the Chest Expansion, Pose of a Mountain and Cow. The face and neck area become very youthful with the head and neck exercises and the Lion. The hair regains its lustre as the movements stimulate your scalp. Finally, the ageing effects of gravity are carefully reversed by yoga’s inverted postures such as the Shoulderstand and Headstand, which do wonders for the way we look and feel. Grace, beauty, strength, energy and firmness adorn the body through yoga. YOGA SUTRA 111.47 3. The Secret of Concentration and Focus Once you start yoga, you realize that it is much more than an exercise system. The movements are quite intricate and this necessitates that you give full attention to what you are doing. By concentrating on the movement you are totally involved in the present moment and your mind is given relief from your normal day-to-day activities, so helping it to clear and giving it a rest. This means that after a yoga class your mind is calmer and much more able to deal with everyday problems, and your workload will seem easier. The balances of yoga necessitate total concentration and by focusing on a spot to help us balance physically we calm, clear and balance the mind. Ayurveda, the holistic medical teaching of ancient India, says ‘What you see you become.’ One of yoga’s ancient texts puts it this way: You are what your deep driving desire is. As your desire is so your will, as your will is so is your deed. As your deed is so is your destiny. BRIHADARANYAKA UPANISHAD IV.4.5 What you see, feel and take in from your environment is a huge amount of stimuli. Your mind cannot possibly take in all this, so it filters out all but a small amount. Your personal selection is very individual and controlled solely by your way of interpreting the things around you. For example: Two people are on holiday abroad together and they go on a tour to see an ancient architectural site. They have to walk about a mile from their coach stop to see this building. It is hot and the road is dusty and dirty; the site, however, is magnificent. On returning to the coach, one person is overjoyed, as the ancient building was bigger, better and more beautiful than her greatest expectations, whereas the other grumbles about the heat, the dust on the road and the dirty, dishevelled appearance of the villagers pestering them to buy souvenirs. She hardly noticed the incredible architecture. This is just a small example to show how different people can interpret the same experience totally differently. This extraordinary ability of the mind has an incredible effect on our lives, especially with regards to ageing. In his brilliant book, Grow Younger, Live Longer, Deepak Chopra tells us of the following experiment. Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer conducted a fascinating experiment. She took groups of men in their seventies and eighties and encouraged them to think, act and be as if they were 20 years younger. After doing this for only 5 days these men showed a number of physical changes associated with age reversal. Their hearing and vision had improved, they performed better on tests of manual dexterity and joint mobility had improved. This goes to show that how we think has a huge influence on our body. Back to the power of focus. If we continually focus on something and keep it in our mind it will grow stronger, whereas if we take our focus away it will gradually wither and disappear. Here is another simple example: Say you wanted to change your car, and fancied a dark green sports car. You had always wanted a car like this, but only recently felt you could afford it. Every magazine or newspaper you pick up seems to have a dark green sports car in it that catches your eye. As you drive you notice the green sports cars coming in the opposite direction. In car parks you will automatically be drawn to green sports cars. Now, these cars were there all the time, but you never noticed them because your mind can only take a small selection of the vast amount of stimuli around you. Until you concentrate your mind on something, it does not grow in your consciousness. We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are. THE TALMUD How does this relate to our bodies? Enormously. Every day, focus on excellent health, a beautiful body shape, your body radiant with energy and your life filled with exciting new ideas and projects. See yourself as happy, beautiful, young and vital. As you step into your shower imagine you are stepping into the fountain of youth, which will renew and refresh you daily. Do this every day for a week and you will feel the difference. Life is the movie you see through your own unique eyes. It makes little difference what is happening out there, it is how you take it that counts. DENNIS WAITLEY THE WINNER’S EDGE 4. The Secret of Flexibility When you meet someone for the very first time, don’t you notice their flexibility and posture? Don’t you get that feeling of youth and vitality if they stand or sit up straight and move with a relaxed agility? On the other hand, if the person has a stoop and walks stiffly and slowly, don’t they immediately look old? The joints and spine normally stiffen with age. Yoga again demonstrates that for life-long flexibility it is necessary to work the joints carefully and in all possible directions of movement. By doing this we stimulate the flow of synovial fluid over the shiny cartilage covering the surfaces of the joints. This acts as ‘joint oil’ to ensure that the joint moves smoothly, and also gives nourishment to the cartilage. Correct exercise also strengthens the muscles around the joint, giving it support. Yoga will also add to the elasticity of your ligaments and tendons, and can help to remove the calcium deposits that can collect around the joint surface, so helping your joints remain flexible for life. A major yoga teaching is ‘You are as young as your spine is flexible.’ This is so true-just look around you and you will find that delightful ageless quality in people with a flexible spine. The spine has six directions of movement: forwards, backwards, side to side, and twisting in both directions. In our normal waking state, however, over 90 per cent of our time is spent bending forwards. Without correction, this can easily lead to the dreaded stoop. For perfect spinal health and flexibility, the spine needs exercising daily in all six ways. Exercises such as the upward stretch, forwards and backwards bend, or Salute to the Sun, sideways stretch or Half-moon posture and Triangle make a perfect routine that I have recommended to my pupils with back problems for the last 10 years, helping them to achieve amazing success. For joint flexibility I usually recommend these postures: Chest Expansion standing Dancer’s Posture Tree Balance Big Toe Balance Eagle Balance Alternative Leg Pull Thigh Stretch The Twist Backstretch The Cow The Mountain Pose of a Camel Pose of a Cat Pose of a Dog – followed by Deep Relaxation. If you are really stiff and aching, then it is best to see your doctor in the first instance. With his or her permission, go gently and carefully without strain into each movement. My experience with very many pupils is that yoga’s gentle movements can carefully ease the stiffness away and have very beneficial results. Most people start yoga stiff and uncoordinated, but even after just a few weeks their flexibility improves tremendously, they feel, look and act younger and, as stretching the body releases its tensions, blood flow to the joints is improved, resulting in increased flexibility, healthier joints and the agility of youth. One of the wonderful things about yoga is that it is never too late, pupils start yoga at all ages and I have many in their late seventies and eighties and all are improving with practice, so never give up. A tree that can fill the span of a man’s arms grows from a downy tip; a terrace nine storeys high rises from hodfuls of earth; a journey of a thousand miles starts from beneath one’s feet. LAO TZU, 6TH CENTURY BC 5. The Secret of Perfect Weight People frequently ask me this question: ‘If yoga doesn’t burn fat, then how on earth am I going to get slim?’ In yoga, we don’t huff and puff with repetitive movements to burn off calories and fat, but instead we work on fine-tuning the entire body, helping it to relaxed, vibrant, positive health. By working the entire body we stimulate the glands – the Shoulderstand, Fish and Cobra in particular are excellent for stimulating the thyroid gland in the neck, which of course can help energize a sluggish metabolism. As the body’s health improves you will find that your appetite becomes naturally controlled, as your appetite-regulating system works better. You will start to eat less and change to healthier foods. It is difficult to believe, but yoga actually does change your taste buds. Pupils frequently tell me that junk food that they thought they couldn’t live without now has lost its appeal. As you become healthier, calmer and more relaxed, you will find that you stop ‘tension-eating’ i.e. grabbing high-calorie snacks at all hours of the day and night. Yoga’s slow stretches give the muscles a beautiful long, lean toned shape, these weigh less than muscles toned by muscle building exercise systems. All this will result in a gradual, natural and healthy return to the best shape possible for your body type for life. Most people find that gradually over the years their weight normalizes with continued yoga practice, and it does lead people to start considering their diet. They start feeling better and focusing on health, and this leads them into a brand new way of eating. Some pupils, however, have been steeped in bad eating habits for so long that they need a lot of guidance before change can be effected. Because of this I offer the following advice. 1. DON’T EAT STANDING UP Obey this rule for one week and see the difference! So many people constantly nibble, eating on the go, eating between meals, eating the kids’ leftovers, ‘tasting’ as they cook the dinner, etc. This means that they are never really hungry and are always amazed when their skinny friends say, ‘I’m starving’ and sit and eat a good meal. When you stop picking and nibbling, your appetite will become fìne-tuned and you will enjoy your food so much more. Everything tastes great when you are really hungry. You will also know exactly what you eat and stop kidding yourself that you eat like a bird. 2. NEVER EAT BETWEEN MEALS Again, a continuation of the rule above, this stops the constant nibbling and snacking. When you sit down and eat three meals a day calmly and slowly with nothing in between you will find it makes a huge difference to your weight and the way you feel. You will feel so much more in control! 