Yoga is more than simply an exercise class, it is a system for living. If you hope to reap the many benefits of yoga, such as: greater flexibility, strength, better posture, ease of movement, calm and relief from anxiety to name a few… you have to PRACTICE. The single most important thing is to DO IT!
As the happiness researcher, Gretchen Rubin often says,
‘What we do every day is more important than what we do once in a while.’
Yoga is a practice- not something to be perfected, and not something to get over with… it is all about doing, and doing AGAIN and AGAIN. It is with the repetition that you will find long-term benefits. So, be consistent. Take part in a yoga class at least once a week. Try to practice your yoga asana (the postures), as well as breath and meditation for at least 10 minutes a day, as many days as you can!
Go slow. Respect your body, and honour any limitations you have. Remember that yoga isn’t just for flexible people, but over time the people who do yoga often BECOME FLEXIBLE as a side effect!
For most of us, improvement (meaning a deeper stretch, a longer hold, and/or more ease) will come with time. If you cannot do it easily at first, don’t give up. You are training your body– gently asking it permission to go deeper each time. In other postures, where an injury has maybe occurred, or the body is very tight, progress can be even slower. I might never get my splits with my left leg forward due to an injury as a teenager, but that’s okay! Rather than pushing too hard, this gives us a chance to PRACTICE ACCEPTANCE and be gentle with ourselves. Yoga is non-competitive and all about YOU and your relationship with yourself.
The yoga asana was only ever invented to help train traditional yogis to sit still and comfortably in long, seated bouts of meditation. To simplify, all these postures were designed to help us sit still and know ourselves- to look inward, and to meditate. To see our oneness with the universe.
So, don’t just practice the asana! Learn to meditate.
Download INSIGHT TIMER or PLUM VILLAGE , or any number of other free (or paid) meditation apps, or listen to a variety of mediation options on Youtube. You can read my review from 2017 of some of the many meditation apps available HERE.
Finally, pay attention to your breath.
Breath-work in yoga is called Pranayama- the control of the life force.
Experts today are agreeing more and more about healthy breath being fundamental to a healthy body (and long life). The ancient creators of yoga believed you were destined to live a pre-determined number of breaths, so it was up to you to lengthen your breath (ultimately taking less breaths per hour/day) and therefor lengthening your life! You can read all about breathing techniques and research in the fascinating new book BREATH by James Nestor, available everywhere, and as an audiobook.
Throughout the day, NOTICE your breath. Try to breathe through your nose as much as possible, and lengthen (slow down) your breath. That’s the start of your pranayama practice.
Lastly, treat all of your yoga practice (asana, pranayama and meditation) as a treat.
This is a gift to yourself… whether you’ve just started, or are choosing to renew your practice now…. allow it to be ME TIME… not a task or a fitness routine, but a caring practice to nurture your body, mind and soul.
See the PRACTICE area of the website to find our current yoga calendar.