Enjoyable Yoga Practice
The Sanskrit word for a yoga pose is Asana. Sanskrit scholars variously translate this word to mean "a comfortable or effortless position." How many of you have often found a posture both uncomfortable and requiring much effort. This month I will give you a few ideas to make your practice both more comfortable requiring less effort so you enjoy your practice more.
The breathe is the key to the practice, enabling us to let go and go deeper into the postures. We tend to lean or fold into a posture on the exhale because the body is designed to release as you exhale. Next time you get angry, annoyed or frustrated notice what happens when, perhaps like me, you sigh, huff and puff at whatever is getting to you. You may notice that as you sigh the body let's go of tension. The body, whether sighing, yawning or just normally exhaling, is designed to release on an exhale. In yoga posture terms this may give permission to the physical body to relax into the posture. making it softer, safer and possibly a bit deeper. So, remember to exhale as you lean forward.
Apart from general stiffness as a result of a sedentary life, many people coming to yoga have particularly tight ham strings from more hours sitting than moving. Muscles work in opposites so in forward bends you can engage your quadriceps and the hamstrings may release. Sitting on a block is essential for those with stiff hamstrings and enable you to access many seated postures more safely.
"If it hurts you are doing wrong" is a favourite David Williams saying. We often try to force our body to move into a posture without first opening the joints and making space for movement. When starting in Tadasana, the standing posture at the beginning of the practice, notice a sense of the spine lengthening as you roll your shoulders, it is this lengthening that we use in the sitting postures. Some people may find that in the sitting postures they cannot fold forward this may be as a result of a slumping in the spine and "magic ring" you might have around your midriff. A tip to help: roll your shoulders and as they come down the back with the exhale imagine or feel the spine lengthening from the tail through to the neck. Lean forward from the hips, not the waist and with your breast bone moving towards your feet, maintaining a soft yet strong supported spine. It is not nose to knee as this tends to round the back causing possible injury and pain in the lower back.
This combination of lifting and folding on the exhale with engaging of quads should enable you to lengthen and lean into the pose with less effort, enabling you to enjoy the practice more. Remember keep practising.
If you would like to deepen your practice you might like to consider coming to one of my Spanish yoga retreats where we do 6 sessions in 4 days. Spain has not been the number one holiday destination for the last 12 years for nothing.
Yours in Yoga,