“Asana makes the body fit for pranayama and pranayama makes the mind fit for meditation.” BKS Iyengar
If your back is barking at you while trying to breathe deep, there’s no way you’ll be able to concentrate and find your peace within. And by the way, this is very common. You’re not alone. Here are five easy postures to move the spine in all directions before practicing any breathing technique. As Iyengar said, yogic postures (asanas) are meant to prepare the body for breathing techniques (pranayama) and pranayama is meant to prepare the mind for meditation. Try these simple postures for one minute each, then go into long deep breathing. See how it feels. The short video here shows seated and standing variations.
Come to sit in easy pose or in a straight-back chair with feet flat on the floor. Close your eyes and roll them up between the brows, focusing at the third eye point, giving your mind a point of focus.
Spinal Flex: Grab onto the front ankle with both hands, or onto both knees if in a chair. On the inhale, flex the spine forward, open the chest, and keep the chin parallel to the floor. On the exhale, round the spine back, opening the vertebrae and shoulder blades. You can start off slow and increase the pace as your spine warms up. To finish, inhale back up to straight spine, hold the breath for a moment, then exhale and relax.
Spinal Bend: Bring hands back up to shoulders. Inhale bend the torso left. Exhale bend torso right. Be sure not to bend forward with this, just side to side. To finish, inhale back to center, hold the breath for a moment, then exhale relax.
Neck Rolls: Inhale head straight. Exhale drop chin to your chest and slowly begin to roll your head around your neck. Be sure if you feel any pain in the neck to go around it and not through it. Always listen to your body’s messages and do what feels right for you.
If you prefer to see these postures demonstrated, here’s a video that shows both seated and standing variations. Sat Nam, friends.