Daily Yoga Practice = Healthy & Happy!

Urdva Mukha Svanasana

Maintaining a daily yoga practice is an excellent way of optimizing your whole health:  mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual.  It allows you to live life more fully and enjoy it more.  Going to yoga classes on a regular basis is a wonderful way to learn and practice with the support of a teacher and a like-minded community.  Teachers can guide you in yogic breathing techniques and meditation; they can demonstrate yoga poses and modifications and assist you in alignment.  Being surrounded by others on a similar path is motivating.  However, YOU are the only one who can create your own daily home practice.

Consistent home practice takes diligence.  Give yourself time to do some yoga every day, no matter what is going on.  Whether for five minutes or two hours, just do it!  It helps to be consistent with timing (choosing to do your yoga before or after work, for example).  And it helps to not be so rigid (if you only have five minutes, that’s OK!  If you only have the energy to sit and consciously breathe for a few minutes, that’s great!).  By becoming acutely aware of your moods, patterns, and needs you begin to intuitively shape your yoga practice around them.  The inward-focused attention of your yoga practice will increase your self-awareness.

Every day, get on your mat, stand in Tadasana or sit in Easy Pose and begin to notice your breath.  Let the breath fill your entire body.  Close your eyes.  Feel your belly rising and falling with the in and out breaths.  Scan your body for any areas of tension.  Release the tension.  Imagine the breath clearing space between your ribs, dissolving any tension.  Notice any emotions or thoughts that arise.  Are you feeling energized?  Sun salutations and some standing poses may be where you start.  Are you feeling tired or run down?  A more restorative set of poses and a rejuvenating meditation may be best.  If you need guidance, try a DVD or online class.  Read yoga books.  In time, though, you will have acquired enough information to truly focus inward and guide your own practice.

In yoga, your task is to focus on what you are doing while you are doing it – to be in the present – and by doing so you begin to cultivate an awareness of your current state, and thus an ability to determine what you need in your practice.  This ability then spreads out into your everyday life – you notice patterns and habits.  You begin to more clearly see the ways you typically deal with particular situations, and sometimes notice that these behaviors aren’t serving you.  By observing them you can make changes that help you progress into a more balanced, calm, and clearly-thinking and acting person.

Maintaining a daily yoga practice is not as daunting as it may sound.  Yoga is much more than the asanas (postures) that we see in yoga classes and in magazines.  Yoga also involves cultivating morality and practicing personal observances.  It involves consciously controlling the senses, practicing breathing exercises, developing concentration, and meditating.  One can approach yoga from various paths.  Most westerners are introduced to yoga through asana practice, and often become interested in the other limbs of yoga when they start realizing its benefits.  Yoga can be practiced by anyone, of any size or shape, at any age, at any time.  Some days you may need a vigorous asana practice to enliven your senses and give you energy.  Other days you may need a gentler asana practice to pacify your mind or heal after injury or sickness.  Some days, a simple meditation may do.  You may commit to repeating a mantra for a period of time to cultivate a particular bhava (feeling) or to progress toward a specific goal.

Yoga classes are important and beneficial, but when you are serious about undertaking a yoga practice, you are making a commitment to yourself to become the best person you can be.  No yoga teacher can do this for you.  They can support you along the way, but you and only you know yourself well enough to create an appropriate daily practice.  You can create your own personal yoga practice by becoming aware of your moods, patterns, and needs, which are constantly changing.

Yoga will help you navigate the ever-changing waves of life with intention and grace.

This blog exists to serve others, as a repository of information on yogic living, and a support system on your path to radiant health.  Please let me know if you have any feedback, or if you’d like me to explore a particular topic.  Thanks so much for reading!

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