Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Yoga: What are Leg Raises?

Practising the leg raises will develop your physical strength and make it easier for you to perform asanas correctly. Leg Raises will also strengthen your abdominal and lower back muscles. But remember that in order to gain the maximum benefit from these asanas, keep your back as flat as possible on the floor, and your shoulders and neck relaxed. If you cannot lift your legs all the way up raise them only as high as you can manage.

Single Leg Raising

Lie on your back and put your feet together. Push your back into the ground to keep your spine straight, then inhale as you lift one leg as high as possible. Begin by raising your legs individually. Lift each leg at least three times. Keep your foot straight as you raise your leg. Lay your hands next to your body with the palms down. Try to synchronise your movements with your breathing. To finish, exhale as you lower the leg.
Inhale, raising one leg. Use both hands to grasp your leg, and stretch it toward your head. Lift your head to your leg. Raise your chin to your shin and hold for 10 seconds. Exhale as you lower your head and your leg. Repeat three times for each leg.

Single Wind Relieving

This asana, known as Vatayanasana , gently massages the digestive system and gives relief from excess wind in the stomach and intestines. It also tones and stretches the lower back.

As you inhale, bend one knee up to your chest, and hold it with both hands. Raise your head up to your knee.
Hold the pose for about 10 seconds. Exhale as you release your leg, straighten it, and lower it. Repeat the pose with your other leg.

While practising Vatayanasana , resist the tendency to raise the lower back or buttocks off the ground. Try to keep the leg that is on the floor as straight as possible.

Double Leg Raising

This is a difficult asana especially if your abdominal muscles are not fully developed. Make sure that the lower back and buttocks are on the floor. Keep your feet an inch or so off the floor between raises to make your muscles work harder.

Lie flat on the floor with your feet together and your hands flat on the floor next to your body. Push your back down, breathe in, and raise both legs, keeping your knees straight. Once you can perform double leg raising without strain, lower your legs as slowly as possible.
Exhale as you lower your legs. Start with 5 raises, and build up to 10.

Here are a few points to remember:

  • If you cannot manage this exercise with your back flat, just do the single leg raises until your back becomes stronger.
  • Ensure that your lower back remains flat on the floor while you bring the legs down, to avoid injuring to the spine.
  • At first, you may not be able to raise your legs right up. You can bend your knees slightly while raising the legs, straightening them once they are up. Pressing down with your palms will help you to lift the legs.
  • If you have a particular weakness in your lower back or abdominal muscles, try interlocking your fingers and placing them on your abdomen to create an extra set of "muscles". Press the fingers down each time you need to contract the abdominal muscles.

Double Wind Relieving

Like the single leg version, this exercise also massages the abdominal organs and helps to release any gases from the intestines. Rocking gets rid of any stiffness in the spine by gently massaging the spinal vertebrae, back muscles and surrounding ligaments.

Inhaling, bend your knees, wrap your hands around them and press them to your chest. Exhaling, release the legs. Keep your head and shoulders down and push your lower back against the floor.
Inhaling, bring your knees in to your chest, as before, then raise the chin to the knees. Now rock gently backward and forward and from side to side. Try to maintain a steady and controlled rhythm. Exhaling, release the legs.

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