Many people dismiss yoga as a foo-foo form of physical fitness, thinking that its postures don’t really constitute exercise. That myth is usually shattered after the individual takes a single yoga class and leaves with sore muscles from areas that hadn’t been well exercised in the past.
However, there are certain key elements to practicing yoga.Â These “tips and tricks” are intended to facilitate the greatest health benefits and also to avoid the negative impact of improper postures and bad health practices.
Because yoga links physical exercises with mental concentration, one way to tell if you are practicing it incorrectly is to note whether you feel anger, crankiness, agitation or a feeling of “heaviness” in the body, mind and spirit.
If you begin to experience these symptoms, you would do well to consult an experienced instructor immediately to correct the matter as quickly as possible.
Here are some of the most common “do’s and don’ts” of yoga practice:
Always warm up your muscles before performing yoga exercises, or asanas. To warm up, walk slowly and calmly around a room, or perform gentle stretches with your arms.
The goal is to increase blood circulation to the muscles; but this should not be done through sudden, intense movement.
Remember to breathe through every asana. Concentrating on breathing is the core of every asana, and is even more important than learning how to move your body. Whatever you do, don’t hold your breath. Your muscles need oxygen.
Make “gently, gently” one of your mantras of your yoga practice. Begin your yoga postures slowly. Exhale as you stretch your muscles. Treat your body and your mind with care and respect.
Wait at least two hours after eating before performing yoga exercises. Better yet, do not eat until after your yoga session if possible.
Sip some water before and after class. Water helps your muscles and will cool you down after your exercise is complete.
Try to maintain each posture for at least 15 seconds. Eventually you will be able to hold your asana for as long as 30 seconds or more.
Be kind to your body. Don’t strain or bounce through a yoga posture as you could hurt your muscles. Again, think “gently, gently” and move your body accordingly.
If performing an asana causes pain, cease immediately. Don’t strain or push asanas to the point of pain.Â If you feel pain, ease out of the posture and tell your instructor immediately.
When practicing pranayama, which are breathing exercises, don’t hold your breath any longer than you feel comfortable doing. Also don’t practice pranayama hurriedly, or if you have a cold, the flu or another form of respiratory infection. If you do you could put undue stress upon your body, which is the opposite of yoga’s intended purpose.
Practice asanas before engaging in pranayama. Pranayama can temporarily deprive muscles of the oxygen they need to function well. Practicing asanas after pranayama could lead to injury.
Finally, always tell your instructor if you have any health complications or physical impediments before starting a class.Â They can advise you on alternative postures that are better for your condition.Â Remember, the goal of yoga is to bring about health and healing, not to injure your body further.