Yoga teaches us that our body’s physical limitations are relative. Pushing ourselves past our bodies’ comfort level is a recipe for injury, and simple adaptations are often all we need to reap the benefits of a posture without crossing into unsafe territory.
Whether you are practicing to improve your health, increase energy or calm the mind, yoga builds strength from the inside out.
Start Where You Are
Yoga can be a powerful tool to help you improve your health and find inner peace. However, if you are new to yoga, there are some things you should know before starting your practice.
Modern physics is proving that every subatomic particle in your body interacts with everything else in the universe. This interaction changes the energy and consciousness of your body and the planet.
To understand this concept, you need to start a dialogue with the various parts of your being. This includes your body, mind and emotions. You can do this with a yoga practice that connects physical postures and breathing techniques. It is important to communicate with your instructor about any injuries or health conditions you have before you begin. Also, make sure to take it easy at first and practice slowly.
Getting caught up in comparative thoughts is a common yoga trap. You may spend the class thinking about how someone else can wrap their leg around their back or lift themselves up into a handstand. This is toxic mind chatter that robs you of the joy of your practice.
Instead, try to focus on your own practice by using the tools you’ve learned in yoga to deflect negative thinking. When you walk into the room, set your intention to hold a soft gaze, known as drishti, and work to maintain that focus throughout class. If you have trouble avoiding comparisons, it may be helpful to bring your mat into the studio so you can practice with closed eyes. This will help you stay in your own lane and avoid the comparison game altogether.
When you’re practicing yoga, avoid rushing through the postures or attempting too many at once. This can strain the body, particularly the muscles of the lower back. Instead, focus on moving at a comfortable pace and keeping the breath smooth.
Often during classes the teacher will offer the option to set an intention for the practice. This could be as simple as being kind to the body if it’s tired or challenging yourself to step out of your comfort zone. It’s a great way to make yoga your own and build the discipline of tapas, or yogic willpower, that carries over into everyday life.
Practicing at the same time every day will help you find a regular routine and access the full benefits of the practice. Morning practices are energizing and perfect for early risers, while an evening session can be a good way to wind down after a busy day.
As yoga has become more popular it often gets dressed up as a competitive fitness tool. Some instructors encourage students to push their bodies past healthy limits – this can be stressful, damaging and not part of yoga’s higher purpose which is inner peace and balance.
You may also find that the people around you in class are encouraging – it’s natural to feel some level of inspiration in yoga but don’t allow yourself to become competitive. Instead observe your thoughts with a friendly curiosity and focus on finding the edge of your body’s current limits without pushing past them. You are exactly where you need to be. Your body will let you know if you are pushing too hard. It might even hurt.
Don’t Overdo It
Practicing yoga can be physically taxing, especially if you go too hard. This can be in the form of taking a class above your level or doing too many sessions that are physically demanding.
It can also be a result of not giving your body enough time to recover from the practice, which could lead to injuries like back pain. If you’re new to yoga, start with an entry-level class or one that is slower in pace, says Bell.
Practicing yoga offers benefits that can be felt in both your mind and body. It can help you become more aware of how you react to situations, and it can increase compassion for others and yourself. Practicing yoga can also shift the balance from the sympathetic nervous system (or the fight-or-flight response) to the parasympathetic nervous system, which is calming and restorative.