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Yoga and Fitness

Surprise Yourself

One way to get better at yoga asanas is to imagine it. While I’m not advocating pushing too hard, sometimes just imagining you can go further into a pose will get you there. It gives you the will to try just a little harder. For example, if you’re doing Bow, visualize the beauty of the pose: the graceful arc formed by the arch of the back, the legs lifted high, feet moving back to open the chest. Then make your body into that shape—not violently or suddenly, but using your intelligence, your breath, and gradual movements from the inside to achieve the best pose possible.

So next time you’re doing a pose you find difficult, instead of doing it halfheartedly, thinking, “I can’t do this pose,” try this little trick of mine. Say to yourself, “I can do it.” Use your mind’s eye to see yourself a little deeper in the pose and then go there.

By the way, this will also help you hold a pose longer. Summon up your will power, take deep, even breaths, and see yourself holding it longer, a second at a time. You’ll be pleasantly surprised when you see just how well you can do!

Relax into Yoga

Want to make your asana session more enjoyable and more beneficial? Then relax as you practice. Whether you do yoga for exercise, to relieve stress, or both, you’ll get more out of it if you relax. Don’t stress about how stiff you are; don’t strain to get into a pose. Just do your best and enjoy it.

If you’re always thinking about where you “should” be, you’ll miss what’s going on in your body at the moment. But that awareness is the key to practicing asanas correctly. So instead of worrying about how inflexible you are, just notice your tight spots. Watch your breath; notice how it affects your body, and let it help you open and release into the pose. Observe your mind—keep it focused on the pose and the breath. Don’t let it bully you into pushing too far. It’s best to hold a pose just this side of your limit. As you breathe and relax into the pose, you’ll be able to hold it longer and gradually extend your boundaries

You can even relax in strengthening poses. While contracting certain muscles, relax those that don’t need to work. Don’t hold unnecessary tension in your face or jaw, in your neck or shoulders. This tension blocks the flow of energy in the body that yoga is designed to enhance. And it’s that free-flowing energy that makes you feel good. So relax into yoga and yoga will help you relax.

Breathing & Yoga

The way you breathe can either help or hinder your asana practice. When you breathe smoothly and evenly, you’ll notice that your breath helps you relax into a pose, gives you more stamina, and eases tension. In fact, it’s because of the relaxing effect of the breath that we’re often told to “take a few deep breaths” when we get angry or upset. It’s also true that full, deep breathing clears the head and improves concentration. Actually, breathing right helps improve the functions of all the systems in the body.

On the other hand, taking short, shallow breaths can be detrimental to our health, decreasing our vitality. When you practice asanas, if your breathing is uneven, too shallow, or if you’re holding your breath when you don’t need to, your body will be tense and probably uncomfortable, you’ll be more likely to strain, and you won’t get the full benefits of the poses.

Asanas are meant to remove blockages and increase the flow of the subtle energy, or prana, in the body—which improves our overall health. Because your breath can really enhance the flow of this energy, become aware of your breathing as you practice asanas. If your breath tends to be shallow, uneven, and fast, try to slow it down a bit and make it a little smoother and deeper. With practice, it will improve quite quickly because you’ll notice how much better it feels!

But don’t get so caught up in your asana or breathing practices that you forget to do your yoga meditation. After all, the purpose of asanas and pranayama is to prepare you for meditation. And it is in meditation that you’ll reap the greatest rewards of yoga—inner peace and true happiness.

Learn a New Pose Today!

Some yoga poses are easy for us; we like doing them and practice them regularly. At that point when the pose becomes easy for you, it’s time to find another pose!

Let’s say you learned a new pose yesterday that was quite hard for you. When it comes time to do it today, you’re reluctant. You know how stiff you were in that pose, how little movement you got, and it felt uncomfortable. So you’re inclined to skip that one. Those are just the poses that your body needs.

If you persevere to learn a new pose, you’ll go through different stages. The first stage of reluctance usually lasts about a month. But as your body loosens up, you’ll move into the second stage. The pose becomes tolerable and your body and mind no longer resist so much. This stage may last another six weeks or so, getting better and better. Finally, you’ll get to stage three; the pose will be quite pleasant and enjoyable.

Try to imagine it. While I’m not advocating pushing too hard, sometimes just imagining you can go further into a pose will get you there. It gives you the will to try just a little harder.”

Relax as you practice. Don’t stress about how stiff you are; just watch your breath; notice how it affects your body, and let it help you open and release into the pose.

So next time you’re doing a pose you find difficult, instead of doing it halfheartedly, thinking “I can’t do this pose,” remember these tips. And be careful to follow all the safety guidelines, especially the most important principle which is to listen carefully to your body and never push your body beyond its limits.

