5 Yoga essentials

By Dharmika Pragji

I am not sure where to start. Yoga is such a profound and vast topic. It is also something that can never be understood fully – rather it must be experienced. 

It also must be understood that Yoga is not simply Yoga postures.

However, they certainly are a start and there are a few foundational points that will facilitate a full and expansive experience of the benefits that Yoga has to offer.

Five main points when starting to practice Yoga postures or Asanas in a beneficial way are as follows:

1. Begin with the feet. A very enlightened Yogi told me – begin with the feet. It is the start to a healthy and aligned spine. And when I did, despite having practiced Yoga for a very long time, I was astounded at the way in which my body responded positively. My entire posture improvedas my spine aligned more, I felt more agile and flexible, my balance improved greatly and my muscles have become firmer and more toned all round. The integrity with which I am able to execute the various asanas has also improved drastically.

But most importantly my state of mind and general sense of well-being has been elevated through this simple correction, and my meditations have also become so much deeper.

2. Stay in the posture for 30 seconds at least. Staying in a posture – or working towards 30 seconds or more, gradually if you find it too difficult – is a great way to bring awareness to your body in various poses, and to allow the benefits of the various asanas to come to surface. There is no other pleasure than that of going into deep states of meditation during a posture and experiencing the wisdom of your body first hand. This physical experience often combines with the mental-emotional aspects of yourself and floods of relief and detoxification in all these areas can be felt.

3. Breathing whilst doing Yoga asanas is certainly paramount to benefiting from them. The nature of your breath can tell you a lot about your state of mind. As you go into different postures, your breath may become easier or more difficult, cooler or warmer, smoother or rough, all depending on your body’s physical state as well as your emotional- mental state. When you breathe long deep breaths in and out, your awareness deepens, as this happens you drop your judgement and criticism of the body, emotions, thoughts – you begin the journey of inner acceptance, and this in turn reaps benefits multi-fold. As your muscles become stronger with awareness, your breath becomes lighter, smoother, longer and cooler.

4. Gentleness and Acceptance – When we allow our minds to accept our current environment, and physical, emotional and mental states, our awareness floods our present moment uninhibited, like a wave crashing onto a dessert floor – the awareness of neglected or avoided feelings or emotions can be painful at first – but the concurrent release of blocked negative energy that comes with extended acceptance and surrender to them, is worthwhile. Physical sensations may be felt as this awareness extends itself, and the body is eventually saturated with a vibrant and vital force.

5. Never forget your Shavasana or Rest – Resting after each posture can bring huge benefits to the body mind complex. Resting allows your body to integrate all the benefits of each posture. At the end of the Yoga Asana Routine lying down in Shavasana is most essential – it is usually at this time that the entire organism is allowed to release many toxic hormones as the body enters into deep relaxation. Energy channels in the body also free up any blocks and circulations increases. Blood flows to the brain more effectively and this rush of newly oxygenized blood energizes the mind and entire system. The organs of the body respond extremely well under such conditions. Cortisol is released and bodily functions all round improve.

Secondary points:

1. Empty the Bowels and Shower at least once before beginning any form of Yoga- If the former is difficult then there are some beneficial postures to help with this, but the overall intention is to clean the body inside out – mind and body.

2. Practise on an empty stomach – at least 1 hour after eating any food and 30 minutes after drinking any liquids. The morning practice is best as you have a completely empty stomach.

3. Create a clean and quiet space for yourself to practice – keeping away any pets during the practice time. For short time you want to contain your energy as you conduct your daily, or weekly, energetic spring clean!

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