3. NEVER MORE THAN HALF-FILL YOUR STOMACH WITH FOOD; LEAVE A QUARTER FOR FLUID AND A QUARTER FOR DIGESTION This is brilliant advice from yoga’s ancient texts (Hatha Yoga Pradipika 4.58). Now let’s recap – if you don’t eat standing up and don’t eat between meals, you eat slowly and calmly, and never more than half-fill your stomach with food, you will normally find any excess weight slipping away naturally. What to Eat In yoga we eat for total positive health and for stimulating the prana or life-force within us. This is pure, natural food. Prepare your meals from the following selections: Feast on beautiful fresh fruit and natural healthy juices, fresh vegetables and salads, enjoy natural whole grains, nuts and seeds, a little milk, butter, cheese, natural organic live yoghurt, eggs, moderate amounts of fish and chicken and a small amount of red meat. Olive oil and walnut oil are excellent for inclusion in salad dressings with either lemon juice or vinegar, and be sure to add fresh herbs and spices to flavour your food. Try to drink at least 2 litres of water per day, and enjoy herbal tea and natural fruit juices. Try to restrict coffee and tea to a maximum of five cups per day, and have decaffeinated if possible. Restrict alcohol to just 1 glass of wine a day if desired. Avoid all diet products (they may contain additives; it is best to just eat fresh natural healthy food), biscuits, cakes, sweets, chocolates, bagels, buns, pasta (apart from wholegrain), pizza, jelly, blancmange and ice cream. Puddings, packaged cereals (apart from organic wholegrain ones), jams, sandwich spreads and fillers, fizzy drinks and heat-and-serve meals won’t do you any favours. Keep the accent on fresh, fresh, fresh foods – nothing tinned, frozen or preserved. (I have never seen a slim person asking for a diet drink or using sweeteners, but I find my larger friends use diet products constantly.) Think back to our Stone Age ancestors. They could only eat food that they could grow, catch or trap – no preservatives or additives were around, just a pure, natural, healthy diet. This is obviously the diet nature intended for us. Finally, my advice to you is make your own menu plans from the foods advised – and enjoy your food. If you find your weight not slipping away as you wish, simply cut down on your portions. I know it may seem hard, but once you realize that if you are heavier than your ideal weight for your height and build, quite simply eating less will do the trick. Man lives on one-quarter of what he eats. On the other three quarters his doctor lives. CHISELLED 5,000 YEARS AGO ON A PYRAMID IN EGYPT You don’t have to gain weight as you get older. Please don’t believe the excuses. Eating less is healthier; you feel better and have more energy. I could write an entire book on excuses people have given me as to why they are fat. Here are just a few examples: It’s a choice between face or figure after 40. It’s hereditary. It’s my bone structure. It’s my hormones. If I lose weight I’ll look too thin in the face. It’s my glands. My friends tell me I look great at a size 18 (at 5’4”?). It’s my HRT. It’s because I’m on the pill. I retain water, it’s not really fat. I hardly eat anything – I get fat if I just look at a piece of cake. It’s because I had that operation. Ever since I had my baby, my body shape has changed (no but your eating habits did!). Fools need to know that half exceeds the whole, how blest the sparing meal and temperate bowl. HESIOD, 700BC While there may be a small amount of truth in some of the above claims, I do find that for the majority of people, sticking to the above rules will do the trick. It is possible to keep your body in perfect shape regardless of age, and the food guide above will add to your health and vitality, and make you look and feel much younger. Doctors now tell us that the overload of toxins, chemicals, E numbers and preservatives in our food can contribute to wrinkled skin, grey hair and stiff joints. In his wonderful book Perfect Health, Deepak Chopra says, ‘Your adipose tissue (fat cells) fill up with fat and empty out constantly so all of it is exchanged every three weeks. You acquire a new stomach lining every five days (the innermost layer of stomach cells also is exchanged in a matter of minutes as you digest your food). Your skin is new every five weeks. Your skeleton, seemingly so solid and rigid, is entirely new every 3 months.’ So, as your body is being renewed all the time, why not change from being overweight and accepting illness, degeneration and decay, and help your body to vital positive health, youth, great hair, beautiful skin, good strong bones and a fabulous body? Change to the above plan and sit back and wait for the compliments to roll in. A final tip: Search through the magazines and find a body you really would love to have. Cut it out and paste it in your notebook or diary or on a piece of thin white cardboard – the card they put inside packets of tights is just perfect. Find a photo of you smiling, and replace the model’s head with your own. Don’t you look fantastic?! Keep this picture with you and look at it at least three times a day, before breakfast, lunch and dinner. This will imprint your new image deep into your subconscious mind, making it your real new image of you (more about this in the Meditation chapter); it will also stop you overeating. Good luck and good health! Menu Plan On the next page I have planned your first week’s diet for you. You may start on any day and interchange the menus to suit your own personal requirements. By following the plan shown you should easily lose at least 2–3 lb a week. Caution: I advise you to consult your doctor or nutritionist before starting on this or any other eating plan, to make sure that it is suitable for your personal dietary requirements. Let your food be your medicine; let your medicine be your food. HIPPOCRATES Remember, the body you will wear tomorrow will be made of the food you eat today! Rules 8 glasses water per day or more if desired. Tea and coffee limit to 5 cups per day and try to restrict to decaffeinated, with milk from allowance. Unlimited herbal tea. 1 glass wine per day if desired. Half-pint semi-skimmed milk or soya milk. Salad dressing – make fresh from olive oil or walnut oil, lemon juice or vinegar, a little garlic and/or fresh herbs. 6. The Secret of Deep Relaxation and Meditation One of the main reasons for our survival as a species is our incredible ‘fight or flight’ response to sudden danger. Putting it simply, in ancient times if a wild animal suddenly started to chase our Stone Age ancestor (let’s call him Fred), his body would react in the following way to the danger: His mind would fill with fear, adrenaline would be secreted, his blood sugar would go up, the blood supply to his muscles would increase, his muscles would tense, the blood-clotting mechanism would kick in, enabling his body to heal faster in case of injury, his breathing would become rapid and shallow, his brain would become hyper-alert, his digestion would be suppressed (his body knowing this is no time for a sandwich), his sexual desire would be suppressed (not the time to make love), his blood vessels would tighten to enable blood to flow through them faster and his blood pressure would increase, his immune system would be suppressed (this is no time to worry about a virus), more oxygen would be consumed and more carbon dioxide would be expelled. Fred is then programmed to look and be alert for more danger. In normal times, a huge percentage of cellular energy goes into building new cells, but during the fight-or-flight response energy is poured into the muscles, with the result that eventually tissue breakdown can occur. This reaction is brilliant if Fred has to run or fight. Fred – and all of us – need this reaction to sudden danger as it gives us the incredible extra power and energy we need to react in an emergency, e.g. saving someone from drowning. Nowadays, thank goodness, sudden danger is relatively rare, but the body’s reaction to a stressful event continues. And whereas we all have to be grateful to it for our survival as a species, now this reaction can be the cause of major health problems due to the modernday overload of mental stress. Doctors now realize that very many diseases are caused by stress. The problem is the body still reacts in this same way to the normal stresses of everyday life. For example, if you are late for a big meeting, you burn the dinner at an important dinner party, the dry cleaners ruin your best suit, you car won’t start or your son fails his final exams (the list is endless and is quite simply called ‘life’), you react with the physical changes listed above. This stress reaction, if not balanced by periods of relaxation, can now start to weaken the body and may give rise to such things as menstrual problems, high blood pressure, chronic fatigue, gastric ulcer, lower disease resistance, frequent headaches, cancer and heart attack, and makes us look and feel much older than our years. Unless we make a conscious effort to control our stress levels, it is easy to let the stress response take hold. This is why yoga does us so much good and helps us live comfortably and easily in today’s high-pressure world. Yoga’s wonderful stretches release the chronic tension that is held within your body. By deep breathing in every posture you stimulate life-giving oxygen to every cell. The act of slow, deep breathing also calms your mind and aids deep relaxation. By concentrating on the balancing movements you take your mind off its troubles, allowing it to calm and feel peaceful. Relaxing at the end of yoga practice allows the stresses of the day to gently float away, and frequent practice of meditation brings inner peace. As a result, the mind becomes clearer and calmer, muscular tension decreases, the secretion of adrenaline is lowered and breathing slows down. The heart rate slows, blood pressure normalizes and the blood-clotting mechanism is gently reduced, sweating gently ceases and the body becomes cooled and calmed, and digestion and the immune system are relaxed and restored to normal. This relaxation has a most wonderful effect on your looks, as the tension around the arteries relaxes; the blood flow to the skin is restored, giving the skin back its beautiful healthy glow. Blood flow to the hair follicles is increased due to tension release, so improving the condition of the hair, frown lines are smoothed and you both look and feel wonderful, radiant and much younger. Our greatest experiences are our quietest moments. NIETZSCHE (1844–1900) 7. The Secret of Radiant Health These days everything comes with a manual – 60 pages just on the use of a mobile phone, 100 pages with a recipe book for your food mixer, a large manual for your washing machine and a huge manual for your car. The most complex and brilliant system in your house, however, is your own body – and sadly we are born without a manual! