We often lead busy and chaotic lives, cutting corners and ignoring guidelines in an attempt to do something faster, better or more efficiently. In our attempt to fit everything into a busy day we often compromise or gloss over the necessary preparation for yoga that otherwise would enhance the benefits of our yoga practice.
In order to have the ‘ultimate beneficial yoga experience,’ you need to follow certain guidelines and pointers. If you can adapt your practice to take notice of these pointers and incorporate them into your busy day it will improve your yoga practice and you will experience the benefits of yoga more deeply.
When you start your yoga routine, try and RELAX. Let your mind go blank. Give it permission to release the worries of the day. Attempt to bring your focus into you. However, don’t become frustrated if at first you can’t still your racing mind. Often this is exceptionally hard, however with regular yoga meditation practice you will learn to achieve this state of relaxation faster and faster. A good way to start is with 5 to 10 minutes of Savasana (this is the corpse pose).
Now Savasana can be practiced at any time throughout your yoga session, you don’t need to practice it at any particular time, but it is effective in calming the mind and allowing you to focus in on you and the start of your yoga practice. As it assists relaxation, savasana often concludes a yoga class with the teacher usually leading the class through a process of guided meditation.
Once you have your focus centered on you, then concentrate on your BREATHING.
It takes a short while to learn to properly breathe in the yogic fashion, however once achieved it will definitely make the practice of the asanas easier. Bear in mind that yogic breathing is different. To breathe properly in the yoga style, ALWAYS breathe in through the nose unless your instructor tells you otherwise and out through the mouth. Try and make the length of your in breath equal the length of your out breath. When you’re ready, try to co-ordinate the progression of one yoga position to another with your breath. You wish to achieve a flowing motion between breath and movement.
When breathing is established, bring your AWARENESS in to you. By this I mean, focus on what is happening in your body and in your mind while seeking to perfect each yoga pose.
Try to observe or become aware of:-
1. How your body feels when it’s in certain positions. If it feels well, then move into the particular yoga position a little further, if your body twinges, then listen to it and back off. You’re not ready for that intensity;
2. What sensations are traveling through your body? Heat, fatigue or even a sense of nothingness. Each has meaning and your yoga practice can be modified to accommodate each sensation;
3. What your breath is doing throughout each yoga pose. Are you using your breath to assist you into the pose?
Most importantly, become aware of what thoughts and feelings course through your body while moving from one asana to the next and practice accepting those thoughts and feelings, without judgment. Just let those thoughts and feelings exist, observe them, without comment!
Now look at the STRUCTURE of your yoga practice. As it is important to balance the body and the mind, you need to structure your poses. Each forward bend should be followed by a backward bend. The poses you do on one side should be done on the other side of your body as well.
Now what is the best TIME to practice yoga? Many say generally in the mornings, just on arising as your mind is clear, free of thoughts and the air is still and quiet, there is no disturbance to interrupt your focus on you and your practice. The second best time to practice yoga is during the evening, those 2-3 hours around sunset. The chaos of the day has abated, and you can focus more clearly.
For many of us these times don’t suit our lifestyles or commitments. So my belief is that yoga can actually be practiced at any time during the day. Whenever you are able to take a block of time for yourself. The only caveat to that is that you shouldn’t practice yoga for at least two hours after a meal. So if early afternoon is a time that you can plan to have free, and be at liberty to focus on you without interruptions, then that is then the best time for you to practice yoga.
The last guideline for a beneficial yoga experience is to consider the PLACE or SPOT to conduct your yoga practice in. What you want is a well ventilated area, but on the other hand not one that is draughty. You need the ventilation as your body will generate heat during the practice of the poses and you will perspire. On the other hand you don’t want a draught in the room to chill and stiffen your muscles.
Also, the spot you choose should be quiet and still. So that your mind doesn’t wander it’s a good idea to choose the same spot for your yoga practice each time. If you’re familiar with the spot, you won’t be focusing on unnecessary things which will leave your mind free to focus on your practice.
If you choose to practice outside in the open air, then try not to practice in a cold breeze or conversely under the hot sun. Use common sense and find a spot that is comfortable for you.
As a final thought, always have something between you and the ground. In that regard a MAT is essential. There are some great mats and meditation pillows to be had which will definitely enhance your experience.
If you follow these simple guidelines, you can be assured that you will benefit from your yoga practice as you will have removed any physical obstacle which may interfere with your ability to build on and further your yoga practice.