As you may have noticed, getting on your yoga mat for an asana session is a way to check in with your body. You notice where it's tight, where there’s tension, and which areas you need to work on to build strength and increase flexibility. (You may also realize that you've waited too long between sessions!)
The more you practice asanas, the more aware you become of how your body feels when you’re off the mat, too. You’re more likely to notice when your shoulders are tensing up or when your back begins to ache. You tune into whether or not you're getting enough rest. You become aware when stress begins to build.
This information is very important for helping us feel our best, but to do us any good, we need to act on it. If you notice your neck and shoulder muscles tightening up when you’re at the computer, for example, take a short break. Do some neck exercises or shoulder rolls instead of letting it build up further. If you experience an achy back while cleaning the house, take some time to do a few poses that release tension or strengthen your back—depending on what you feel it needs. If you’re often tired, take a nap or commit to going to bed earlier. Stressed? Take the time to wind down. Do some yoga relaxation.
When we handle these minor problems when they begin—and yoga techniques give us a way to do that—we can usually vastly improve our situation fairly quickly. But if we ignore them, we suffer longer than we need to—and risk having a small problem turn into a bigger one. So take advantage of the increased awareness that comes with the practice of yoga and use it to your benefit.