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we did have a manual to instruct us on how to keep the body in perfect condition? We would then know how to care for all of the body’s complex systems and keep them in perfect health. We would know how to oil our joints to keep them flexible, how to move our spine in all six directions to prevent it becoming stiff and aching, we would practise weight-bearing movements to strengthen our bones and we would learn beautiful stretches to keep our muscles in perfect shape. EATING CORRECTLY We would learn to eat correctly and never too much so that we never overloaded our stomach, heart, lungs, joints and internal organs. We would then eat foods with health and vitality in mind rather than filling our bodies with junk and toxins that our bodies have no use for and find it difficult to remove. FRESH AIR We would learn the necessity of beautiful fresh air and correct breathing to make full use of our lungs and absorb more oxygen into our system. We would learn movements to get rid of tightness in our chest and calm our mind with slow, calm, relaxing breathing. GOOD DIGESTION We would learn how to keep our digestive system in good shape, never overloading it, and we would appreciate the importance of movements to massage the digestive system such as the abdominal lift and contractions and the spinal twists and upwards stretch and forwards and backwards bend. We would learn the effect of stress on the digestive system and realize the importance of relaxation to release the adverse effects of tension on our digestive organs. CIRCULATORY HEALTH We would learn to care for our heart and blood vessels. Under stress, the body tries to make an enormous amount of energy available to enable us to flee or fight. This accelerates the heart rate and also squeezes the arteries and veins to try to raise the rate at which the blood flows through, and as a result the blood pressure is raised. The clotting mechanism of the blood is also raised, as the body sensibly thinks that if one has to flee or fight, an injury could be a likely outcome. The net result of this is that the heart pumps thickened blood faster through narrow tubes. Because of this pressure, when the body is under long-term stress the arterial walls frequently become damaged. As the body tries its hardest to repair itself no matter how badly we treat it, it sends blood platelets and fatty acids to seal the damage; this, however, results in narrowing the arteries further. Continued stress increases the clotting mechanism, and if a clot breaks loose it can easily block a narrowed blood vessel. This, of course, can be fatal. So if we learn to stretch away our tensions daily, eat a healthy diet and relax and allow our arteries and blood-clotting mechanism to calm down, the fight-or-flight reaction subsides, the blood-clotting mechanism is lowered, the arteries relax and blood pressure returns to normal. This would result in excellent care of our heart and circulatory system. THE GLANDULAR SYSTEM Our ductless glands control the amazing chemistry of our bodies, carefully regulating and controlling the mind-body relationship. If our body manual taught us that the detrimental effect of stress can upset our entire glandular system, we would understand how the pituitary – the master gland of the body – controls the secretions of all the other glands. In yoga we help balance the pituitary with the Headstand. The thyroid gland controls our metabolism, and the parathyroids control the calcium and phosphate level in the blood. The most important exercises for these glands are the Shoulderstand and the Fish. The sex hormones, if imbalanced, can lead to menstrual problems and infertility in women, and fertility problems in men. The Cobra, Bow, Locust and deep relaxation help these areas tremendously. The adrenal glands, together with the sex hormones and corticosteroids, produce adrenalin to arouse the body to flee or fight. These glands are kept in excellent condition by movements such as the Cobra, Crescent Moon and Camel. Deep relaxation and meditation also relieve the stress that arouses this reaction. The pancreas is essential for the production of insulin to regulate the blood sugar of the body. The Pose of a Peacock and the Spinal Twist help balance this organ – and again, a healthy natural diet stops to body from overloading with excess sugar. THE BRAIN AND SPINAL CORD Finally, with the help of our body manual we could learn how to control our nervous system and realize the incredible importance of our brain and spinal cord. As you will see from Figure 1, ‘The chiropractor’s view of the spine’, the 31 pairs of spinal nerves exit from the spinal cord supplying every part of the body. Tension around these nerves weakens the area they supply, with the resulting problems indicated. By performing your yoga stretches daily and learning to relax, you will relieve the tension from the roots of these nerves and encourage their correct functioning. Daily relaxation is of prime importance – during relaxation the mind calms and pressure on the spinal nerves is released. The calming effect of yoga movements also balances the involuntary symptoms of the fight-or-flight reaction, calming and cooling the body and thus reducing the adverse effects of chronic stress. Your Personal Manual for Health In the pages that follow you will be treated to your personal health manual and learn that by looking after your body, exercising it, eating fresh natural foods, breathing correctly, learning to relax and cope with stress, concentrating your mind on what you want rather than what you don’t want, and keeping your joints and spine flexible and tension-free, you will look and feel 15 years younger in 15 minutes a day. The manual for this is the secret of health and vitality for ever, and was discovered over 5,000 years ago, and is and always will be YOGA. The Rejuvenating Benefits of Yoga Yoga improves the flexibility and strength of the spine, so helping to prevent back problems. Yoga oils the joints, keeping them flexible and so helping to prevent aches, pain and stiffness. Yoga releases tension in the neck and shoulders, so helping to prevent headaches and the proverbial ‘pain in the neck’. Yoga corrects poor posture, so helping to prevent the dreaded stoop. Yoga means daily exercises to keep the body in perfect shape and condition instead of having to worry about uneven fatty deposits and middle-age spread. Yoga means eating for health and vitality and enjoying a slim beautiful shape, instead of consuming an overload of junk and being constantly on a diet. Yoga means enjoying the present moment instead of wasting time worrying about yesterday or feeling anxious about tomorrow. Yoga means slow, deep breathing to energize every cell in the body and calm and relax the mind, freeing you from low energy levels, nervousness and breathing difficulties. Yoga releases tension in the lower abdomen, so helping to prevent constipation and period pains. Yoga strengthens the bones, so helping to prevent osteoporosis. Yoga means taking time out to relax, calm the mind and refocus instead of falling prey to chronic stress-related diseases. To sum up, yoga is being in control, creating the mind, body and life you desire, looking younger, feeling better and enjoying life more than ever before. Before We Begin I do hope that you are now really raring to go and can’t wait to get started. Just before we begin, however, a few guidelines for your yoga practice: Work in a warm, airy room in bare feet and wear loose comfortable clothing. A leotard and tights are in my opinion the best for women, but jogging bottoms and t-shirts are also fine, and are the best option for men. Wait until at least two hours after a main meal before you practise yoga. Make sure that you won’t be disturbed. You deserve time just for yourself to concentrate your body and clear your mind. You will need a mat or blanket to sit on. Yoga is very much a ‘no-equipment’ exercise system, so you don’t even need to buy a special mat for your yoga. A blanket has always been the traditional suggestion for yoga practice, but if you haven’t got one that you feel is suitable, a car rug or thick bath towel will do fine. There are now many yoga mats on the market that some people find useful, but I am a bit of a traditionalist and still prefer my blanket. Yoga is great for all age groups – my pupils range from 4 to 84 – however, it is for healthy people, so if you do have any health concerns whatsoever, just ask your doctor’s advice before you begin. If your doctor is unclear about the type of movements you will be doing, take this book along to show him, but do emphasize that you will not be straining and will only be moving into the positions at your own pace, going into your maximum position in each movement. You must have your doctor’s consent before you start to practise. Yoga is very beneficial for your health and frequently many health problems can be greatly helped by yoga practice. You must however never substitute yoga for your doctor’s treatment. PREGNANCY: Yoga can be most beneficial during both pregnancy and labour. However, if you are new to yoga, I recommend waiting until after your 3-month check-up at about 14-15 weeks before commencing yoga practice. If you have been practising yoga on a regular basis prior to conception and have no history of miscarriage then there should be no reason why you should not continue. You must always make sure that your doctor gives you permission to practise yoga during pregnancy. I do prefer that you go to a class qualified to guide you through the various stages of pregnancy as the movements need to be adjusted to cope with the baby’s increasing size. In general, avoid all the movements which put strain on the abdomen (these are indicated throughout the book) and always move carefully and slowly without strain. Learn to relax and enjoy your pregnancy. Following the birth, it is advisable to wait until your post-natal check-up before resuming yoga practice. If your doctor is happy that all is well and gives you his blessing to recommence practice then do tell your teacher of the nature of your delivery. Start very gently and carefully. You will quickly regain your shape and feeling of well-being. The golden rule of yoga: Never, ever strain. I know this is different from other methods of exercise that you might have tried, but in yoga we focus on the positive health of the pupil and the enhancement of the energy flow or life-force within us. Straining in yoga is never an option. Your body today is the result of how it has been taken care of how you have exercised, coped with your share of troubles, the diet you have eaten, how you have slept and relaxed and your individual focus and attitude to life. It is extremely hard to suddenly come face-to-face with your body in certain movements and realize how stiff and out of shape and uncoordinated you have become. Please cheer up – it really is a good thing to gradually discover our imbalances and frailties. All you need is your daily yoga to help correct them. Now, to go back to straining – if you strain or jerk in a movement you are liable to tear or hurt yourself so putting a total halt on further practice for a while. Move into each posture slowly and carefully without strain, and relax in your own maximum position. This is the secret of success. Every time you practise, no matter how bad you were to start with, you will find that you are a tiny bit more flexible, and after just a few weeks you will really see the difference in your flexibility, shape and feeling of well-being. When a system has been tried and tested for over 5,000 years, as