The 5 yogic principles - How to get the most out of your practice
Have you asked yourself what it is that you truly desire to achieve with your yoga practice? You can use yoga to loose weight, to get a grip on your emotions, to ensure a healthy pregnancy, to get rid of chronic backache or migraines, to calm yourself, to go from doing and thinking to purely being, to be more creative - the list goes on! But whatever it is you want to achieve, the key is to adhere to the principles of yoga. Here they are:
The first key principle is to be in the present moment when practising yoga. Now how does that work? By unifying body, breath and mind. The breath is the link between body and mind, if I am distracted, I loose touch with my breath, if I am distracted, I loose touch with my body, therefore to keep the attention on the breath is key. Our first step in yoga is therefore to consciously link body and breath. We do this by allowing every movement to be led by the breath as we practice the asanas. To start practicing this quality, try this simple exercise: Raise your arms as you inhale and lower them as you exhale. This is what we do even in the most complex asanas and it is how we learn to be fully involved in our actions, which will in turn maximise our results. In time you will learn to direct the mind without distraction or interruption, which will be a huge help with many other things in life.
The second principle of yoga is to begin where we are. By that I mean accepting our bodily condition and our mental and emotional states right now, however “bad” they might seem to us. For an asana to be performed correctly it must be steady and comfortable too. When we are too tense because an asana is very uncomfortable or exhausting, we are not doing yoga, we are not ready for this position. Practicing the postures progressively is the key to mastering them. To make this a reality, we have to accept ourselves just the way we are and to just tell ourselves that whatever happens, happens and whatever doesn’t happen, doesn’t. All in good time. To sum it all up: Accept yourself just as you are. Only from a state of acceptance can change occur.
The third principle is: Make your practice a habit. Good habits are so important! It consumes a lot of energy to fit a yoga practice into your schedule, instead you should make it part of your schedule. Whether you decide to do 15 minutes of pranayama, that is breathing exercises, daily or whether you decide to go to a Bikram class every second day or whether you feel like meditating every day for 10 minutes after you get up is the right thing to do, whatever it is, make it a habit, plan it in and stick to it until you feel you have exhausted all the practices benefits, only then should you alter your practice and try mastering more advanced exercises or longer practices.
To enjoy your savasana is the fourth principle of an effective yoga practice. Savasana is rest. Only when the body is completely still and your mind as still as possible can your body truly take in the benefits of any asana or pranayama that you have just practices. This is why I am a big fan of pausing for some seconds or even a minute after every asana. If this doesn’t feel good to you, make sure to at least take a silent break at the end of your practice. I often witness people rushing off after a yoga class instead of enjoying their savasana at the end of a lesson by lying down on your back, eyes closed, still in body and mind. It doesn’t make sense to work so hard doing your practice if you don’t give yourself time to take it all in at the end.
- And the last important principle: Take your yoga from the mat into your life. It’s of course better to relax at least in your yoga class if the rest of your life is very stressful and that’s why you started doing yoga in the first place. But you will maximise your benefits if you take the yogic state of mind into your everyday life. What does that mean? Many things and they can be different for everybody and also depend on your practice. Here are some examples: Make an effort to become aware of your breath when you sit in your car or when you take a coffee break or while you brush your teeth. Control your posture when you walk past a mirror or when you wait at a traffic light. Feel if you are truly present when you interact with your children. Be more polite and even friendly to shop clerks and bus drivers. Pay more attention to what you eat and whether you drink enough. Ask yourself at least once a day whether you are taking good care of yourself and whether you talk and think nicely about yourself. The possibilities are endless, be creative about it!
I hope you enjoyed this article and I hope to hear from you soon in the comments! All best, lots of love and namaste, Lily