DAY 8. (read to the end for your challenge today)
Asana, meaning posture, is the mainstay of Hatha yoga. For most Westerners, posture practice is the first experience they have of yoga and for many it provides a starting point for meditation and spiritual discovery. Through asana practice you will develop a greater sensitivity to and awareness of your physical self. The subtle connections between the mind and the body are awakened, and you will learn how to control and regulate your breathing, both when you are moving and when you are still.
The practice of asana can be hugely beneficial for everyone, no matter what your age, background, beliefs, lifestyle, or physical and mental state. However, the way in which you practice asana should be determined by a variety of factors such as how strong you are, how much time you have available and also what you hope to achieve from yoga. Try to be aware of any physical limitations and work within them. Yoga is a gentle process – it is not about forcing yourself through pain barriers.
If you are just beginning yoga, it may be beneficial to attend classes to learn some of the basic postures. Learning from a teacher is easier than trying to learn on your own – at least at first.
You need very few props for your asana practice. A yoga mat may help you to grip the floor in some of the standing postures, such as down-facing dog, and if you are stiff in the lower back or hamstrings, a specially-designed hard foam block or a large book can help support you in postures such as the sitting forward bend. Wear soft comfortable clothes that allow complete freedom of movement, and go barefoot.
Guidelines for posture practice:
- Make sure that you avoid eating before practicing any asanas – leave an hour after a light snack and at least three hours after a heavy meal. You should avoid drinking anything, including water, during practice.
- Whether you learn yoga from a teacher or a book, follow the instructions for getting into a posture carefully. Do not fling or force yourself into a posture. Nothing in yoga should be violent, uncontrolled or careless. Don’t expect to look exactly like the teacher or images you see right away; just take care to follow the instructions.
- Breathe evenly and steadily through your nose throughout posture practice. As a general rule, breathe in during upward or lifting movements and breathe out during downward or twisting and folding movements.
- If something hurts, stop.
- Try to be “present” in a posture. Focus on the reality of it moment by moment and notice how it changes as you move.
- Trust yourself to explore a posture like an inquisitive child. Observe yourself, your habits and preferences, and the way you breathe in the pose as you enter it, as you hold it and as you come out of it. Never stop experimenting.
- Don’t concentrate on one part of the body to the detriment of another part. Your whole body should work in harmony during a posture.
- Generally lift, lengthen and extent the body. The illustrations below demonstrate the correct way and incorrect way to perform three asanas. Note how the incorrect versions show the body in a collapsed, compressed or rigid position. The correct versions show an open, extended and supported position.
Day 8 challenge:
Have you ever practiced Hatha yoga? How did it make you feel? On DAY 11 of our journey, we will begin practicing our first posture, will you be joining us? Share your comments with us.
All participants’ names will be entered in our 30 days of yoga with hipS-sister draw Oct. 1st.
Tomorrow, we have a look at self-practice.