yoga has, and is still increasing in popularity, we know it works! The key to developing a beautiful physical appearance is to start from the inside out by clearing away physical and emotional toxins. ANNE LOUISE GITTLEMAN How to Use This Book Decide now to devote a minimum of 15 minutes a day to your yoga practice. Decide on the time of day convenient for practice, and commit to it. Start with Stage 1 of ‘15-Minute Miracles’ and do it every day, if possible before breakfast. As soon as it becomes really easy, then move on to Stage 2, which is a little stronger, and finally to Stage 3. Stages 4, 5 and 6 are ideal to do in the afternoon or in the evening before bed. Try them in the same way as the earlier Stages, moving at your own pace. Find a time that suits your schedule. If like me, you are a morning type, then just do either the a.m. or p.m. workouts in the morning, or both if you have time. Continue in this way until you are able to do all six Stages with ease. This will give you a fantastic grounding in yoga and will tone and firm all the major muscles in your body and leave you feeling relaxed, calm and revitalized, and much, much younger. Once you have mastered these Stages, replace them on alternate days with your own choice of the first four sequences in Part Two – concentrating on your face, arms/neck/shoulders, stomach, and bottom/hips/thighs – which will help perfect your body in record time: Your 15-minute facial will sculpt and tone your facial muscles, neck and jaw, while releasing neck tension. The eye exercises will help your vision and eye muscle tone. Once learned, all these movements can be done at odd moments during the day. The arms, neck and shoulders movements are excellent for toning and firming the arms and shoulders, and also firm the bust and help to relieve neck and shoulder tension. The flat stomach plan is an amazing system for giving you a firm, flat tummy. It consists of movements already included in the first six Stages, grouped for easy reference should you wish to have that flat tummy in record time. The bottom, hips and thighs plan is composed of two 15-minute sequences of movements that you will already have practised. If this area is a challenging one for you, these movements will sculpt your hips, bottom and thighs and really benefit your shape and reduce cellulite. Again, use it as well as or alternating with the 15-Minute Miracles. When you feel ready, move on to ‘Your Ageless Body’. These movements are amazing. I show you how, with continued practice 15 minutes a day, you can reap yoga’s wonderful benefits: an ageless body and mind. Personally I would hate to grow old without yoga. I am delighted to show you these movements and to show you how you can be in great shape and feeling and looking fantastic at any age. In the Age-defying Anti-gravity Movements section, you will learn that these postures are quite simply the best face-lift in the world, doing wonders for your skin, hair, brain, energy level and feeling of well-being. Until you are familiar with the movements in all six Stages and beyond, you may like to tape-record yourself reading the instructions for each posture, or do them with a friend, taking it in turns to read out the instructions to each other. Then, once you are familiar with the names and sequence of movements for each posture, you can make up a schedule or chart for yourself for each daily 15-minute sequence, using just the names of the postures as your guide. The final three chapters of this book focus on techniques to help you get the most out of life alongside your daily yoga practice: The Meditation chapter will help you to learn the amazing benefits of simple meditation exercises. In the Visualization chapter, we focus on your life and goals – to help you to reach them. Finally, the last chapter offers you my 30 Top Tips to help you look and stay young for ever. Part One 15-Minute Miracles 15-Minute Miracles Stage 1 This sequence will start to correct your posture, tone and firm your upper arms and neck, help your spine to incredible flexibility, slim your midriff waistline, thighs and upper arms, aid joint flexibility and help you to develop the powers of focus and concentration. Breathing Demonstration Free the Spirit Standing Posture Clasp Standing Sideways Stretch Upwards Stretch Forwards and Backwards Bend Rishis Posture Body Roll Awkward Posture Toe Balance Tree Balance True beauty must come, must be grown, from within… RALPH W TRINE (1866–1958) 1 Breathing Demonstration Good deep breathing while performing the yoga movements is very important, as it stimulates your entire body with life-giving oxygen. In general, gently push your abdominal muscles out and inhale slowly through your nose as you start to stretch into the posture. As you move into the movement, slowly and calmly exhale through your nose. Whilst relaxing in the movement, just breathe normally and peacefully through your nose. 2 Free the Spirit Standing This movement gives you instant stress relief, literally making you feel free from all limitations. It is great if you have been hunched over your desk for any length of time. It also helps correct your posture, release shoulder tension and firm your throat and jaw line. Stand straight, shoulders back, feet together and correct your posture. Hold your hands as if in prayer. Inhale and lift your arms up straight in front of you until they are pointing towards the ceiling. Drop your head gently backwards and, keeping it back, open your arms wide. Making the widest circle possible, lower your arms down to your sides while exhaling very slowly. Repeat three times. 3 Posture Clasp Standing How I wish this was taught in school! This clever movement restores balance to your shoulders, corrects posture, firms the muscles of the upper arms, tones the pectoral muscles that support the bust and releases shoulder tension. Stand straight with your feet together and shoulders back. Inhale and lift your left arm in the air, then drop it back. Take your right hand down and stretch it behind your back. Aim to join your hands together with the fingers clasped as shown. Exhale and, breathing normally, hold your maximum movement in this position for a count of 5. Unclasp your hands and repeat to the other side. Repeat the entire sequence twice. Help and Advice This movement can be a nasty shock: sometimes it appears impossible on both sides, sometimes one side is relatively easy and the other side is impossible, even though you are using the same pair of arms! Cheer up! Hardly anyone can manage this movement on both sides to begin with. Over the years our shoulders become imbalanced due to many things, including carrying a heavy briefcase, slinging a shoulder bag over one shoulder, using the right arm more than the left, constant use of the telephone, slumping over your desk or computer, etc., etc. However, one of the most important things to correct is your posture, as over the years this can gradually get worse and worse resulting in the dreaded stoop and dowager’s hump. By doing this simple movement daily twice on each side without strain, you will gradually correct your posture. You will also become more posture-conscious and find you start noticing how other people walk and carry themselves. Very gradually, even if your hands were miles apart in the beginning, you will find that they will soon join up. 4 Sideways Stretch This movement is great for slimming and toning the midriff and waistline, giving the spine tremendous flexibility and releasing tension in the lower back. Stand straight with your feet facing forwards and about 3 feet apart. Breathe in and lift your left hand in the air. Exhale and, keeping your body in line, slide your right hand down your right leg as far as possible. Keep your left arm straight, with the inner part of your left arm close to your left ear. Hold your maximum stretch for a count of 5. Inhale and, slowly and smoothly, return to an upright position. Exhale, slowly lower your arm and relax. Repeat the movement on the other side, then repeat the entire sequence twice. Help and Advice There is a huge temptation to bend forwards in this movement to get your hand further down the leg. Please don’t. Keep your body straight and keep looking forwards. This slow, careful movement is excellent for toning and slimming your midriff and waistline. ‘I have suffered for many years with neck, shoulder and back problems and found no improvement or relief after consulting various medical specialists. However, within a month of starting yoga I noticed a great improvement with pain relief and posture. Now, after a year of yoga, I have become very flexible and found my waistline, which I didn’t know existed.’ ANN, 42 5 Upward Stretch Forwards and Backwards Bend This brilliant revitalizing morning stretch releases tension from the entire body, corrects posture and gives amazing flexibility to the spine. It slims and tones the abdomen, midriff, waistline and throat, and firms and tones the backs of the thighs and calves. By encouraging blood flow to the head and neck area, it boosts the condition of the skin, hair and brain cells. Stand straight with your feet facing forwards and about 12 inches apart. Correct your posture. Inhale and lift your arms straight up above your head. Exhale slowly as you move forwards, keeping your back flat and your legs straight. Don’t strain. Relax in your maximum position and hold the movement for a count of 5, breathing normally. Your eventual aim is to have your hands flat on the floor and your chin on your shins. Inhale and lift your head first and then, slowly, keeping your back flat and legs straight, return to an upright position. Stretch your arms up above your head and, keeping your eyes on your thumbs, slowly, without strain, relax backwards, exhaling in your maximum position. Hold for a count of 5. Your eventual aim is a beautiful backwards arch as shown. Inhale as you slowly return to an upright position. Exhale, lower your arms, and relax. Repeat twice. Help and Advice It’s not until we start to work the spine that we realize just how stiff we have become. I know, I have been there! The body operates on a ‘use it or lose it’ system, but even if you are totally stiff to start with, with daily practice even the stiffest back can regain its youthful flexibility. Remember not to strain, relax in your own maximum position even if you can move very little in the beginning, and you will be delighted at how quickly your flexibility will improve and how much better you will feel. Moving backwards for the first time can present a huge challenge, but keep your eyes on your thumbs, relax and, even if you only move an inch back in the beginning stages, with practice this will improve very quickly – I promise. 