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Benefits of Yoga
Yoga at Home
Yoga at Home - Developing a Personal Yoga Practice
If you never practice yoga at home you are missing out on the most beneficial aspects of yoga! A truly spiritual yoga practice is always best carried out at home in my opinion.
A Yoga Pose only begins when you perceive that special connection to your body. This is usually just when you feel you can hold the pose no longer.
There is no doubt that if you practice yoga, your energy changes. You always, always feel better after a session of yoga. I don't care how depressed, how little energy you have or how busy your mind might be, you cannot escape feeling better when you move your energy doing yoga.
You may think you are getting full benefits of yoga when you practice only in classes. Yes, indeed, you are receiving benefits, but they are mostly physical in nature. Unless you have a really great teacher that helps you go inward in a class setting, your spiritual practice is limited. I am not saying that classes don't provide you with spiritual benefits. They do. It just is not to the same extent that you experience it with yoga at home, with your own personal practice.
If you are a total yoga beginner, or relatively new to the practice of yoga, I would definitely recommend you start with classes, with a great teacher so you can learn the basics, without hurting yourself. I offer yoga tips on this website to help you too.
When developing a yoga practice at home, knowing which poses to do, and how to arrange them is a difficult proposition for a beginner. Even advanced practitioners have a difficult time with this. It is much easier to let someone else do all the work for you! However, a good yoga teacher will give you homework so you can practice what he/she teaches when you practice your yoga at home.
A yoga practice is an expensive one, at 10-20 dollars a class. Especially if you plan on practicing 2-3 times a week. Developing your own yoga home practice is not only a practical matter, but a spiritual matter as well.
I am always amazed by the people who come to my yoga classes (and I do appreciate them), who never give any indication that they follow up with yoga at home. For me, this is like eating the cake without the frosting. The cake is certainly good, but the frosting just takes it to a new level of deliciousness.
I always, always give my students yoga homework. It is imperative that they follow-up and do yoga at home, but they almost never do. I see the distant looks I receive when I discuss the subject. They depend on me to provide for their health and body awareness. This is good, but it is without the best that it could be.
It does take effort to develop your yoga at home practice. I know this. However, even if you only take a few minutes, say 10 or so a day, to stretch and open and explore a pose that you are drawn to, you will reap so many more rewards.
Cobra Pose, Sangre de Cristo Mountain view, Colorado
I find that most yoga classes are sorely lacking in any spirituality at all. It is almost impossible to explore the downward dog, for instance and go inward for your own personal benefit, when the teacher moves you out of the pose, at his/her discretion, instead of your own.
Just when you feel like your body is opening and receiving, the teacher moves you on to the next pose. The intuitive process is then totally squelched. Even in my classes, I know this happens! The fine art of surrendering your body, mind and soul only happens with long held poses as you learn to experience the unique aspects of each and every pose.
For instance, heart opening only begins in a long held back bends such as the bow pose, the fish and the bridge. Receiving only begins when you feel the emotion stir in your body as well as your heart. Surrendering and releasing only happes when you take the time to really feel the folding poses, whether seated or standing.
How can you achieve this in a class? How do you learn to hear and go with the subtleties of your body, if you do not chose the time spent in a pose?
According to BKS Iyengar, one of the founders of modern yoga, you cannot know a pose until you have experienced it for 30 minutes!! Imagine that! What class will provide that type of inward looking experience?
Steps to Develop Your Own Yoga Home Practice
Yoga at home begins with your own desire to go deeper into yourself. As with all goals, your personal yoga practice at home needs to begin in small increments. It is only when you slowly add to your practice of yoga at home that will you maintain the commitment, and therefore the most benefits.
Here is what I suggest to begin your personal practice:
- Find a quiet, and sacred space.
- Pick the best time of the day. Early morning hours are usually the quietest and your energy is most alert and open, just before sunrise. This is why yogis are early birds.
- Tell others that you are not to be disturbed.
- Warm up with a few Sun Salutations or Downward Dogs. My favorite warm-up is just alternating between the Child's Pose and the Cobra Pose to open the spine. This is also a great lower back releasing exercise. Then advance to the Downward Dog and the Sun Salutations.
- Start with only 10 minutes. Pick 2-3 poses that you are drawn to. They can be all standing poses, or seated, whatever you are drawn to.
- After warming up for several minutes, pick your pose(s) to focus on. If you need to receive energy, do heart opening back bends. If you feel like you need personal power, work on core strengthening poses like the boat pose, the locust or the dolphin. If you need to surrender, forward folds of all types, release congestion and make way for new energy to enter. If you need to wring out some junk, focus on the twists. Don't forget the inversions to build character and longevity.
- Stay in your pose of choice until your heart feels ready to move to the next.
- If you chose a folding pose, follow up with a counter pose like a opening and back bending pose.
- Move your spine in all ways: front and back, side to side and twisting. Make sure you include poses that do these comprehensive motions.
- Find a DVD or video that you enjoy. There are lots of free videos on YouTube to help you develop your own practice.
- Subscribe to my Body Window newsletter. Each month I look at a different yoga pose, or a foam rolling tip. Reading this will help you decide where to focus in your own personal yoga practice.
- I also offer Body Meditations to help you pick a focus for your home practice.
- Yoga poses on a foam roller may help you too, find where you need to focus. A foam roller is a very useful tool to help you develop intuition by using your body.
- Buy a book of yoga poses. You don't have to have a lot of flowing motions to benefit from yoga at home. Just try and practice the poses. Or do a search on the web for a specific pose. There are so many resources to choose from.
- Journal about your personal yoga practice. Document the changes you feel in yourself over time. Take a moment to notice how your body experienced the pose that you chose to focus on for that day.
- Slowly increase your time you can spend and the number of poses you chose. Always make it manageable. On days off, spend more time if you can.
- Focus on your breath. Remember to breathe, always. Stay relaxed and breathe into the action of the pose. If you hold a pose that is difficult for you, breathe deeply and slowly. I call this relaxing into the action of the pose. Muscles are active, yet relaxed. This is a fine art of getting to know your body that almost never is accomplished in an ego-based yoga class.
- Listen to your body. When you can no longer breathe easily and slowly, pull back a bit, or try the pose another day.
- Always focus on lengthening and straightening the spine, especially on the twists. Remember the mantra - Inhale and elongate, exhale and twist (or fold). This will always keep you focused on the action of the pose.
- Spend several minutes on meditation and/or pranayama (breath work). The more you can remain in silence, following your breath, the more you will improve your life, by connecting to the Source/God.
- Always end in a few minutes of Savasana or the Corpse pose, lying flat and relaxed on your back. This is integration time. If you don't have time to meditate after your personal yoga at home practice, don't skip Savasana.
- Continue to attend classes to learn more and continue to work on your alignment with a qualified teacher.
May my suggestions help you in organizing your own personal yoga practice. Once you start, I am sure that you will find that this time spent with yourself every day will be the best time for re-connecting your body, mind and soul.
May you always practice yoga at home, in your own space and time to discover the Real You!
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