1. Get a good yoga teacher – This is the most important tip. A good yoga teacher is priceless and can help you tap into the deeper benefits of yoga. How will you know a good teacher from a so-so one? Read the tips below and make sure your teacher follows them.
2. Do not push yourself into a posture – Indra Devi was a student of T. Krishnamacharya, the founder of modern yoga. She was one of the earliest woman yoga students. She went on to become one of the most celebrated yoga teachers of our times. One day as she was practicing the seated forward bend and was unable to reach her toes. She asked another student to push her forward so she may get hold of her toes. T. Krishnamacharya immediately stopped her, warning her that this may result in injury. Allow your body to open up slowly. As you practice regularly you will slowly be able to do some of the postures that were formerly impossible. A good yoga teacher will be extraordinarily gentle and ensure that you do not get yoga related injuries. A good teacher will sequence the practice in such a way that the body is slowly warmed up before more difficult postures are practiced.
3. Let your teacher know of issues you may have – It is important to let your yoga teacher know of any issues you may have. If you have high blood pressure certain postures have to be avoided. The same applies when you have back issues. A good yoga teacher will give variations or will warn you not to do a certain posture if she knows of your condition ahead of time.
4. Keep an extra mat and a pair of yoga clothes in your car or at work – Practicing regularly is one of the most important things when it comes to getting the most of your yoga practice. Do not hesitate to have a few extra yoga mats and a spare change of clothes at work or in your car. This may allow you to directly go to the yoga studio from work or to squeeze in a yoga session at work in your spare time.
5. Avoid food before yoga – A common mistake made by beginners is that they do not realize that yoga is best practiced on an empty stomach. So here is a golden rule: No heavy meal 3 hours before yoga. No snacks and drinks1 hour before yoga. Better to avoid drinking liquids during the yoga practice if you can.
6. Do not let the mind wander – A key tip to get the most out of your yoga practice is not allow the mind to wander during the practice. Beginners do this by focusing on the breath. Advanced practitioners keep the mind from wandering by continuously chanting a small prayer within. As you go deeper into yoga you will realize that most of the benefits of yoga arise due to reduced anxiety and stress due to a quiet mind. Getting your mind to stay focussed during the yoga practice puts you on the path to a quiet mind.
7. Engage the core – A very important part of yoga is the “locks” that have to be practiced during each posture. For a beginner the most important lock is keeping the core engaged in most postures. A good yoga teacher will guide you in this.
8. Coordinate breath and movement – A good yoga teacher will show you what breath you need to use while getting into a posture and out of it. In some postures you have to inhale while getting into the postures, and in others you have to exhale. Generally the reverse breath applies when getting out of the posture. In addition a specific form of breathing technique, known as “Ujjai” breath or “Ocean sounding” breath has to be applied while practicing yoga.
9. Do not hesitate to personalize your practice – It is possible for each student to personalize the practice even when in a group class. A good teacher will usually provide variations for certain postures so people with limited capabilities or health constraints can practice the variations. If a posture does not seem right for you or you are having difficulty with it, do not hesitate to stop. You can discuss your difficulty with the teacher after the class and see if there are any variations you can practice. A kind of “peer pressure” builds up in a group class. Do not be swayed by it. Do not hesitate to personalize your practice to your needs.
10. Have a small backup sequence – One of the coolest tricks is to have a small 20-30 minute sequence with you that you can practice on your own when things get too busy. This allows you to quietly unfurl your yoga mat early morning and quickly sneak in a 20 -30 minute practice on a busy day. Remember regularity is the key and it is better to do a 20 minutes practice than none at all.
11. Do not lose control of breath – Be warned: Yoga may result in injuries if you are not careful. One key warning sign is losing control of your breath. If your breath is getting choppy then it is a sign that you are pushing yourself too hard. Slow down or stop to get things back in control. Beginners have to realize that yoga is not about burning calories or doing a workout. Yoga is about calmness, de-stressing, and getting in touch with your true Self. If you can practice a fast paced advanced sequence, by all means do it, but you must ensure that your breath is always in your control.
12. Hold the posture – This is another rookie mistake- doing the posture but not holding it and immediately coming out of it. Once you get into a posture stay there for a while. You do not have to hold your breath there. You can breathe normally once you reach your posture. Stay in your posture for a couple of rounds of breath before coming out of it. As you advance you may be able to stay there longer.
13. Do not stop when off the mat –It is important to realize that yoga does not stop when you get off the mat. The softness, kindness, and wholeness that you feel as a result of your yoga practice has to be carried into the rest of your day and has to inform your actions. Yoga will help create a distance between you and your ego. Be constantly aware of this during the day. When you find yourself reacting from your ego, you will need to remind yourself and step back from the situation. As you advance into your practice you will find it easier to simplify your life, reduce your wants, and be more grateful and forgiving.
As you get comfortable with your yoga practice you may begin to ask: What next? As a next step you may want to look at beginning a 10 minute pranayama practice. Another thing to add is a 20-minute meditation practice.
The journey into yoga is life long and the benefits will continue to unfold as you progress. MyLifeYoga welcomes you to take the first steps and wishes you all the best!