6 Rishis Posture This movement is brilliant for releasing deep-seated tension and rebalancing the lower back. I really recommend it for people with ‘lop-sided’ jobs, e.g. dentists or people who play imbalanced sports such as tennis or golf. Gardeners can find it really helpful to release the tension resulting from being in awkward positions for a considerable length of time. This posture will tone and firm your midriff and waistline, bottom and thighs, and keep your back in great condition, enhancing its flexibility. It relieves tension from the chest and firms your jaw and throat. Stand straight with perfect posture, your feet 3 feet apart with your toes facing forwards, not outwards. Lift your arms straight up in the air as you inhale. As you exhale, with your back flat and your legs straight, move forwards to your own maximum position without strain. Slide your right hand to your left leg, grabbing it wherever comfortable – but don’t bend your knees. Eventually your aim is to place your right hand under your left foot. Lift your left arm in the air; now, slowly and carefully, turn your body so that you are looking at your left hand. Hold this position for a count of 5, breathing normally, then slowly lower your arm and relax forwards. Now repeat to the other side, sliding your left hand to your maximum position on your right leg and lifting your right arm in the air. Hold for a count of 5, then slowly lower your arm and let your body relax in its maximum forwards bend. Hold this position for a count of 5, breathing normally. Grab your legs and – gently, keeping your back straight – draw your body inwards towards your legs and then relax, aiming to place your hands on the floor. Inhale deeply and lift your head, then slowly return to an upright position and stretch your arms up above your head. Now place your hands at your waistline with your thumbs in front and fingers behind. Inhale deeply and, with a full lung, bend backwards, exhaling in your maximum backwards bend for a count of 5, breathing normally. Inhale gently as you return to an upright position. Exhale, relax and repeat the entire sequence. Help and Advice When you first start the Rishis posture, you may find the movement is much easier on one side than the other. It is great that you have noticed this, because these imbalances can be the start of problems later on. By doing the movement, these imbalances can be carefully corrected. Please progress at your own pace, and never feel disappointed if you are stiff. Just regard it as your starting point to a flexible, ache-free back. The backwards bend again can prove difficult in the beginning stages, but just remember the inch rule – even if you can only move an inch backwards, that’s fine; progress a tiny bit more each time you do it and you will start to feel better than you have felt for years. 7 Body Roll This simple tension-releasing movement does wonders for your waistline while relieving lower back tension. Stand straight with your feet facing forwards and about 2 feet apart. Place your hands at your waistline with your thumbs in front and fingers behind. Inhale deeply and, as you exhale, move slowly forwards, keeping your head up. Breathing normally, slowly and carefully, in continuous motion roll your body to the right, then carefully backwards, then to the left and slowly forwards. Do two circles to the right followed by two circles to the left. After completing the body roll, inhale deeply. Stand straight and stretch your arms straight up above your head. Place your hands together and straighten your spine. Hold the stretch for a count of 5, then exhale, slowly lower your arms and relax. Help and Advice The Body Roll is such a nice easy exercise – it rarely presents many problems. Just remember to start with a small circle and expand it as your flexibility improves. Always finish by stretching to realign the spine. 8 Awkward Posture This important movement firms and tones your thighs while increasing the flexibility of your feet, knees and ankles. Stand straight with your feet about a foot apart, your toes pointing forwards. Place your arms parallel to the floor. Inhale and gently come up onto your toes. As you exhale, keeping your back straight, slowly lower your bottom to your heels. Please don’t worry if only halfway is possible to begin with, move at your own pace without strain. Hold your maximum position in the movement for a count of 5. Then inhale and gradually return to an upright position, keeping your back straight. Exhale, relax and repeat the movement twice. Help and Advice It can be very disturbing to suddenly discover that your knees, feet and ankles have stiffened up. Again, the ‘use it or lose it’ principle applies here. Cheer up – even if your joints are very stiff a little practice a day does work wonders. 9 Toe Balance This movement helps your sense of balance and concentration, and strengthens your toes and the arches of your feet. Stand straight and place your hands as if in prayer. Place your right foot behind your left ankle. Breathe in and gently come up onto your toes. Exhale and hold the position, staring at a spot on the wall or floor to help you to balance for a count of 5, breathing normally. Lower your heels down to the floor, relax and repeat on the other side. Then repeat the entire sequence twice. Increase the hold to a count of 10 as you progress in the movement. ‘I was introduced to Barbara Currie’s excellent yoga classes by a good friend, at a time when I was suffering from severe stress and felt close to complete exhaustion. Now I am fit, healthy, happy, relaxed, positive and more flexible than I have been since I was a child. Thank you, Barbara.’ JOANNE, 64 Help and Advice I know this looks so simple, yet you may find you can’t do it. You wobble around or find it difficult to lift your heels from the floor. Again, this is normal. Stay calm and concentrate on that spot on the wall or floor, and gradually you will find your sense of balance and your feet strengthening. Yoga teaches us that the mind is like the sun’s rays: normally they shine on all of us and give us warmth, but concentrate them on one spot and they are powerful enough to cause fire. The mind, likewise, when it concentrates on one thing at a time, becomes extremely powerful, as all the minor thoughts and worries of daily life start to vanish and your mind becomes clear and calm. 10 Tree Balance This position increases the flexibility of your hips, knees and ankles, tones your inner and outer thighs, strengthens your supporting leg and again helps your balance and concentration. Stand straight with perfect posture and both feet together, your hands by your sides. Breathe in as you place your right foot on your left thigh. (Choose a position to suit yourself to begin with, perhaps resting your foot on your calf or ankle. Gradually, as you improve in the movement, lift your foot higher up your leg until it is eventually resting on your upper thigh.) Now stare at a spot on the floor or straight in front of you (remember, this is the secret of balance) and lift your arms up above your head. Straighten your arms and your spine and hold this position for a count of 5, increasing to 10 as you improve in the position, breathing normally. Exhale slowly as you lower your arms and relax. Repeat on the other side, then repeat the entire sequence once. Help and Advice Stiff hips, knees and ankles and an inability to balance are the main problems here. I do promise you it is worth it! Concentrate on your spot and, even if you start by placing your foot on your ankle, that’s fine. Just continue daily practice; perseverance will relieve the stiffness carefully and give you back the flexibility of youth! 15-Minute Miracles Stage 2 This sequence will teach you the huge benefits of correct breathing. It will help to relieve tension in the neck and shoulders and correct your posture. It will do wonders for your thighs and strengthen your bones, firm and tone virtually every muscle in your body, and help your concentration. The Complete Breath Chest Expansion Siamese Posture Warrior Posture I Warrior Posture II Half-Moon Balance The Triangle Big Toe Balance Dancer’s Posture Health is the only thing that makes you think that now is the very best time of year. FRANKLIN ADAMS I The Complete Breath Yoga teaches us that ‘Life is breath, and he who only half-breathes only half-lives. Because deep, thorough breathing is so important to our health, looks and feeling of well-being, it is worth taking a lot of trouble with this brilliant breathing exercise. It will calm you down in times of stress, help you sleep well at night and energize your whole system. Most people breathe too quickly making inadequate use of the lungs. This breathing exercise makes full use of the lungs’ tremendous oxygen-absorption capacity, leading to oxygen-rich blood. Stand very straight with your hands by your sides and your feet about 1 foot apart. Gently push your abdominals out and inhale deeply and slowly through your nose for a count of 5, lifting your arms up above your head as you do so. Retain the breath for a count of 5. Slowly lower your arms as you exhale peacefully through your nose for a count of 5. At the end of your exhalation, gently, without breathing in, pull your abdominals in and up, then push them out and inhale slowly through your nose, allowing the air to fill your lungs. Hold for a count of 5, then exhale slowly and calmly for a count of 5. Repeat 10 times. As you become more comfortable with this exercise, gradually increase the inhalations and exhalations until you are inhaling and exhaling for a count of 10. Help and Advice In yoga we aim to make full use of the lungs. By pushing the abdominals out as we breathe in, we allow the diaphragm to flatten out so that we are able to fill the lungs as the ribcage expands. Retaining the breath allows for maximum oxygen absorption. The slow, calm exhalation is very controlled and very relaxing. When you lift the abdominals in and up at the end of the exhalation, you are in fact squeezing out the stale air, so that when you push the abdominals out to breathe in again you are creating negative pressure inside the chest. As nature abhors a vacuum, maximum air is brought into the lungs, so increasing the oxygen level in the blood stream. Most people, when stressed, breathe by pulling the abdominals in as they inhale and allowing them to push out as they exhale. This does not allow for adequate oxygen absorption and can lead to low energy levels. I really do recommend this breathing exercise, so spend some time on it, getting it right. It will be a real friend to you in times of need. 2 Chest Expansion How do people live without this movement? It releases tension in the back, neck, shoulder and chest, firms and tones the upper arms and muscles that support the bust, stimulates blood flow to the head and neck area, firms the throat and jaw, tones the back of the thighs and calves, and gives incredible flexibility to the spine. Stand straight with your feet together and interlock your hands behind your back. Inhale and lift your arms up as high as possible, ensuring that your elbows are straight. Exhale slowly and, with your head up, your back flat and your legs straight, gently move forwards into your maximum forward bend. Hold this maximum position for a count of 5, breathing normally, then inhale, lift your head and slowly return to an upright position. Gently relax backwards, pulling your arms downwards and exhaling in your maximum position. Hold this backwards stretch for a count of 5, breathing normally, then inhale and return to an upright position, exhale and relax. Repeat twice. Help and Advice When you first start this movement, even straightening your elbows when clasping your hands behind your back can be difficult – but persevere. A lot of people hold a great deal of tension in their shoulders and neck, which can contribute to headaches, migraine and many other stress-related problems. By practising this movement daily without strain, you will experience great relief from this tension and be delighted with the great shape it gives your arms! 3 Siamese Posture This movement does wonders for your waistline and midriff, keeps your spine flexible and tones your throat and jaw. Stand straight with your legs 3 ½–4 feet apart. Turn your right foot at a 90-degree angle to the right. Place your right hand on the top of your head and look at the centre of your elbow. Inhale deeply. Then, as you exhale, slide your left hand down your left leg as far as possible. Keep your gaze on the centre of your right elbow. Hold your maximum stretch for a count of 5, breathing normally, then inhale and return to an upright position, exhale and relax and repeat on the left side. Repeat the entire sequence. ‘In my late fifties I had an accident which damaged my knees so badly that I could not walk or swim. I decided to try yoga, and have never looked back. Today my knees are largely recovered and I am fitter and more flexible than ever before.’ MAUREEN, 68 4 Warrior Posture I The Warrior Posture firms and tones your thighs and releases lower back tension. It gives fantastic shape to your legs, streamlining your calves and firming your buttocks. Stand with your legs about 3 ½–4 feet apart and turn your right foot 90 degrees to the right, your left foot facing forwards. Stretch your arms outwards and parallel to the floor. Inhale deeply and, as you exhale, bend your right leg, aiming eventually to have your right thigh parallel to the floor and the left one straight. Ensure that the outer edge of your left foot stays on the floor and fix your gaze on the centre of your right hand. Hold your maximum stretch in this movement for a count of 5, lengthening the hold to a count of 10 as you become more adept at the movement. Inhale and return to an upright position. Exhale, relax and repeat to the other side. Repeat the entire sequence. Help and Advice In the beginning stages, although this movement looks easy, you may find it very difficult to keep the outer portion of your left foot on the floor. This is quite normal, and again will come with practice. Also trying to have your thigh flat and your left leg straight can be a huge problem to start with, but this pose slims and streamlines your thighs and calves and keeps them in great shape for life. I really recommend it. 5 Warrior Posture II This movement has all the benefits of the previous posture but also relieves tightness in the chest and neck, firms and tones the jaw and throat, and corrects posture. Stand straight with your legs 3 ½–4 feet apart. Turn your right foot 90 degrees to the right, your left foot facing forwards. Drop your head back and stretch your arms above your head, placing them together and crossing your thumbs. Breathe in deeply and, as you exhale, bend your right leg, again aiming to keep your thigh flat and your back leg straight. Keep your gaze on your hands and breathe normally in your maximum position. Hold for a count of 5, increasing to 10 as you improve in the movement. Repeat on the other side, then repeat the entire sequence. Help and Advice Sometimes dropping your head back and looking at your hands is difficult, so just do your best; it is a great tension-reliever and an excellent aid to correcting poor posture. 6 Half-Moon Balance This movement tones and firms your buttocks and thighs. It greatly increases the flexibility in your lower back, tones and strengthens your arms and helps your concentration and balance. Stand straight with your feet 1 foot apart and turn your right foot 90 degrees to the right. Concentrate on a spot on the right side of your body and stretch your right arm out to the side. Inhale deeply and, as you exhale, aim to place your right hand on the floor, bending your knees if necessary to enable you to do this. Now lift your left leg in the air carefully and extend your left arm, trying to keep this arm in line with your right arm. When you are comfortable in this position, gently rotate your shoulders to enable you to look up at your left hand. Hold this position for a count of 5 (increasing to 10 as you improve in the position), breathing normally, then exhale and lower your left arm and then your left leg. Gently come up into a standing position. Exhale and relax. Repeat on the other side, then repeat the entire sequence. Help and Advice If you find this very difficult in the beginning, just practise by standing straight and lifting your left leg and left arm out to the side while stretching your right arm to the right. Start by raising the leg just a little at first and then practise by leaning to the right a little as you do this. Keep practising and eventually you will have the confidence to put your right hand on the floor. 7 The Triangle This incredible yoga sequence works virtually every muscle, tendon, joint and internal organ in the body. It tones and firms the hips, thighs, waistline and arms. It revitalizes the spine and helps correct lower back tension and stiffness. Stand straight with your legs 3 ½–4 feet apart. Turn your right foot 90 degrees to the right. Your left foot faces forwards. Inhale and place your arms at shoulder level parallel to the floor. Exhale as you bend your right leg, aiming to keep your thigh flat and back leg straight. Place your right hand by your right foot, if possible with your little finger by your big toe. If this is not possible, hold your ankle or calf. Now lift your left arm in the air and point your fingers to the ceiling. Aiming to have both arms in a straight line, ensure that the outside of your left foot remains on the floor. Turn your head to look at the ceiling, aiming your chin in line with your left shoulder. Hold this position for a count of 5, increasing to 10 as you improve in the movement, breathing normally. Inhale as you return to an upright position. Exhale and relax, then repeat to the other side. ‘I’ve been practising yoga for about five years now. I first started doing it as a way of getting some respite from the storm of having four children! I’d found that the kind of exercise I’d done in the past – tennis, skiing, squash – only added to the adrenaline of having a busy life, so I was looking for something more calming. Yoga really grounds me and slows me down. It makes me take time out and take care of myself, which I think is really important when you’re a mother and have so many other people to think about!’ RACHEL, 41 Stand as above, with your legs 3 ½–4 feet apart and your right foot turned 90 degrees to the right, your left foot facing forwards, arms parallel to the floor at shoulder level. Inhale deeply and, as you exhale, bend your right knee, aiming to keep your thigh flat and back leg straight. Try to place your right little finger by your right big toe. Place your left arm alongside your left ear, in a straight line with your left foot. Hold for a count of 5, increasing to 10 as the movement becomes easier. Inhale and return to an upright position. Exhale and relax, then repeat to the left side. With your legs 3 ½–4 feet apart, arms parallel to the floor, right foot at 90 degrees to the right and your left foot facing forwards, take a deep breath in and change your arms over so that your left arm faces over your right leg. Inhale and, bending your right leg, aim to have your thigh flat. Place your left hand by your right foot with your left thumb by your right big toe. Gently lift your right arm in the air and rotate your torso so that you are looking at your right hand. Hold for a count of 5, breathing normally, increasing to 10 as you improve in the movement, and then slowly return to an upright position. Exhale, lower your arms and relax. Repeat to the left side, then repeat the entire triangle sequence. Help and Advice Because the Triangle is such an incredibly brilliant movement it is frequently a nightmare to start with. There is no easy way to do these positions – we have all had to come to terms with our own stiffness in different regions of our bodies. All I can say is persevere, follow the directions, don’t strain and eventually you will love these movements and the incredible benefits that they will give you. 8 Big Toe Balance This posture gives you back your youth. It feels so great to be able to lift your leg higher than you could as a teenager. It does wonders for the shape of your legs, reduces cellulite, firms your bottom and thighs, releases tension in your lower back and helps your concentration. Stand straight and place your right hand on your right hip. Concentrate on a spot for balance and clasp your left big toe in your left hand. If this is too difficult for you, just place both your hands under your left knee. Now, while staring at your spot and keeping your supporting leg straight, try to straighten and lift your leg. Hold this for a count of 5, increasing to 10 as you improve in the position. Exhale, lower your leg and relax. Repeat on the other side. Repeat the entire sequence. Help and Advice Straightening both legs can be difficult even for advanced students. Don’t worry; first of all try to balance in the position even if your legs are a little bent. Progress by straightening the leg on which you are standing and finally you will lift and straighten the other leg! 9 Dancer’s Posture This lovely movement helps your posture and concentration. It releases lower back tension, tones and firms your thighs and bottom and strengthens the supporting leg. Stand straight with perfect posture and feet together. As you inhale, lift your right arm in the air. As you exhale, grab your left foot in your left hand behind your back. Concentrate on a spot, inhale and, as you exhale, lean forwards and lift your left leg as high as possible, keeping your right leg straight. Hold for 5, increasing to 10 as you progress in the position. Exhale, lower your leg, relax and repeat to the other side. Repeat the entire sequence once. Help and Advice In the beginning stages, if you can’t reach your left foot concentrate on your spot and practise balancing at first with your right arm in the air and your left leg just a few inches behind you. Hold this position and, gradually, as you improve by lifting your leg a little more each day, you will find it easier to clasp your left foot in your left hand. 15-Minute Miracles Stage 3 This sequence will give you great energy, tone your midriff and waistline, thighs, hips and arms, strengthen your bones, give you incredible flexibility, keep spine and joint problems at bay, and firm, tone and flatten your tummy. Salute to the Sun Half-Moon Posture Straight Leg Triangle