Practicing Yoga Properly

IMG_7557 (1024x683)As many colors as there are in the world, there are that many approaches to doing yoga.  Have you ever been to class where the yoga instruction is given and it is not something that agrees with your body? If the class does not offer modifications, variations, or props to support your yoga practice, most people end up making up their own pose or quitting. Forcing would be a possible path to injury, which tends to happen in extreme fitness oriented classes.  Many people have a perception that Yoga is about stretching. Yet, when it is time for plank pose (holding the top of a push up position), core strengthening, or even Sun Salutations which traditionally result in sweat, some class members may suddenly want to bail or quit.

The way to practice yoga is to start from where you are. Get to know your body well by paying attention to what is happening with your joints, muscles and tendons as you are in each yoga posture. Notice if your face is straining and if you are comparing yourself to your Yoga Instructor (always a bad idea) or the rest of the yoga class.  Ask yourself honestly, what have I gained from this class that is noticeable in my body?  I often hear about how many people have stiffness, soreness, back pain, locked hips, and tight hamstrings which are in much better condition since beginning a yoga practice.

att_389_IMAG0363The students that benefit the most are focused on knowing more about what they are really doing. They listen to the cues from the Instructor and notice why or how that has an effect on the body. There is a natural understanding, respect for their dharma, and trust that if they teacher is saying something to you, there is a good reason for it, something to gain from what is offered and to apply to your practice :-)

The best time to practice yoga is when you need it the most. If you live in today’s world, that would be most days of the week. Even if you think you can’t do it, don’t just give up. I was so impressed with one lady this weekend, who attended the Winwood Retirement Chair Yoga class. At the beginning of class, she looked at me and commented out loud that she couldn’t do much but she could breathe and so she came to class. I love it! What an awesome attitude and a profound way to practice yoga. If you can breathe deeply in whatever you are doing, that’s the heart of a yoga practice. While breathing, the mind stretches, so the thoughts stretch apart. In those gaps between thoughts, peace of mind emerges and connection to the Infinite source is available.

Deep breathing throughout the yoga practice will also lead to more awareness. The mind and body will work together instead of ignoring each other, causing imbalances in the twelve systems of the body. When things flow together there is less effort and more allowing of higher faculties to be at work. That is often when all of a sudden, a yoga posture just comes alive in your practice, unforeseen and reminding you of your infinite potential. Ultimately the best way to practice yoga is to stay true to the path. If you used to practice yoga and it’s been awhile, now is most likely a good time to return. Whatever there is to gain from the class, however small or big will be there available for you when you go to class. How to practice yoga isn’t something to figure out as much as it is a decision to simply show up and be open to what it provides. There will always be something there for you. Namaste.

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