There are millions who sing praises of yoga, yet for many the benefits are only partial or none. You can make yoga work for you by avoiding these pitfalls:
1. Not practicing enough: There is a saying that goes as follows: “You need to meditate for 20 minutes every day, but if you are too busy then you must meditate for an hour!” Saying you are too busy for yoga is the same as saying a thirsty man is too busy to drink water! The key to accrue yoga’s benefits is simple: regular practice. The benefits of yoga unfold gradually. But erratic practice can greatly hamper benefits from showing up. So how do you answer the question about lack of time? The answer may be that you keep a short sequence with you in your back pocket. On days when attending a class seems impossible, just quietly unfurl your mat at home and do a quick 20 to 40 minute practice.
2. Do it in the right sequence: The sequence in which you do your yoga postures is important. Each posture prepares you for the next. Doing the postures in random order may prevent you from getting their full benefit because if you are not properly warmed up you will not be able to fully stretch into a pose and get its full benefit. The other problem is that doing a pose without preparing for it may lead to injuries.
3. View yoga in isolation: The full benefits of yoga happen when you view yoga holistically. This means yoga should be accompanied with life-style changes and changes in diet. You may also want to integrate Pranayama (breathing exercises) and meditation into your life along with yoga. It is true that doing yoga will help you with making changes in your life. But it is also true that making changes in diet and lifestyle also aids and improves your yoga practice, and together they accelerate the flow of health and happiness in your life.
4. Proper technique is vital: You can multiply your benefits of yoga postures by employing the right techniques. There are many ways of getting into any given posture. The right way may depend on your flexibility and your ability. Besides getting into a posture in the way that best suits you, care must be taken to breathe correctly while doing so. Breath in while doing certain movements, and breath out for other movements, while using the “Ocean sounding” or “Ujjayi” breath.
5. Lock in your benefits with locks: The benefits of yoga posture can greatly multiply when accompanied with the right “locks”. Generally there are three locks that can accompany a posture, though not all locks apply for all postures. These are the “Chin Lock” (Jhalandhar Bandha), the “Core Abdomen Lock” (Uddiyana Bhanda), and the “Core Lower Abdomen Lock” (Mool Bandha). For most yoga practitioners it may be important to initially focus on the “Chin lock” and “Engaging the core” as appropriate for each posture. The guidance of a good yoga teacher is vital. As the practice deepens your mastery over the locks will help you multiply the benefits of each posture.
6. Losing control of breath: The yoga posture has to be done while in complete command of the mind-body. A key indicator of this control is your breath. If you are doing the postures too fast or your mind is wandering, then you will lose control of your breath and it will get choppy. The corresponding benefits of the yoga posture will be greatly reduced. A Yoga practice is never routine. It is never rushed. You have to bring your complete presence on the yoga mat. This is demonstrated by your mental focus and mastery over breath. If short of time, it is better to do a few postures but with complete calmness, complete surrender, and complete focus.
7. Missing out on a great partnership between Yoga and Pranayama: As you see from many of the points discussed so far, knowledge of proper breathing is vital to success in Yoga. This implies that doing breathing exercises (Known as Pranayama) everyday can be useful when accompanied with a regular practice of yoga. Just 10 to 15 minutes of Pranayama followed after a practice of Yoga can greatly multiply its benefits. Pranayama will improve your yoga practice, and yoga will improve your Pranayama practice, and together they will multiply your benefits!
8. Yoga burnout: Can there be too much of a good thing? When it comes to yoga, the answer is YES. This is especially true when yoga is viewed in isolation. For some Yoga provides extraordinary relief from stress. They feel better, sleep better, and are able to disentangle thoughts and emotions better. So the natural tendency is to do more of it. This works but only to an extent. If corresponding life style changes and diet changes are not put in place, along with pranayama and meditation, then the law of diminishing returns sets in and people claim that they are “burnt out” from yoga. To avoid burnout do not view yoga in isolation. Combine it with following:
a. Simplify your needs and life.
b. Reduce sensory overload. (Disengage from all gizmos for a few hours daily)
c. Get adequate sleep and have regular sleeping hours.
d. Eat fresh, organic, and balanced food.
e. Practice Pranayama.
f. Practice meditation.
The gift of yoga is indeed fabulous. But it is tragic when it leads to injuries or burnout, or if the benefits are partial. Please use the guidelines provided here to multiply yoga’s benefits in your life.
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