When I begin working with a new student, there are two pieces of advice that I share with them right from the start. First, learning to avoid injury is really important. I discussed this in detail in last month’s post, Top 5 Yoga Safety Tips for Newbies, so be sure to check it out.
Second, find contentment in each pose. In my experience, figuring out how to enjoy each pose is the best strategy to moderate your practice for your own level of flexibility, stamina and strength.
How is this done? Follow these two simple suggestions to bring comfort and ease to your yoga practice (and surprisingly, to your life!).
1. FOLLOW YOUR BREATH
It’s really important to be sure that your breath is flowing freely and easily. Avoid holding your breath, which sometimes results from too much effort or gripping in the muscles. Instead, go to your edge in a pose and then ease off of it so that you can hold the pose comfortably for three breaths or more. Adjusting how deeply you move in to a pose will help you find that sweet spot where your body is doing the intended work in the pose without constricting the breath.
2. USE MODIFICATIONS
Sometimes during yoga practice, we move our body in ways that are unfamiliar. If we experience sensations that become too strong or painful, our body is telling us that something is not quite right. Use props or other variations, as instructed by a qualified teacher, in order to experience the pose in a way that creates comfort and ease. Speak up in class if you need help. You’ll be glad you did!
Here’s an example. In Standing Forward fold, it is best to fold at the hips, rather than initiating the fold from the back. If your hands do not reach the floor in this pose, place a block or folding chair in front of you to provide support for the hands. Use this support as you breathe length into the spine and find the hinging of the hips. Microbend the knees and begin to fold again, this time from hips. You will find that you fold much further when initiated from the groins in this way.
Following your breath and using modifications are two simple, yet powerful suggestions that will change the way you experience yoga. I promise!
The added bonus here is that they’ll also change the way you experience life. You see, our yoga practice is a microcosm of our life. The way we approach our practice and the lessons we learn from it are applicable to our every day. That’s why we call it a lifestyle.
Would you like to feel content in your every day? I would imagine that you would. So go ahead and practice it. Practice finding contentment in your yoga practice and then see how you can use the same tools to seek happiness and satisfaction with life.
The practice of yoga is the practice of life. And you can do it!