Most of us come to  yoga to stretch and become more flexible -  not realising it’s just as important to tone up and strengthen our muscles as well.

We need strong and healthy muscles to move; to lift and carry things, or do exercise. It’s just the same when we’re doing yoga; we want these muscles to be strong enough to support the body and joints when we move into and out of postures.

The sensation of release we get after a deep yoga stretch is the muscle returning to its resting length after working. But first we want to make sure that muscle is ready to stretch. It may be stiff and overextended through long hours spent sitting in a chair, or it may be tight and knotted through tension.

That’s why I like to begin my classes by inviting students to warm up gently, usually lying on the mat and using body weight against the resistance of the floor. This way we bring our intention inwards becoming aware of how we are feeling, and easing away areas of tightness and tension.

Think of circling and rolling – back, ankles, hips, hands, shoulders etc. You might want to try any flow sequence you know, such as moving cat and kneeling sun salutations, or the full standing sun salutation.

Your muscles are now ready for some work – we may do something for the ‘core’, or standing poses for the legs, or upper body. After that, it’s time to rest, stretch, and relax, and really begin the process of yoga.

The stick figures below aim to act as a reminder of some of this week’s class (but are not a ‘how to’ guide). I hope you find some time to practise at home before we meet again.