HOW TO START, CHANGE AND ELEVATE YOUR YOGA PRACTICE
…and some guidelines for practice.
I’m guessing that if you’re looking at this site you’ve probably already practiced yoga a few times. This article has some ideas about how we should prepare ourselves before we begin our daily practice.
When I first started yoga I didn’t understand much about the practice except that I was going to be doing a bunch of stretching for an hour or so. Month by month I started to learn more about the culture and some of the generally held ideas about the practice. I found out there is a whole thinking about how we should prepare ourself for each individual practice.
But before I share, I want to say that with all these guidelines I recommend not being black and white. Do what works for you and if you have to eat something or can’t shower before you practice its not the end of the world.
Here’s the scoop in a question and answer format.
When is the best time to practice?
I tend to get really into rules and regulations, there’s a right way to do things and a wrong way black and white type thinking. The more grounded I am in practicing and over the years this has started to change. I used to be a strict morning practitioner. Some of the guidelines I read suggested that morning is the best time to practice, early ideally, right at sunrise. Something about there being special potential energy in the atmosphere at this time. I wasn’t really a morning person, but for years I forced myself out of bed and on to the mat to practice for 2-3 hours. My schedule no longer allows for early morning practice, and nowadays I just follow the suggestion of my teacher to fit it in whenever you have time.
Should I do some type of ritual before?
I recommend a cleansing ritual to help to clear any bad juju, and allow you to enter a clean temple. Also you might feel that you move much different after taking a shower, I have. Somehow poses come easier. When a shower isn’t possible, just mindfully wash your hands.
What should I wear?
Something comfortable that allows you to move freely.
What should I eat before I practice?
Don’t eat anything for at least a couple hours ideally. Asana should be practiced on an empty stomach. If you digest food quickly or slowly you can add a couple hours or subtract a half hour maybe. You’re cleansing your body and detoxifying to organs through al the movements, so you don’t want’t your body to be digesting during that process if possible.
Should I drink lot’s of water while I’m practicing to stay hydrated?
No, it puts out the internal fire building in the gut that is cleansing and detoxifying. Wait a little bit after you’re finished before you eat or drink anything, maybe 30 minutes.
What about breathing?
Practice nose breathing. Breathing in and out of your nose. If the pose is coming well, the breath will be calm and steady. In some poses the breath is more labored, but still look for some equanimity.
Now a few thoughts about practice…
The Bhagavad Gita talks about karma yoga or the yoga of action. This ancient spiritual principal encourages us to do our work for the pleasure of doing the work instead of the reward that might come from the work. I love Thich Nhat Hanh’s example in his book Peace Is Every Step. I think it’s in this book at least. Anyhow, he gives the example of doing dishes in his monastery. They all take turns doing the dishes, and you’re not aloud to eat desert until you finish the dishes. He urges his fellows monks to practice mindful breathing while they’re doing the dishes and to be present and enjoy their breath while they do the dishes instead of rushing toward the reward of desert at the end. Something I like to remind myself of when I practice asana.