An absolute must for the sedentary worker, regardless of his field, is to have the ability truly to relax His physical organism for at least several hours after the workday. I use the word truly because, to most people, relaxation is synonymous with collapsing into a chair or couch. This, actually the result of fatigue, is not relaxation. Relaxing is an art; it is not inertia and it is not laziness. The cat is the perfect example of a creature who is simultaneously relaxing and building energy (revitalizing).
To learn the lost art of relaxation one must first be able to banish all tension from the body. We are all aware that tension causes nervousness, strain, irritation, weakness and fatigue. It is certain that one of our greatest problems is the inability to relax—physically, emotionally and mentally. But these three aspects of our being are so highly interrelated that what affects one has a corresponding effect on the others. You may be very pleasantly surprised to learn that if you can relax physically you simultaneously achieve a high degree of emotional and mental calm. The Yoga stretching and breathing exercises will remove tension.
The Preliminary Leg Pull provides a good indication of how stiff you may be throughout your legs and spine. Just this simple stretching movement will go a long way toward beginning to loosen these stiff areas. Although you probably know of many stiff and tense points in your body, you are unaware of dozens.of other tension areas. Yoga movements, such as the Preliminary Leg Pull, will show up many of these spots.
In the Preliminary Leg Pull, the object is not to see how fast you can fight your way down toward your knees but simply to hold the furthermost area of your legs that you can without strain and pull yourself forward and down easily, so that your spine begins to loosen. The stiffer you find yourself, the greater your need for these gentle pulling movements. Never strain or jerk in these exercises as one is inclined to do in the ordinary type of calisthenics. Just attain your extreme position, regardless of where it may be, and have the patience to hold for a count of 10 and to repeat as indicated. There is no trick to attaining the more extreme position of the Preliminary Leg Pull or, for that matter, of any of the Yoga stretching exercises. It can be achieved when the spine becomes sufficiently flexible.
The Preliminary Leg Pull is a very fine morning exercise that the sedentary worker would find most valuable to practice before leaving for work. This is because the spine is exceptionally stiff in the morning (quite natural after the night’s sleep). We have already stated that fatigue and sluggishness can certainly result from a stiff spine, therefore, a few quick movements of the Preliminary Leg Pull are beneficial in loosening the spine. Although these movements will seem particularly difficult in the morning, do not be discouraged—they are of great value. Remember to bend your elbows outward when pulling forward because this enables you to pull more effectively. Also remember to drop your head downward when pulling forward, since this helps to work out your neck and upper back muscles. Attempt to remain tranquil and relaxed while performing the movements. Close your eyes in the extreme positions and concentrate on the “feel” of the stretching.
It is important to note that progress in Yoga is irregular. That is, you will find that you can accomplish an extreme position fairly comfortably one day, but that two or three days of practice may be needed before you can do this again. This is the learning process; it is true of almost all Yoga exercises. There are days when you experience what appears to be a setback. I say “appears” because it is not truly a setback. The body is stiff on certain days and does not respond to your will as well as on previous days. But it is really setting itself and preparing to make another stride forward. This is similar to the arrow, which is first pulled back before it leaves the bow. This pulling-back movement provides greater impetus to fly forward. When you seem to be having difficulty, your body is drawing itself back like the arrow. If you just “go easy” when you feel stiff and do not force your body or become discouraged, you will find that within a day or two your organism has completed its process of setting and then will take a big step ahead.
Benefits of Preliminary Leg Pull
- Removes stiffness and promotes elasticity in the spine through a concave stretching movement.
- Helps to relieve tension in the back.
- Stretches and strengthens the entire leg.
- Makes the muscles and skin of the legs taut and firm.
How To Do Preliminary Leg Pull
Sit with your legs stretched straight out before you. The feet should be together. Sit erect but relaxed. Rest your hands on your knees.
Bring your arms up and lean backward several inches. This movement helps to strengthen the abdominal muscles.
Slowly and gracefully bring your arms over and lean forward.
Take a firm hold on your knees or calves.
Gently pull your trunk downward as far as you can without strain. Let your elbows bend outward. Let your neck go limp. Hold this position without moving for a count of 5.
Slide your hands farther down the legs and attempt to hold the ankles firmly.
Gently pull your trunk downward as before, bending the elbows outward. Rest your forehead close to your knees if possible. Relax the muscles as much as possible. Do not allow the body to become tense. Hold this position without moving for a count of 5.
Slowly straighten up into the position of in the first picture and repeat both the knee and ankle stretches. Perform three times in all.
Important Things To Know About Preliminary Leg Pull
This technique will be an indication as to how stiff and tight you may have grown in ‘Key’ areas throughout your back and legs. The preliminary leg pull will begin to loosen these tense and cramped spots and provide you with elasticity of the spine. Ry following the directions exactly as given and holding your extreme position without motion for the number of seconds indicated, you will soon be able to place your forehead very close to, if not actually on your knees.
Points to Remember When Practicing Preliminary Leg Pull
- Never strain. Go only as far as you are able to bend comfortably in slow motion and hold your extreme position motionless. Do not jerk or fight in order to get down a little farther. Each day you will find that your spine automatically gains in elasticity by following the above directions.
- Make certain that the backs of both knees remain resting on the floor and that your legs are held straight.
- Remember to bend your elbows slightly outward as you draw your head downward.
- Count the necessary number of seconds silently to yourself. You may close your eyes if you wish.