Practice, practice, practice!
With Summer upon us, some may be tempted to put their yoga practice aside. I know I am teaching less classes because people are away and I will be having a holiday soon too in a few weeks.
However, yoga can be done anytime and anywhere, if you are open to the possibilities. I am posting below my practice guidelines. I suggest reading them over and then make a plan to fit it in your day. I am sure you will be grateful you did.
Have a great summer everyone!
GUIDELINES FOR YOGA PRACTICE
- Empty stomach: Asanas are best performed 1-3 hours after a meal depending on what and how much you have eaten.
- Centering : Take a few moments to be still before you practice, to Bring your mind and heart into the present.
- Beginning a Pose: Give attention to the alignment of the body, establishing a solid foundation. Look for balance throughout the body.
- Move slowly into postures: Slow attentive movements allow for you to feel how your body is responding to the posture. This allows you to find your edge safely.
- Stretch to your Edge: The Edge is as far as you can go maintaining good alignment with lots of sensation but no pain.
- Length of time in a Posture: will vary again depending on your body. To start do postures 1-3 times for about 5 breaths listening to your body and staying longer with more experience and strength.
- Attention: During the pose turn your mind inward and notice: How do you feel? How is your body responding to the pose? Where are you strong? What is getting tired first? Where are you tight? Are any emotions passing through you? What are you learning about yourself?
- Breathe: Always breathe in and out through the nose in a relaxed fashion. Slow and steady exhalations help you release tension and go deeper into postures. In general you will move into a posture on an exhalation, hold steady breathe normally and come out as you inhale. There will be exceptions from time to time.
- Relax: Release tension from face, eyes, neck, throat, shoulders and stomach at all times. Tension wastes your energy and limits the stretch transformation, so eliminate unnecessary effort.
- Pain: Is a friend. A sharp, uncontrollable pain should be heeded; back off, adjust or leave the pose temporarily. Be kind to your body, neither be a pusher nor a pamperer. Remember that edge.
- No competition: Everyone’s body is different. Do not pursue the postures in a competitive spirit but rather for the joy of movement and self-discovery.
- Ending the posture: Come out of postures reversing your actions from the way you went in with the same mindfulness.
- Imbalances: If there is a significant difference from one side to the other in a posture, that is, if one side is weaker or tighter, it could be advised to do that side twice. Otherwise both sides should be done for an equal length of time.
- Ending the practice: taking a few moments at the end to mark the closure of your practice, filling yourself with gratitude for all your gifts, your body, your life, your breath.
- Setting: Choose a clean, quiet area, where you can practice undisturbed.
- When to practice: Regularity is the key. Best is the same time everyday. Experiment and find what suits you best.
- Relaxation: Spend 5-15 minutes in relaxation after your practice to restore your body, eliminate fatigue and to help yourself feel calm and centered.
- Doing it right: Don’t worry about doing everything perfectly. With regular classes and practice, form and breathing will become second nature.
- Formal and Informal practice: Formal practice would be a planned practice that has a specific purpose and sequence. Informal practice is doing postures throughout the day as the need and time allows. Be open and creative and you could be surprised how much yoga you can fit into a day. Make it a part of your life!
- Sequencing: When doing a full practice there is a reason to the order of the postures. Follow your teacher’s guidelines or the outlines of practices in recommended Yoga books.
- Watch your mind and note the Obstacles it is presenting you: According to the Yoga Sutras there are eleven basic obstacles to practice: lack of interest, doubt, laziness, sensuality, false knowledge, failure to concentrate, pain, despair, unsteadiness of body, sickness and unsteadiness of respiration. Four of these are physical, the rest are psychological and reflect the mind/body connection. As you approach your own practice or even class time notice if any obstacles are coming up. What can you learn about yourself from that? Remember that Yoga is a Gift to yourself. A gift of improved health and peace of mind.