If you have been practicing yoga asana for some time, some of these tips won’t be new to you. For the neophyte, certainly the advice will come handy.
PREPARATION: Best time to practice asanas is in the morning. Finish your ablutions, have a bath, and practice before breakfast. Wear loose, comfortable clothes. No shoes or belts. Best is to buy a sticky yoga mat (costs $10 onward) though a folded soft blanket will do too. The surface to do yoga should be neither too soft, nor too hard.
YOGA STUDIO: In America, most neighborhoods have yoga studios, with varying price structures. Shop around. Look at lineage if any. Prefer one belonging to a larger organization, solid affiliation or certification.
SELF-LEARNING: It is best to learn yoga from an experienced teacher or yoga master. At the same time, one can argue that while the results you get from yoga practice may be profound and far-reaching, and its effects on the body-mind system subtle, the practice of asanas itself is not rocket science. You can learn on your own.
[quote_center]Yoga apps and online[/quote_center]
We know Baba Ramdev got his first surge of popularity when hundreds of thousands of people started practicing yoga following his instructions on his TV program on Aastha and other channels. Here in America with its DIY culture, many yoga studios and health clubs are offering online yoga classes that allow people to practice at home. Smartphone apps makes it still easier. Digital yoga lets beginners try it out away from strangers’ gaze, and without investing much. Yoga-gear giant Gaiam Inc has acquired the Yoga Studio app, which features 65 classes. It costs $3.99 but many other popular apps are free. While 60- to 90-minute classes are standard in a studio, online viewers often gravitate toward targeted workouts as short as 10-15 minutes. Adriene Mishler, an Austin, Texas,-based yogi, offers her classes free online at her YouTube channel, Yoga With Adriene.
DO NOT OVER-REACH: Remember the only sutra in Patanjali’s Yoga Darshana about postures is – sthira sukham asanam. A posture should be stable and comfortable. You aspire and move towards the final position of the posture, but if you can reach only halfway, that is fine then. With regular practice you will get there one day. Some yoga schools like Iyengar’s have props like cubical blocks and ropes as aids, but better not try them on your own.
[quote_center]A basic set of asanas[/quote_center]
If you can spare just 10-15 minutes a day for yoga practice, this is one set of asanas and sequence to follow: Vajrasana (legs folded, sitting on soles of feet), Paschimottanasana (sitting forward bend), Sarvangasana (shoulder stand), Halasana (plough), Bhujangasana (cobra), Shalabhasana (locust), Ardha Matsyendrasana (spinal twist), and Pada Hastasana (standing forward bend). Finish with shavasana or copse posture. Mind you, the best known asana – shirsasana or the headstand – is discouraged by many masters these days.
SHAVASANA: You always end a session of yoga asanas with Shavasana, literally, the corpse pose. Many yoga classes may have an elaborate/longer version of the Shavasana. In the basic pose, you lie down on the back with legs stretched and about one foot apart; arms on the sides 6 inches away from the body; neck tilted to one side. Relax. Lie down in Shavasana after every asana or as and when you feel tired or strained.
BREATHING DURING ASANAS: One idea is to keep aware of breathing during asanas. And, of course, in some asanas, automatically you will feel like exhaling long and deep and pausing for a while before inhaling – that is the way to consciously do it too.
ANULOM VILOM PRANAYAMA: Thereare many elaborate pranayama (for example, Kapalbhati, which is Baba Ramdev’s favorite). Anulom vilom (alternate breathing) is the easiest and simple to practice. Sit erect in any meditative pose. Press your middle and ring finger on the left nostril and breathe out gently through the right nostril. Inhale through the right nostril. Now press down with the thumb on the right nostril and exhale through the left. Inhale through the left. Exhale through the right, and so on for about 5 minutes.
SURYA NAMASKAR: Surya Namaskar or the Sun Salutation is one of the most well-known yoga routines. As stand alone you can do a few rounds of Surya Namaskar when having limited time available. Best done early in the morning for several health benefits. The routine consists of 12 sequenced forward and backward bending movements that stretch and flex the spinal column. It has a deep effect in detoxifying the organs through copious oxygenation and has a deeper relaxing effect.
COMPLEMENTARY/CONTRARY POSTURES: A forward bending asana should be followed by backward bending posture; a downward bending asana balanced by an upward bending.
Yoga must before meditation When overzealous meditators start doing long sittings, the experienced teachers dissuade them and strongly recommend first grounding the mind with asana and pranayama. It is not a crass thing to focus too much on the body. Being physically fit is important in spiritual pursuits too. In fact, the yogis and rishis of yore devised
asana/pranayama and even ayurveda so the spiritual aspirants stay healthy, physically and mentally. The higher chakra over-activation, caused by meditation without the grounding power of asanas and karma yoga can have deleterious consequences. I remember in the advanced residential courses I attended while in the Transcendental Meditation movement, each 20-30 minute meditation session was preceded by 10 minutes of yoga and 5 minutes of anulom vilom pranayama. Together this set was called a rounding. Depending on time available one could do 2-3 rounding in the morning and 2-3 in the evening.