A successful yoga practice is one that leads you toward the goals of yoga: optimum health and deep inner peace and happiness. These five keys offer a practical way to help you make your yoga practice a success.
1. Set a time when you can practice each day
You’ll get the most out of your yoga practice if you do it regularly. While you don’t have to do it at the same time each day, it does help to make it a part of your daily routine. Morning is a great time to practice because the asanas wake you up, oxygenate your body, and give you energy for the day ahead. Studies have also shown that if we commit to exercising in the morning, we are more likely to do it every day. Doing five or ten minutes of yoga meditation sets a calm mood that can make a huge difference in the way you feel and interact with others throughout the day.
A busy day often creates lot of pent-up tension and stress, so if the morning doesn’t work for you, the evening is another good time for a yoga session. It’s nice to look forward to a relaxing yet invigorating session of asanas, relaxation, and meditation.
If you don’t always have a big block of time to set aside at any one time of the day, you can always divide your practice into two or three shorter sessions if you need to. Just be sure to make it a regular part of your day—indeed, your life.
2. Listen to your body
Your body has innate intelligence that alerts you to the possibility of harm, so let your body be your guide as you practice. If you listen to the messages it sends you, you will be able to make intelligent decisions , such as how far you can safely stretch, how long you should hold a pose, which poses are suitable for your body and which are not, and so on. So be very aware of how your body feels as you practice the asanas and make adjustments accordingly.
Notice what’s going on with your body before you practice as well. Does it feel tired today? Energized? Is it looser? Or tighter? Perhaps your body feels a little cold, and so on. Also, remember to listen to your body afterward—right after your session, a few hours later, as well as over the next two or three days—so you can see how your body has responded to your asana practice. Then you can cut back, add a few more asanas, or change your practice if you need to, according to your body’s response.
3. Don’t compete or try to impress
When we try to show off or compete with others when doing asanas, we’re more likely to get injured, and, of course, that defeats the whole purpose of practicing. When our focus is not on our own bodies but on trying to compete with someone else or do impressive-looking and extreme postures, it’s easy to push the body beyond its limits by stretching too far. This can lead to muscle and joint injuries or even tendon and ligament damage, which takes a long time to heal.
One of the main purposes and benefits of practicing yoga asanas is that it helps relieve the burden of stress and increase inner harmony. But competitiveness causes stress, undermining the very purpose of our practice. So be careful to keep a competitive spirit from creeping into and polluting your practice.
4. Use your breath
Breathing correctly can certainly enhance the benefits of the asanas, help us relax and stretch, and improve the function of the internal organs. When I teach yoga asanas, I give specific breathing instructions for the various asanas. But if trying to breathe a particular way makes you tense or doesn’t feel natural, then just breathe comfortably.
If you can make abdominal breathing a habit, it will help you to lengthen and deepen your breath as you hold certain yoga poses. This, in turn, can help you relax into a stretch, releasing unnecessary tension. Steady, controlled breathing also helps to build strength and stamina as it makes it easier to hold the poses a little longer.
5. Practice Yoga Sound Meditation
To maximize the benefits of your yoga asana practice, I highly recommend practicing yoga meditation at the end of each asana session. The perfect culmination to all yoga practices, Yoga Sound Meditation not only dissolves stress and deep-seated anxiety, but also provides us with the deep happiness and purpose in life that our hearts yearn for. Whether you practice Yoga Sound Meditation after asanas or on its own, there is nothing else in the world that delivers such a wealth of benefits from so little effort. My new Easy Meditation for Everyone kit will show you ten different ways to practice meditation. You can also find these meditations on my DVDs and CDs, as well as in the meditation section of my website.