Yoga as a concept has always appealed to me, aspirational images of trendy and trim supermodels clad in loose fitting soft-knit pastel sweaters and leggings float into my mind when I consider the subject. Miranda Kerr is a solid devotee and practices 2 hours every morning (oms and all!) as part of her Nichiren Buddhist practice. Snickering aside, it cannot be disputed that yoga has many benefits to offer (both physical and mental) so I figured I’d try and make it a commitment for 2013 as part of my fitness schedule. Here I thought I’d share some of my thoughts and hints I’ve found from researching how to get into practicing yoga correctly and without pain.
Now, I’ve had an on-off relationship with yoga, some poses bode well for me and some I just feel pressure in all the wrong places and left me limping out of the class clinging to my hip. Note: this is NOT how one should feel when leaving a yoga class! Yes folks, I’ll admit, I was doing it all wrong.
1) Don’t over do it!
The number one thing I cannot stress more than anything when trying out yoga for the first time is not to force your body into any poses to a point where you feel pain. Getting competitive with Bendy Brigitte on the mat next to you will most likely leave you with a pulled muscle, pain and discomfort. If it begins to hurt then it is no longer yoga (so don’t pull those extreme funky backbends too soon).
2) Use the blocks
You’ll often find firm rubber blocks at the back of the practice room. In order to keep your body alignment and form in tip top shape place them under points of contact with the mat (knees when doing the candle pose or sit on them to help in the simple lotus pose). Also remember to bring a towel for head support and if you find your hips/feet are particularly bony on the mat and cause any discomfort.
3) Get to know your Chakras
Your instructor is likely to tell you what asanas (poses) your doing and where they are located. It is best to learn what these chakras are associated with to get full benefit in terms of mind-body awareness. Below is a quick summary (source: MindBodyGreen):
- Root Chakra: Foundation of feeling and being grounded, located at the base of the spine in the tailbone area, associated with survival issues, financial independence, money, food
- Sacral Chakra: Connection and ability to accept others and new experiences, located in the lower abdomen, associated with sense of abundance, well-being, pleasure, sexuality
- Solar Plexus Chakra: Ability to be confident and in-control of our lives, located in the upper abdomen, associated with self-worth, self-confidence, self-esteem
- Heart Chakra: Ability to love, located at the centre of the chest just above the heart, associated with love, joy and inner peace
- Throat Chakra: Ability to communicate, located in the throat, associated with communication, self-expression, feelings, truth
- Third Eye Chakra: Ability to focus on and see the big picture, located at the forehead, between the eyes, associated with intuition, imagination, wisdom, thought, decision-making
- Crown Chakra: Highest chakra, ability to be fully connected spiritually, located at the top of the head, associated with inner and outer beauty, connection to spirituality and pure bliss
4) Remember to follow the instructed inhales and exhales!
All the times I’ve gone into yoga classes and ignored this I left feeling tired. Try the breathing practices (the most common being breathe in for 6 counts, breathe out for 8) and you’ll find yourself in deeper relaxation and benefitting from greater detoxing effects on the body!