With over 300 positions in the physical yoga practice, being a beginner is not easy. With these helpful points to bear in mind when practising yoga asanas, you’ll be starting off on the right path.
Even just stepping onto the mat can be a trigger for emotions to start arising; emotions that have no doubt been suppressed rather than fully embodied at the moment that they originally arose. This is normal and to be embraced.
I often spend the first 5 – 10 minutes in a bad mood, feeling angry and irritable (or if I am attending someone else’s class, finding fault with the teacher, judging and comparing them), before I then start to unwind, chill out and enjoy the practice.
As we open the body so we open the way for stored emotions to be realised and released; emotions which are stored in the “subconscious” mind and also in a particular location in the cells of the body as well eg. your right hand, your left shin etc.
Therefore whatever arises, do not reject the experience, for that which we resist persists. Acknowledge the experience and your sensations, let the feeling(s) arise, and then allow them to pass away too.
If you’re feeling de-motivated, put on some uplifting or soothing music. Good music can galvanise you to practice even when you don’t feel like doing so. Listening to music can also help you to stay on the mat longer than you might do otherwise and help to stop the mind wandering. Sometimes silence is just too daunting.
Set an intention at the start of your practice, to give you something to focus your energy on while on the mat. At the end of the practice you may wish to send the cultivated energy out to a person or thing that needs it more than you do. For example, you can send healing energy to a friend or loved one or to something else that you hold dear e.g. trees, flowers. Try to foster this sense of giving to all beings, rather than giving selectively.
Remember that the breath is your gateway to the ‘subconscious’ mind. The quality of our breath can teach us a lot, particularly off the mat, but we won’t be aware of the breath in ordinary living unless we have cultivated an awareness of it on the mat.
Following the breath can also help us to focus and enter a meditative, concentrated state of mind.
When the mind wanders, bring it back to the breath. The breath (particularly the exhalation) also helps us to open the body safely.
Yoga asanas should be steady, comfortable poses with help to connect us the earth so if you lose the breath it is unlikely that you are steady and comfortable and grounded.
Unless you are practising with the eyes closed to promote sense withdrawal and internalisation of your experience, use ‘dristhis’ to maintain focus. Dristhi means to gaze, vision or sight in Sanskrit (the ancient Indian language) and refers to the fix of the eyes in a set gaze for the duration of the pose. An example is that during Virabhadrasana dwi (asana Warrior 2) you gaze over the middle finger of the extended front arm. Keeping the eyes completely steady and absorbed on one spot during balancing poses is also helps you to stay balanced.
Yoga is non-competitive. Non-competitive with others and also, importantly, non-competitive with yourself. If you are striving to achieve certain yoga asanas, this is just another form of craving. Yoga is a journey with no end destination; it is the journey itself that provides the lessons, not the station stops along the way, such as the achievement of ever more challenging asanas.
Be patient. Observe how the cycles of nature cannot be rushed. From small acorns great oak trees grow….
However, if you are practising regularly but do not feel that your overall quality of life is improving then you may need to revise your attitude. Practise with love and compassion for yourself and a sense of openness and receptivity.
View teachers as guides only. When practising yoga asanas, listen to your body and be your own best teacher. Teachers are just people who are likely to have practised more than you. I used to be very tight, completely stiff and full to the brim with fear, and it is only through practise that I am now more flexible and a little braver. And of course, there are still many, many areas for me to work on. The more I know, the more I realise how much I don’t know! It is yoga practise not yoga perfect. Every time I step onto the mat is an opportunity for me to learn, develop and evolve – exactly the same as it is for you.
New to Yoga? Why not start your journey as part of a small class at Nordic Balance St James’s London SW1 we offer a variety of Yoga classes.
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