12 SUGGESTIONS FOR SAFE & SUSTAINABLE YOGA PRACTICE

Author: Daria Romanova - yoga therapist

1. BE GRATEFUL

Unroll your mat (if you use one). Find a suitable and comfortable seated or standing position for yourself. Close your eyes and take a few moments to mentally say 'thank you' for the opportunity to be able to do your practice. Remember, not everyone in this world has such an opportunity.

2. BREATHE

Before your start exploring poses and transitions, dedicate a couple of minutes to reconnecting to your breath inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the nose. Try to use full yogic breathing technique where you inhale into the belly, then lower chest, upper chest and exhale starting with the belly, then lower chest, then upper chest.  From this moment on and throughout your whole practice, pay attention to the quality of your breath, listen and feel its fluidity. 

3. ALWAYS WARM UP

Spend 10-15 minutes warming up your body (joints, tissues) moving gradually and consciously from the periphery to the centre. For example, you can start with your toes, moving towards the ankles, then knees, then hip joints, then fingers, wrists, elbows, shoulders, neck, spine. Find what works for you. 

4. BE MINDFUL OF THE ALARMING SIGNS 

Keep in mind that sharp pain and hectic breathing are two major signs of your physical yoga practice taking a non-desirable direction. 'No pain, no gain' principle does not apply here.  

5. ZONES OF TENSION

During your practice pay attention to the certain zones in your body that are prompt to the accumulation of tension. For example, facial muscles, toes, shoulders. Breathe and relax those.

6. ENTERING THE POSE

Keep in mind that entrance into the pose is a combination of external geometry (what we can see with our eyes looking at you in the pose) and internal capabilities of your body and mind. 

7. WITH EFFORT BUT NOT VIOLENCE

When in the pose, stay there, "breath" the pose for some time. How long is “some time”? It depends on the pose and your objectives. Let’s say that strength focused poses, such as chaturanga dandasana, could be held between 10 seconds to a minute. Seated poses could be practiced from one to a couple of minutes. Longer stay within the pose should be explored through the release of muscular effort and transfer of that effort to the ligaments and bones (this mostly relates to the strength building poses).

8. YOUR MIND GOES WHERE YOUR ATTENTION GOES

Work with your attention. Be attentive to what you are doing right now at this very moment - that is mindfulness. Bring your gaze to one point while exploring the pose. 

9. EXITING THE POSE

The exit from the pose could be more important than the entrance. Why? When we are in the pose for some time certain muscle groups are already under a certain amount of stress, and most of the times the process of exiting the pose implies extra stress on those groups of muscles. Thus, it is important to be aware of where the effort goes during the exit process – distribute it intelligently within the body. Breath is your guide here and always!

10. THE TALLEST TREES GREW SLOWER THAN THE OTHERS 

The secret of fulfilling practice comes not from the strong effort but from the consistent self-exploration within the process without rough, pushy, and self-judgmental attitude. Take your time. Breathe. 

11. THERE IS NO ROOM FOR COMPETITION

As soon as you feel that you are comparing yourself with someone else in the yoga room and this comparison does not seem to be in your favour, stop! Stop right there, because it is the right way to start (or continue) your injuries’ achievement list. Maybe you could explore other activities to nourish your competitive spirit.

12.  PLATEAU PERIOD 

There will be times in your practice when you feel like you are stagnating (plateau period). Rest assured that those times happen to everyone who works towards consistent practice. Mama Nature goes through constant transition with its changes of seasons – why do you think you should be an exception? Chill and breathe!