Head-to-Knee Balance Standing Stick Balance Tree Balance Eagle Balance Abdominal Lift and Contractions The block of granite which was an obstacle in the path of the weak, becomes a stepping stone in the path of the strong. THOMAS CARLYLE I Salute to the Sun Please do not attempt if you are pregnant This is your stay-young insurance policy. After 30 years of teaching yoga to literally thousands of pupils, I can tell you now that in my experience people who do this sequence daily for life quite simply walk younger, stand straighter, look better, are more radiant and have more energy and vitality than those who don’t. Salute to the Sun gives you energy; it stretches your body from top to toe; its brilliant combination of clever stretches and deep breathing – traditionally done facing the sunrise in the east – prepares your body to start the day. Stand straight with your feet either about 12 inches apart or together, (for a stronger stretch). Place your hands together, as if in prayer. Inhale slowly and deeply, then slowly exhale through your nose. Inhale deeply and lift your arms up above your head. Keeping your eyes on your thumbs, relax and bend backwards, exhaling, into your maximum position. Inhaling, slowly return to an upright position, stretching your arms up in the air. Keep your head up, your back flat and legs straight and slowly bend forwards and relax in your maximum position without straining. Keeping your hands on the floor, inhale and stretch your right leg back and look at the sky. Exhale and stretch your left leg back. Now take your knees to the floor, then your chest and then your chin. With your lower abdomen on the floor and your hands either side of your body at shoulder level, inhale and slowly lift your upper body from the floor and stretch gently back into the Cobra position. Tucking in your toes, press down on your hands and lift your bottom in the air as you exhale and stretch your heels down towards the floor. Gently lower your head between your arms towards the floor. Inhale and draw your right foot forwards, placing it near your hands. Exhale and bring your left foot forwards. Now, drop your head and lift your bottom in the air (eventually you’ll be able to touch your chin to your shins with your hands flat on the floor by your feet). Inhale and slowly lift your head and arms. Gently return to a standing position. With full lungs, slowly stretch upwards and then backwards, exhaling when you reach your maximum position. Inhale as you return to an upright position. Place your hands in prayer, exhale, relax and repeat – this time taking your left leg back first in step 5. Help and Advice This is a brilliant sequence, so have patience and go gently to begin with. It may take many, many weeks before it becomes a real pleasure. Sometimes it helps to do the upwards stretch and forwards and backwards bend first. Many pupils say that they are too stiff to do it first thing in the morning! Sorry, but that is why we do it. It is so easy just to accept the fact that your body becomes stiffer with age. It will if you don’t stretch on waking, like every other animal on the planet does. By working at Salute to the Sun diligently on a daily basis you can keep that young spine and youthful energy for ever. 2 Half-Moon Posture I am so grateful to this position – it has helped me maintain my 24-inch waistline so that on my 60th birthday it was the same as it was on my 18th! It will do the same for you: It will whittle your waistline, remove your spare tyre and tone up your midriff, both front and back, and keep your spine tremendously flexible. Stand straight with your feet together. Inhale and lift your arms in the air, placing your palms together and crossing your thumbs. Stretch your arms upwards, straightening them so that the insides of your upper arms are on your ears. As you exhale, move slowly to the right, pushing your hips a little to the left. Keep your body in line – don’t move forwards or backwards. Hold for a count of 5 breathing normally, then slowly inhale and return to an upright position. Exhale as you move, to the left, pushing your hips to the right. Hold for a count of 5, then inhale and return to an upright position. Exhale and bend forwards with your head up, keeping your back flat and your legs straight. Relax in your maximum forwards bend without strain (eventually your aim is to be able to place your hands by your feet and your chin on your shins). Hold your maximum position for a count of 5 breathing normally. Inhale slowly, lift your head and arms, and gently return to an upright position. Stretch your arms up above your head. Now, concentrating on your thumbs, gently bend backwards with a full lung. Exhale in your maximum backwards bend and hold your maximum movement for a count of 5. Inhale and return to an upright position. Exhale, relax and repeat. Help and Advice Doesn’t it look simple! Even standing straight with your head between your arms can be quite a challenge. Please just go at your own pace – if you can only move a little from side to side and forwards and back to start with, that is fine. You will still benefit and, as you start to do the movement on a regular basis, your waist measurement will show you that it is working! 3 Straight Leg Triangle The Triangle works the entire body, toning the spinal nerves, firming and toning all the muscles around the abdomen, midriff, waistline, legs, arms and shoulders. It rids your spine of tension and gives it tremendous flexibility. This movement is excellent for the lower back and can help relieve lower backache. The backwards bend relieves tightness in the chest and tones the throat and jaw. Stand straight with your legs about 3 ½–4 feet apart. Turn your right foot 90 degrees to the right, keeping your left foot facing forwards. Stretch your arms outwards at shoulder level, parallel to the floor: make sure that your legs stay straight throughout this movement. Inhale and, facing over your right leg, exhale and slowly lower your right hand to the floor, aiming to place your right hand by your right foot with your little finger by your big toe. If this is not possible, don’t bend your knee simply hold your knee, calf or ankle. Now gently pull your left shoulder back, lift your left arm in the air and, keeping both arms in a straight line, gently look at your left hand. Hold this movement for a count of 5, increasing to 10 as you progress in the posture. Inhale as you return to an upright position. Exhale and relax. Repeat to the left side. With your feet about 3 ½–4 feet apart and your arms parallel to the floor, inhale and change your arms over so that your left hand faces over your right foot. Exhale and, keeping your legs straight, aim to place your left thumb by your right big toe – again, if this is not possible simply hold your knee, ankle or calf Lift your right arm in the air. Carefully rotate your trunk so that you are gazing at your right hand. Aim to have both arms in line with each other. Hold your maximum position in this movement for a count of 5, increasing to 10 as you progress. Inhale and lift your left arm from the floor, then carefully return to an upright position. Exhale, relax and repeat on the other side. Repeat the entire movement once. With your legs 3 ½–4 feet apart, stand straight and ensure that your toes face forwards. Inhale and stretch both arms up in the air. Keeping your back flat and your legs straight, exhale and relax gently forwards into your maximum position. Just let go in this stretch – you will find that just by relaxing into it you are able to move further into the posture. Eventually you will be able to fold your arms and place your elbows on the floor, resting your head on your arms. In the meantime, just enjoy the movement and place your hands on your legs in your maximum stretch. Hold your best position for a count of 5, increasing to 10 as you improve. Carefully draw your feet inwards until they are only 3 feet apart. Inhale and, lifting your head first, slowly return to an upright position and stretch your arms up above your head. Exhale and relax. Place your hands at your waistline with your fingers behind and thumbs in front. Now inhale deeply and gently bend backwards. Exhale in your maximum position and hold your backwards bend for a count of 5, increasing gradually to 10 as you progress. Inhale and slowly return to an upright position. Exhale and relax. Help and Advice This movement frequently shows up your stiff areas. The most important point is to go carefully, at your own pace, and RELAX in your maximum movement. This way your stiffness will be gently eased and the movement will help you to wonderful flexibility. 4 Head-to-Knee Balance This is a fantastic toner for the back of your thighs and calves. It helps to reduce cellulite. It strengthens your sense of balance and your supporting leg, stretches your hamstrings and releases lower back tension. Stand straight with your feet together, inhale and clasp your right foot with both hands. Stare at a spot on the floor for balance. Gently stretch your right leg and aim your chin towards your right knee. Aim to straighten your right leg, keeping your supporting (left) leg really straight. Hold your maximum stretch for 5, again increasing to 10 as you improve in the movement. Gently lower your leg to the floor, relax and repeat on the other side. Repeat the entire sequence. Help and Advice This really makes you concentrate! Please don’t worry if in the beginning you can’t straighten your leg. Try to keep your supporting leg straight, and remember that daily practice will enable you to do the movement. 5 Standing Stick Balance This beautiful movement streamlines your body. It will firm and tone your bottom, thighs and calves and also strengthen them tremendously. It will tone and firm your upper arms and shoulders and is a fantastic tension-release for your entire body. Stand straight with your feet together and your arms up above your head, hands together and thumbs crossed. Inhale deeply and place your right foot 3 feet in front of your left one. Concentrate on a spot to enable you to balance. As you exhale, gently stretch forwards placing your weight on your right leg and lifting your left leg from the floor. Keep stretching forwards so that your arms are parallel to the floor and your head stays between your arms. With your left leg lifted from the floor and parallel to the floor, your entire body is stretched and resembles a capital ‘T’. Hold this position for a count of 5, breathing normally and stretching while in the position. Increase the hold to 10 as your strength increases. Inhale and slowly lower your left leg to the floor, placing your feet together. Gently lift your arms up above your head and stretch your entire body upwards in a perfect straight line from top to toe. Relax and repeat on the other side, then repeat the entire balance. Help and Advice At first it isn’t even easy to stand straight with your head between your straight arms and your hands together, thumbs crossed. Doing this, however, and concentrating on your posture in this position makes such a difference. Try doing it in front of a full-length mirror and you will see your imbalances. Cheer up, though; daily practice of this movement will do wonders to correct your posture. In the movement it is hard trying to make the arms and legs level, but this will become very easy as you learn to juxtapose your body in the movement. 