November 2011

Main Feature: Deepening your asana practice

There are a number of reasons people take up yoga - to increase flexibility, balance the body and to better manage pain and stress are some very good reasons. From the outside a yoga asana class can appear to be like any exercise regime, albeit set to a different tune – Sanskrit; but there are some subtleties that may not immediately be apparent and exploring these can increase the benefits gained in class.

Seek a balance between effort and relaxation– find the sweet spot. If you are in pain, getting fatigue shaky, breath labored and your mind is hitting you with “I hate yoga ...”  thoughts then you are working too hard. On the other hand if you find you are very caught up in your thoughts, attention wandering and not really present in your practice, you might need to cultivate a little more focus. Bring your awareness to your body - hands and feet and the sensations in your body. Call your mind to task to generate the right energy in your practice.

Nurture interest in your practice – Notice what's going on physically, mentally and emotionally. An  important quality of yoga is that of awareness. Notice your thoughts and emotions when body sensation is intense. If you're willing, see how it feels to surrender into sensations, rather than struggle with them. What to you learn about yourself – notice where you are fearful, unsure or pushy. Sometimes asana practice can reveal strong emotions – try to give these emotions and feelings space rather than running away.

Be present and self accepting - So often we are so busy, trying to get something from the practice or create a particular experience, that we lack presence. Our mind is full of ideas about yoga, what we can do, what we can't do and what we want to do. Notice when your mind is leading you astray, notice the sensations in the body, the relationship you have with your body – by wanting something else are you subtly aversive to your current experience? We can only get to where we want to go, by starting where we are.

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