We have unique body structures and levels to which we can bend vary. The good news is that the purpose of including yoga in your daily schedule is – not to achieve the perfect bend, but – to bring the body, breath, and mind together. Gear up with these simple tips and get on the yoga mat with a yogi’s attitude.
#1 Respect the limits of your own body. Can you bring your nose to touch your knee in Standing Forward Bend? Some people can bend more than others can. So you bend to your capacity. Love your body and respect the limits of your own body. You need not compare yourself with your neighbor or someone on TV. You don’t have to do exactly what the other person is doing.
The thumb rule is to remain stable and comfortable in the yoga asanas. Neither push too hard and try to overdo things, nor be lazy. Do as much as you can. Comfortably and stably.
#2 Use the Yogic smile meter. Do Yoga with a sense of joy. When you overdo a stretch, smile will be the first thing to vanish. If you are not smiling, know that you are not doing something right. Either you are stretching too much or you are not comfortable. Re-adjust your body to get your beautiful smile back. With regular practice, you will find a big improvement. There is no need to be in a hurry, your yoga mat will remain right there.
#3 Breathe. Take deep long breaths or ujjai breaths. Ujjai breaths or long deep breaths help you relax and maintain the posture. You can even use the breath to stretch further. Rest in the asana and feel the stretch.
#4 Respect and honor your yoga practices. Yoga is not just as an exercise but you can experience a deeper connection to yourself and to others with regular yoga practice.
#5 Get the Yogic attitude. Go within. While doing yoga asanas, using specific rhythms of the breath links the breath and the body. Keeping the attention on where the stretch is happening; this links the body and mind. The body, breath, and mind come together in harmony during yoga asana. This yogic attitude helps deepen your yoga practice.
#6 Observe. Which hand do you use more often? On which foot do you tend to lean more when you stand? Observe things about your body, especially do you favor one side more than the other?
#7 Meditate. Yoga asanas prepare you for meditation and meditation in turn deepen your yoga practices. Play an Online Guided Meditation and follow the instructions to effortlessly slip into meditation.
#8 Do Yoga on the Yoga Mat and Live Yoga off the Yoga Mat. Can you stretch your hand to someone new? Can you remain stable and breathe through the pain in difficult situations (just as you use the breath to stabilize difficult asanas)? Reflect on the 23 hours of life, not just the one hour of yoga practice. That is why yoga is a way of life and not just an exercise.
(Based on inputs by Dinesh Kashikar, senior Art of Living Yoga teacher.)