Body, mind, and spirit all benefit from a daily movement practice. The particular benefits of yoga are seen not only in stronger, more flexible muscles, which results in better balance and a feeling of well-being; yoga’s particular benefit is also seen in the organs of the body.
This is particularly true for the aging human body where many of our internal processes slowly become more and more sluggish. When moving through the physical yoga poses, the organs are squeezed, twisted, and flooded with vital fluids; they are stimulated into vitality.
In class, many of you have asked me about home practice. I sense much insecurity about practicing :”the right way.” Some have expressed fear of doing IT WRONG, worried that they’d hurt themselves. Maybe some of this comes from over-emphasis on CORRECT alignment.
Correct alignment comes from feeling the pose inside your body .
ONLY YOU KNOW HOW YOU FEEL!
The BEST teacher in the world can only make an educated, experienced GUESS as to what is happening inside YOUR BODY.
Sutra.1.12 (Sanskrit:abhyasa-vairagyabhyam tad-nirodhah) says”Control over the mind’s fluctuations comes from persevering practice and nonattachment”
According to Bernard Bouanchaud, a French translator of Patanjali’s sutras, quoted here, nonattachment is inextricably linked to persevering practice if one wishes to control those pesky mental fluctuations.
Whew. Do I need to work on both of these.
Persevering practice is my weak link during long days of work that feed me on a real and intellectual level, but also drain me. I need the practice to keep me on an even keel, refreshed and with an evenness of energy available. This doesn’t happen inevitably. It doesn’t happen at all in fact, if I don’t put some energy into my practice.
And guess how that happens? I have to begin my nonattachment practice. The things of this world are ephemeral: work will always be there, but another day without practice will keep me from living fully in the moment, enjoying sthira, stability, and sukha, bliss.
The mat is calling; do I have the courage to heed its message?
When you begin, always spend some time centering usually with your breath and create or ask your Self your intention for bringing yoga into your life and for your practice today. We believe your thoughts create your existence; intentions are very important–whether we are aware of them or not. You may wish to chant OM at this point or to say a prayer honoring this sacred practice.
Move into warming up the body. This is often a time to transition from the sitting meditation of centering into the moving meditation of asana practice. Cat-cow, supta padanghustasthana, seated twists are all good warm-ups. Listen to your needs and think about what specific poses you are going to practice. Warm-up the muscles that will be needed. Keep the mind focused on the movement through the breath.
If you can move into a sun salutation, a downward facing dog sequence, or a couple of standing poses such as triangle, revolved triangle, half-moon, etc.
These standing poses may be the focus of your practice OR you may wish to work on Forward Bends, Backward Bends, Inversions, Twists, or Balance Poses. Whatever you choose to practice, follow-up with one or more cooling poses, such as supta baddhakonasana, or supta virasana, or upavistha, or paschimottansana, or a reclining twist.
If you are going to practice inversions, try handstand, forearm balance, or headstand, followed by shoulderstand, plough, &/or legs up the wall. If you have glaucoma, or are tired, move into legs up the wall.
Then slide into savasana for an absolute minimum of 3 minutes, preferably 10-20 minutes.
Come out of savasana slowly so as to not disturb your nervous system and sit quietly, practicing gratitude for a few moments.