As I stumbled around the Internet the last few evenings searching for something interesting to write about – I came across numerous sites offering a Yoga Tips and suggestions section – most with plenty of suggestions related to the physical aspects, but only a rare few that covered all the holistic components of Yoga…and by that I mean mind, body, spirit, and environment.
Please keep in mind that the large majority of these tips and suggestions rely on the “in a perfect world” philosophy. Those tips or suggestions which should not be altered under any circumstances will be marked by a snowflake! (Okay, I admit it is an asterisk.) If you are a Yoga teacher or aspiring to become one, don’t worry! I have included some tips for teachers as well towards the end of the article.
- The best time for Yoga practice is in the morning before you have eaten breakfast. The body is warm and well rested after a good night’s sleep and once you are used to a morning Yoga routine, you will find your body is at its most flexible early in the day.
- If you must practice later in the day, make sure you allow a minimum of two hours for food to digest before starting your Yoga practice.*
- Before you begin your Yoga practice, make sure to empty your bowels and bladder, as well as clearing your nose and throat of any mucus.* It is advisable to consume a small glass of warm water, as this settles the stomach.
- Wear clothing that leaves as much skin exposed to open air as possible, as long as you are not feeling a chill. Cotton or cotton/Lycra blends in both looser and more form fitting styles will allow your skin to breathe and seem to be the most preferred.
- Use a mat, or at a minimum make sure you are performing your practice on a non-slip surface.* Yoga should be performed in bare feet where possible, but as mentioned in the last article, Yoga socks with ‘grippies’ are now commonly available.
- Pay more attention to form and less attention to the depth of the stretch, especially when you are first beginning.*
- Warm up and lightly stretch before starting your Yoga practice. When you do begin, start slowly and lightly. Yoga should leave you feeling energized and aware – not tired or sore.
- Learn to feel the difference between your body’s resistance to movement as opposed to pain. If you experience any sharp pains at all, stop immediately and examine what changes in the posture are necessary to make you comfortable.*
- Focus on long, deep, slow exhalation and inhalation – your breath is your guide. If a particular pose makes you feel out of breath, rest for a moment or two before moving on to the next pose.*
- Maintain a reasonable diet, and avoid under-eating or over-eating. If you are fortunate enough to afford it, whole grains, fibrous vegetable and leafy greens, as well as fruits and skim dairy products should comprise at least ninety-percent of your diet.
- The greatest cause of injury in Yoga is ego. Whether in a class setting or in your own home, there is no need for competition. Although Yoga is often practiced in class settings, it is truly a personal way of living and exercising.
- Focus your attention on the breath, as this will help keep the mind quiet and occupied. Concentrate on feeling every muscle, joint and tendon as you perform your Asanas.
- Yoga is a lifestyle – there are no belts to earn, and the only true gauge to your advancement will be felt in every aspect of your existence as time goes by.
- Make a commitment with yourself to be as regular as possible in your practice. When life gets in the way, do not feel bad; instead, renew your commitment and move on in a spirit of anticipation – not guilt.
- If you are having difficulty maintaining a regular home practice, join a class that suits you. A great deal of human motivation is often dependent on who is watching…
- Consider adding two ten- to fifteen-minute meditation sessions to your day to help calm the mind and increase self-awareness.
- Yoga is not a religion, nor is it associated with any one belief system. Yoga will, in fact, deepen your spiritual connections, no matter what your belief system.
- Even if your goals are purely physical in nature, you will begin to come into contact with the core of your being – without any belief at all required.
- Meditation does far more than calm a chaotic mind – it also brings us closer to realizing the communion we all share with each other and the Creator. There is really no ‘right’ way to meditate. Explore different options until you find something that works for you.
- If you are uncomfortable with the Sanskrit names due to religion, belief, or environment – make up your own names – as long as you can remember! For instance, in bowing poses you could have the intent you are acknowledging and bowing to Jesus Christ if you are Christian.
- Spirituality grows because of awareness and its increase. Yoga naturally builds awareness, but you may also extend this awareness-building into your day to day life. Learning to pay more attention leads to a richer experience of life and all its beauty.
- An ideal environment is used for Yoga and meditation alone, and if possible should be considered holy ground and off limits to anyone, except you, of course. Physical structures are imprinted with our thoughts, emotions and intentions – if you require proof of this, visit a funeral home…keeping a room for yourself alone to meditate and perform your Yoga in can be a wonderful gift.
- If you are as the majority of us surely are, and no private space is available – choose a location that receives fresh air and light where possible. Avoid stale environments and dust, as deep breathing increases the volume of particulate matter you inhale.
- If you are able, add an icon, symbol, or item that represents your commitment to Yoga and more importantly, yourself. Place this item in a prominent location where you will frequently reminded by its presence. Always remember, we could drop the word “Yoga” altogether and instead say “myself practice,” which is what Yoga really is – a way to self.
Well, that concludes the Yoga tips and guidance portion of the article as relates to beginners especially. One footnote I will add before a few ideas for teachers or those aspiring to teach is this: Never forget or underestimate the benefits of lying in corpse pose at the end of your practice. I have been guilty in the past of doing exactly this and found that failing to lie in corpse pose for at least a few minutes can lead to what I call “tension bundles” or knots of muscles in certain areas.
My utmost respect and admiration to those with the ability and courage to teach others…teaching is one of the noblest of professions – even a king or emperor has had many teachers whose imparting of knowledge and wisdom allowed said royalty to succeed.
- If your financial situation allows, consider becoming certified in specific areas of Yoga, such as prenatal Yoga, PTS and victim rehabilitation certification, or Bikram Yoga (have a nice time in Hawaii)
- Combine your love of teaching Yoga with meditation and expand your offerings to your potential students.
- Attend workshops and seminars where you can become the student again for a short time – this allows you to bring home new insights into ways of improving your own teaching skills.
- Avoid online certifications. They are rarely accepted as valid when compared to accredited training.
- Consider carrying liability insurance. There are insurers out there that have specific plans for Yoga instructors or deal with such professions as clinical rehab and health workers.
Until next week…
Peace on Earth and good will towards all of creation's myriad forms.