August 20, 2013

So You Think You Can Yoga?

Whenever someone shares a yoga video on You Tube or Facebook, I am reluctant to look at it.

When I do view it, I try not to judge but rather see that person for more than their yoga postures. I try to get a sense of their energy.

Often I find myself saying inside my head “been there done that,” with a mindset knowing that I once in my younger years (my twenties) was showing off and doing those exact same postures. And even now (in my thirties), I can still do those postures or flow sequencing series, but chose to do them if and when I feel like without posting them all over the web.

In my experience, yoga goes beyond doing advanced yoga and perfect postures. Yoga is the art of living and evolving on a spiritual journey, with asana only being a small piece of the yoga pie.

Although I love doing the asanas (postures), I try not to perfect them or look good doing them. I just want to feel healthy and great doing them.

One of my teachers once said “There is no such thing as a perfect yoga pose, only a healthy pose.” So the question is: when you are practicing yoga postures, how do you do it in a healthy way?

The ancient yoga texts use the Sanskrit word Ahimsa, which can be translated into non-harming or non-hurting. Therefore when you are trying to perfect a yoga pose or sequence, you should remember not to be harmful or hurtful to yourself.

You should, however, cultivate constant awareness to what feels healthy for you. I took this advice and experienced the truth in it. Since then, I have adopted healthy yoga postures and sequences with alignment that feels right for me.

No two people are alike; therefore no two yoga postures or sequences will be performed, experienced or even look the same.

There are two beautiful yoga principles you can apply to enhance greatness in your yoga asana practice.

1. Kill the Ego. Healthy yoga postures involve letting go of competition and over-ambition. Both of these can cause injuries. For example, trying to stretch as far as someone else or holding a posture for a prescribed length of time, without reason.

It is important to see each yoga posture as a tool to explore your body, rather than as an accomplishment. It is okay to value your progress, but obstacles arise when your yoga practice is attached to results, when you are always wanting to do more or be better without being content.

You should learn to have patience with your practice and acceptance of where you are in your practice. Learn to use the yoga postures to create a feeling of balance and bliss, not to compete or satisfy your ego. Ask yourself why you are showing off or practicing the way you do – does it make you feel blissful.

2. Birth the Breath. Begin by taking a few minutes to tune into your breath, whatever breathing technique that may be for you (example: ujjai breath). Always remember that healthy yoga postures allow you to breathe freely through your nose, releasing tension with each exhalation.

Breathing should be deep, smooth and steady, not abrupt or jerky. The proper use of breath gets you out of your thinking process and into your body, bringing a grace and sensuality to each movement within your yoga practice.

To help you birth the breath in each posture, practice sitting or standing up straight at the start of each posture. By extending and lengthening your spine, you create more space between the vertebrae, allowing a free flowing movement of your breath.

Breathing increases your body awareness. When you can find those few seconds of stillness between each inhalation and each exhalation you can listen and develop a relationship with your body. You notice where you are tight, what areas you need to strengthen and how balanced you are in a specific posture.

Through your breath, you learn to “play your edge,” challenging yourself but also treating yourself gently. Your body has edges that determine its flexibility, strength, endurance and balance. Trying to push past your body’s capacities actually creates more resistance and tension, whereas surrendering to the posture at the right moment draws you into greater depth.

Your edge will vary from day to day and moment to moment. You will know that we have achieved a healthy yoga posture when through breathing and playing your edge, it suddenly ceases to be a struggle and you feel a sense of strength, stability, balance and equanimity.


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Asst Ed: Renee Picard/Ed: Bryonie Wise

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