Yoga is a practice known to change you from the inside out (both physically, and mentally). Sadhana or daily practice of yoga, involves stretching and lengthening your muscles, strengthening your core, expanding your lung capacity, improving your stamina, increasing clarity in your thoughts, and bringing about positivity.
For the new, the experienced, and even the ones who are still finding their feet, there are some golden rules that all yogis and yoginis must follow, in order to make the most of their routine. They can benefit you on multiple levels, and help keep the mind and body engaged as it was truly intended.
The Right Form
Performing poses the right way will correct your body alignment, making you appear leaner and taller due to the restructuring that takes place inside. Bones will actually shift, correcting and re-aligning to give you a light, agile, and symmetrical machine you can proudly claim as yours. Impurities that are not in harmony with the functioning of the internal system will be coerced into being flushed out. The importance of posture and stance is extremely important in yoga, so always be mindful and don’t take it for granted.
Put Your Heart Into It
Practice the asanas, concentrating and thinking about what you intend to achieve, doing repetitions to elevate your performance, and being completely aware of your body and its movements. This is not a robotic workout like the one at the gym. You need to be as present in mind and body, as you possibly can.
Engage Your Core
You must push out of your comfort zone and focus on keeping your abdomen contracted—never allowing it to ‘hang out’. It may feel unnatural at first, but must not be neglected, especially in speedy Vinyasa-based classes. An engaged core protects your lower back, improves balance, tightens your mid-section (the powerhouse), simplifies holding and executing postures, and helps you breathe deeply.
An Upright Spine Is The Backbone Of Yoga
Another rule of thumb when performing asanas is to keep your spine erect unless instructed otherwise. A straight spine immediately lengthens and lifts your body, eliminating bad posture. It also gives one a wider range of motion, allowing your body to go into deeper postures like the paschimottanasana (the seated forward bend), for example.
Staying focused and mindful of your breath throughout your practice is another fundamental principle to imbibe. Holding your breath is a common mistake—unintentional of course, but it should not develop into a habit. It is detrimental to holding postures, especially in one’s you find difficult. The more care you take in keeping your breath constant, even, and long—the better are the chances that you will enjoy, fully benefit from, and master asanas you struggle with.
The Best Time For Yoga
It is encouraged to practice at dawn or dusk when your stomach is empty or very light. A liter of water generally takes 45 minutes to digest, so imagine eating a regular meal. A heavy stomach does not sit well with a fruitful yoga practice because we are contorting our bodies by twisting, inverting, bending and stretching. Such movements require a light body with fuel fully digested.
Take A Break
Lastly, whenever instructed in class, do allow your body to rest and take a break. Different schools of yoga offer them in different ways. In an Ashtanga-Vinyasa class, we practice stillness through samasthiti.
In a Bikram Yoga class, savasana is offered in between many postures so the body gets a chance to rest, lower your heart rate and re-energize. So take advantage of these opportunities and do take breaks as advised.
Apply these principles to your practice to see the difference. It pays to be mindful, especially when you’re practicing yoga—whether it is to workout, meditate, treat an injury, or even just cleanse the body.