6 Tree Balance We first tried the tree balance in Stage 1. Now it is time to try the entire Tree Balance. This movement does wonders for the joints in your legs; it literally oils your hips, knees, ankles and feet. It tones and firms all the muscles in your legs and is excellent for helping to prevent arthritis and rheumatism in your joints. It also helps your powers of concentration, balance and patience. Stand straight with your feet together, then lift your right foot onto your left thigh (if this is still difficult for you, just place your foot in a comfortable position, as explained in Stage 1.) Don’t progress onto Phase 2 or 3 until you have mastered this position. Staring at a spot to enable you to balance, inhale and lift your arms straight up in the air, placing your palms together and crossing your thumbs. Hold this position for a count of 5, increasing to 10 as your strength improves. Exhale, lower your arms and leg, place your hands together and relax. Repeat on the other side, then repeat the entire movement. Stand with your right foot on your left thigh and your arms straight above your head as in Phase 1. Inhale and, as you exhale, staring at a spot on the floor, gently move forwards, aiming to place your hands on the floor either side of your left foot and, eventually, your chin on your shin. (This is rarely possible in the beginning stages.) Move only as far as you can without strain – this at first may be just a few inches, which is fine. Relax in your maximum position, breathing normally for a count of 5, then find another spot and concentrate hard on it, and then slowly lift first your head and then your upper body and eventually return to an upright standing position. Lower your leg and arms and relax. Repeat on the other side. (Only move into this phase when you can easily manage Phase 2.) Stand straight with your right foot on your left thigh and place your arms above your head, palms together. Inhale and, as you exhale, carefully move forwards and place your hands flat on the floor by your left foot as in Phase 2. Now place your hands about 2 feet in front of your feet and transfer the majority of your weight to your hands, coming onto the ball of your left foot. Concentrate on a spot and gently lower your bottom to balance on your left heel. Now adjust your posture so that you are literally sitting on your left heel. Keep concentrating on your spot and, finally, place your hands in prayer. Stay in this position for a count of 5, breathing normally. Place your hands back on the floor in front of you and transfer the majority of your weight; to them. Lift your bottom in the air by straightening your legs, and return to an upright position. Place your hands in prayer and hold for a count of 5, then gently lower your right leg to the floor and relax. Repeat on the other side. Well done! There is no need to repeat this sequence. Help and Advice Where do I start? I think by saying that I have honestly seen this position perform miracles. At first it is literally a nightmare – nothing seems to work and you wonder if it is worth persevering, but having taught so many people for so long I have seen many tired people with painful knees and hips change into energized people free from their normal ageing aches, pains and stiffness. Please try it, but take care, practise at your pace and without pain or strain, and you’ll see that it helps to keep your legs and joints in excellent condition for life. I would hate to grow old without yoga’s magical movements. ‘I started yoga while having chemotherapy. I had always been fit, but felt I needed something less aerobic and which promoted caring for body and mind rather than challenging them. Now that I am working again, daily yoga allows me to stay in touch with myself and focus on staying well.’ JENNY, 48 7 Eagle Balance Another of yoga’s gems, and again a brilliant movement to keep your shoulders, elbows, wrists, fingers, hips, knees, ankles and feet flexible and free from aches, pains and stiffness. It will tone your calves, thighs, hips and upper arms, and stimulate blood flow to the lower abdomen. Stand straight with both feet together. Place both arms straight out in front of you, then cross your right upper arm over your left. Take your right arm underneath the left and place your hands in prayer, with your thumbs towards you. Concentrate on a spot. Now take your right thigh over your left and slide your right foot behind your left calf aiming to get all 5 toes to appear on the right side of the left calf. Now place your chin on your upper hand, your elbow on your upper knee, and a smile on your upper lip! Balance, breathing normally, for a count of 5, increasing to 10 as you progress in this position. Inhale, unwind your legs, then your arms, exhale and relax. Repeat to the other side. Help and Advice Try to do the arm movement first, concentrating on your spot. Then try with the legs. Remember, just a small amount of each movement will be fine to begin with. It is always a nasty shock to realize how stiff some of our joints have become. It is, however, always possible to help stiff and aching joints. Persevere and this movement will work wonders! 8 Abdominal Lift and Contractions Please do not attempt if you are pregnant When I think of all the movements in yoga, these are the ones most practised and loved by my pupils. I regard them as a wonderful gift. The Lift will give you a firm, flat, beautifully-toned tummy and will prevent the abdominal drop that so often can occur with age. The Contractions relieve tension in the lower abdomen and massage the small intestine, colon, pancreas, heart and gall bladder. These movements can be most helpful to those suffering from bloating, constipation and irritable bowel syndrome. They must be done on an empty stomach – by far the best time to do them is before breakfast. ABDOMINAL LIFT Stand straight with your legs about 1 foot apart and place your hands on your upper thighs. Inhale very deeply, then exhale fully. Keeping the air out of your lungs, pull your abdominals in and up. Hold for a count of 10, then release the abdominals. Inhale and relax. Repeat twice. ABDOMINAL CONTRACTIONS With your legs about 1 foot apart, inhale deeply and then exhale. Keeping the air out of your lungs, lean slightly forwards, rest your hands on your upper thighs and snap your abdominals in and out 10 times. Relax and inhale. Repeat twice. ‘I fell off a horse when I was 19. My hips have always been a problem, causing a twist with one leg nearly an inch different in length. I have done these classes for approximately two years and my legs are even and I feel much better.’ CATHY, 46 Help and Advice When you first try to pull your abdominals in and up, not a lot happens. Just persevere and soon you will be in control and the firm, flat yoga tummy will soon be yours. Your mind affects every cell in your body, and during stressful times most of us have experienced the dreaded knot in our lower abdomen. We are experiencing a ‘gut reaction’. The Contractions can really help to release this resulting tension. Now you have learned your morning stretches, enjoy and make use of each day. The Romans said Carpe Diem or ‘Seize the day.’ The Indian dramatist Kalidasa put it this way, in his beautiful poem that has been translated from the Sanskrit: Salutation to the Dawn by Kalidasa Look to this day! for it is life, the very life of life In its brief course lie all the verities and realities of your existence. The bliss of growth The glory of action The splendour of beauty for yesterday is but a dream And tomorrow is only a vision But today well lived makes yesterday a dream of happiness And every tomorrow a vision of hope Look well therefore to this day Such is the salutation to the dawn. It is so easy to waste our precious days worrying about mistakes that we made yesterday and having anxiety over what may happen tomorrow. Yoga teaches us to enjoy the day and live well and enjoy each moment. Worry will do you no good at all and is very, very ageing. 15-Minute Miracles Stage 4 This beautiful relaxing sequence is an ideal aid to deep restful sleep, or indeed anytime you want to feel relaxed and calm. It will tone and stretch out your hamstrings and calves, keep your joints oiled and flexible, relieve tension in your spine and help to prevent lower back ache. It will also firm and tone your arms, calves, thighs, bottom, midriff and waistline. Above all, it will teach you to relax. Pose of a Heron Alternate Leg Pull Thigh Stretch Pose of a Star Simple Twist Backstretch Pose of a Cat Pose of a Cobra Half-Locust Full-Locust The Bow Deep Relaxation Listen in deep silence, be very still and open your mind. Sink deep into the peace that waits for you beyond the riotous thoughts and sights and frantic sounds of this insane world. FROM A COURSE IN MIRACLES I Pose of a Heron This clever movement tones the backs of your thighs and is a great help in smoothing away cellulite. It stretches out your hamstrings and is a very important component in helping to relieve lower back problems. Sit on the floor with both legs straight out in front of you. Bring your right foot into the space between your legs, resting your heel on the floor by your groin. Bend your left leg and interlock your hands under your left foot. Correct your posture, inhale deeply and, as you exhale, slowly aim to stretch your left leg and bring it upwards. Your eventual aim is to straighten your left leg and place your chin on your left knee, with your back and left leg straight. If this is not possible (and it rarely is in the beginning stages) simply aim to straighten your left leg – adjusting the position of your hands to your calf or knee to enable you to do this – and then lifting the leg as high as possible. Hold for a count of 5, breathing normally, then exhale, gently lower your leg, relax and repeat on the other side. Repeat the entire movement. Help and Advice Please don’t worry if your hamstrings are impossibly tight in the beginning stages; this is frequently the case. However, it is essential to carefully and daily stretch them out. If you have tight hamstrings this can have the effect of putting your lumbar spine under pressure and literally making the area an accident waiting to happen. When the hamstrings are stretched this can help to ease the problem, and in my opinion stretching out the hamstrings is one of the most important factors in helping to prevent lower back problems. 2 Alternate Leg Pull One of yoga’s all-time greats! This movement ensures the flexibility of your feet, ankles, hips and thighs. It stretches and tones your hamstrings and calf muscles, rebalances your lower back and massages your lower abdominal organs. Sit straight with both legs straight out in front of you. Carefully lift your right foot onto your left thig