A few tips by senior Art of Living Yoga teachers on learning the ‘art’ of yoga asanas or postures.
Remember the first time you started practicing your favorite hobby – photography, music, dance, anything. At first, there was a struggle, an effort to get things right. You were anxious to click the best picture, play the right melody, and have the perfect steps. Then with each practice, it just went on getting better, and as you mastered the art, the act became effortless and graceful! This is exactly what happens when we do yoga postures. Do them gently, give yourself time to get comfortable with the posture – you’ll see the act flowing gracefully and the experience getting pleasurable.
Go easy with your yoga asanas
There is a secret knack to doing your yoga posture right: relax and be comfortable with your body. A yoga sutra of Patanjali ‘Sthira sukham asanam’ echoes this thought, where sthira means steady and sukham implies comfort. When you do any yoga asana, ensure that your body is stable (not shaky) and you do not feel any sort of pain or discomfort in that posture. It is fine even if you don’t get the asana perfectly right in the beginning. For example, while doing the Standing Forward Bend pose, you don’t need to fret if your hands can’t go all the way down to touch your feet and you barely manage to reach your ankles. Remember, practice makes perfect? The whole idea is to keep the body steady and be at ease at the same time.
Letting go is the key in Art of Yoga
Once the body is comfortable, the next step in your yoga asana practice is to let go of the effort put into the posture and simply observe your breath. Patanjali's Yoga Sutra ‘Prayatna shaithilya ananta samapattibhyām’ explains this. Just as the music flows naturally, once you know how to play the piano, yoga poses become effortless and graceful with each practice. Take any posture for instance, let’s say the Bow Posture (dhanurasana). You will need to put in some effort initially to get into the pose, but once you are in it, just keep your attention on where the stretch is happening and continue taking deep ujjayi breaths.
Smile through yoga asana and see the difference
All along your yoga asana practice, a smile on your face will definitely do wonders. Simple as it may seem, a smile has the ability to set any curve straight.
“I could not do toe rotation without holding on to the wall. I would lose my balance. Then, my Art of Living Yoga instructor said, ‘Just keep a smile on your face while you do this stretch and you will not need any support.’ I tried and it worked!” shares Pritika Nair, a course participant, who was amazed to experience the power of smile.
The smile also indicates whether you are doing the yoga posture right. The moment your smile fades, understand that you are either overdoing the stretch or are uncomfortable in your posture.
While doing your yoga asana practice, it is best to respect the limits of your body. Each body has different flexibility and capacity. So, do not overdo any yoga pose. Remember that yoga is not like instant coffee but more like herbal tea. The longer you steep the tea, richer the color. Yoga only gets better with regular practice.
(Based on inputs from Art of Living Yoga teachers: Dinesh Kashikar and Shriram Sarvotham.)