~Wai Lana

Doing Yoga with the Right Consciousness

In many yoga asana classes, it is very common for students to look at the person beside them to see how far the other is twisting and bending.  They think, “Oh that person twisted 10 inches.  I only twisted 2 inches.”

Wai Lana Meditation

Classes like this are always full of tension and may even result in injuries because of the competitive atmosphere.  One of the objectives of yoga asanas is to relieve you of tension and heal your body of minor ailments, not worsen your stress and cause you injury.

This is the reason why I always reiterate to all my students that doing yoga asanas is not a competition.  You simply need to go as far as your body can go, according to its own condition.  This means you need to feel and listen to your body.  In this way, you will be careful and sensitive and you will not push yourself beyond your limits.  After all, you are not doing yoga asanas to impress other people.  Rather, you are simply doing it for your own health.  This is the proper consciousness to be in.

Don’t worry if you can’t twist as far as the other person or if you can’t stand on your head like the person beside you.  It is irrelevant.  A broom stands on its head!

So don’t fall into this trap of competing against somebody else or looking at the other person.  Just do your yoga asanas in a way that is conducive to the health of the body, not damaging it.

If you practice your yoga asanas in this noncompetitive consciousness, you’ll find yourself more relaxed and peaceful after your asana session and you’ll save yourself from a whole barrage of injuries!

Wai Lana’s Tips on How to Get the Best Out of Your Yoga Practice

Some yoga poses are easy for us; we like doing them and practice them regularly. At that point when the pose becomes easy for you, it’s time to find another pose!

Let’s say you learned a new pose yesterday that was quite hard for you. When it comes time to do it today, you’re reluctant. You know how stiff you were in that pose, how little movement you got, and it felt uncomfortable. So you’re inclined to skip that one.  Those are just the poses that your body needs.

If you persevere to learn a new pose, you’ll go through different stages. The first stage of reluctance usually lasts about a month. But as your body loosens up, you’ll move into the second stage. The pose becomes tolerable and your body and mind no longer resist so much. This stage may last another six weeks or so, getting better and better. Finally, you’ll get to stage three; the pose will be quite pleasant and enjoyable.

Yoga Pose

Try to imagine it.  While I’m not advocating pushing too hard, sometimes just imagining you can go further into a pose will get you there. It gives you the will to try just a little harder.

Relax as you practice.  Don’t stress about how stiff you are; just watch your breath; notice how it affects your body, and let it help you open and release into the pose.

So next time you’re doing a pose you find difficult, instead of doing it halfheartedly, thinking “I can’t do this pose,” remember these tips.  And be careful to follow all the safety guidelines, especially the most important principle which is to listen carefully to your body and never push your body beyond its limits.

Say Goodnight to Insomnia Through Wai Lana Yoga

A good night’s sleep is valuable for our overall health.  Did you ever notice that when you are sick, you’d rather sleep and sleep?  This is the body’s natural way of healing and repairing.  Indeed, the role of sleep in maintaining the healthy functions of the body cannot be overemphasized.  Some people are lucky and fall asleep as soon as they close their eyes.  Some are less fortunate and toss and turn on their beds all night waiting for sleep to come.

Whatever kind of sleep difficulty you may be experiencing – yoga asanas and yoga meditation is very beneficial in achieving a restful slumber.  Yoga asanas relieve muscle tension from stress and can also lessen common health problems that may interfere with your sleep, such as indigestion and any kind of body pain.  Try to avoid intense poses that involve twisting and bending backward too close to your bedtime.  These poses are invigorating rather than relaxing.  Gentle forward bends will make you relax.   As with any of your asana practice, proper breathing is of utmost importance.  So breathe right during your asana practice and end your session with yoga nidra to fully experience the good effects of yoga asanas and pranayam to your sleep.

You can find many articles and studies on how to improve and sustain one’s sleep – from drinking warm milk and taking warm showers to taking an array of different drugs, whether natural sleeping pills or heavy sedatives.  All these may help you sleep.  However, most do not address the problem of a restless mind.  A restless mind is one of the most common causes of insomnia.  Unless we control and restrain our minds, it will jump from one thing to another, just like a monkey.  A restless mind is very troublesome and will never give us rest.  Just like our bodies need rest, our minds also need rest and we can do this through Yoga Sound Meditation.

By the regular practice of Yoga Sound Meditation, you can greatly reduce tension and stress and overcome anxiety, worry, and other disturbances of the mind.

So instead of letting your mind trouble you until the wee hours in the morning, I encourage you to do Yoga Sound Meditation.  Once your mind is focused on the yoga sound, you’ll notice that you are able to finally fall asleep because your mind is no longer troubling you.  You will feel at peace.

So say goodbye to sleepless nights and those sleeping pills by doing yoga.

 

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