Now that you’ve decided to take up yoga for your health,
you must consider the best environment and preparation to do so.
The very best time to practice yoga is first thing in the morning before breakfast. Upon waking, empty the bowels, shower if you wish, then commence the day with your regime of yoga practices. The second most conducive time is early evening, around sunset.
It is, of course, far better to do something at a time of the day which suits one, rather than to miss out by being too rigid or idealistic. Always remember integral yoga is a balanced recipe which maintains that to get the best from your yoga practice, you should whenever possible, mix and match the necessary elements of practice which will improve and enhance your spiritual growth and awareness.
Asanas – yoga postures – may be practiced at any time of day except within 2-3 hours of having eaten. You can do postures when the body feels stiff, tense, tired or hyped-up. Be aware not to do too many over-stimulating postures just before bedtime. Asanas are best practiced first in your yoga routine, followed by breathing (Pranayama) and then meditation.
Pranayama may be practiced at any time of day except within 2-3 hours after meals. It may be done when tense or tired or when space does not allow room for postures. Pranayama is best practiced straight after asanas without breaking the flow of awareness. Pranayama is a necessary pre-requisite for successful meditation.
Meditation may be done at any time of day when you feel both awake and relaxed. For best results, you should not do meditation within 2-3 hours of eating, when sleepy, or when mentally “hyped-up”.
It is best is to have fresh air in a quiet and clean place that suits the concentration and awareness yoga will create. Do not practice yoga in direct sunlight or after sun-bathing. Outdoors is OK but you should avoid cold wind and insects. Wear loose comfortable yoga clothing so there is no restriction around the limbs.
Exercise on an empty stomach at least three hours after eating.
Do not force your body under any circumstances. Many people don’t take heed of this advice. They try to push their bodies into the exercises, whether the body is ready or not. This is a great mistake which does more harm than you can imagine.
Work slowly with your body. Respect its limits. These limits will gradually extend and you will gain flexibility if you work regularly and sensitively at stretching your limits. The body will get the message and the tension which is preventing you from proceeding will gradually be released.
Relax briefly between each practice. Remember the golden rule: “If it’s uncomfortable – DON’T”
Do not continue any exercise which causes pain. Pain is a message from the body which must be listened to. In some cases it may simply be the body’s process of changing. In such cases, you simply need to bear with it and continue (without forcing) and it will gradually pass. In other cases you may be doing harm to some part of your body and may have to stop and do some other preparatory exercises before returning to that one. Check with your doctor or other professional if you have concerns.
Be conscientious and concentrate on what you are doing. Keep your mind on feeling what is happening in the body and concentrate on your breath and position. Do not think about other things or talk to anyone while exercising. If possible, it would be best if you were alone in the room, without distractions such as radio or TV, so that you can concentrate. If this is not possible, just try to concentrate on yourself and ignore what is going on around you.
Give importance to your breathing. Each exercise has a specific way of breathing. This is an extremely important aspect of the exercise. In many cases, it is even more important than the physical movements themselves. Be conscious of your breathing and breathe slowly and deeply, according to the instructions for each exercise. In general (with some exceptions) we inhale when we stretch upward or backward and exhale when we bend downward or forward. Always breathe through the nose both in and out, unless specified otherwise. Remember “Nose for breathing-mouth for eating”.
Allow your attention to flow through the body as you become aware of each muscle and the tension and energy stored there and allow that energy to flow and the muscle relax. Complete your exercise series with deep breathing and, if possible, with deep relaxation.
There are no age limits either young or old for the practice of yoga. However the application of the techniques will vary according to the abilities of the practitioner. Those with disabilities, severe, acute or chronic medical conditions should consult both with their medical practitioner and their yoga teacher to assess any dangers or difficulties which may arise.
Avoid exercising at least three months after surgery, unless you have specific permission from your doctor. Some exercises should be resumed only 6 months after surgery, unless you have your doctor’s permission to start earlier. Also, avoid all exercises at any time when you suspect internal bleeding or an inflamed appendix.
Never practice any yoga techniques under the influence of alcohol or mind altering drugs. There are no hard and fast dietary rules necessary to begin the practice of yoga. One does not have to give up smoking, become vegetarian, or be a purist to learn yoga. What you might find, however, is that yoga can help you overcome those bad habits you’ve been wanting to shed for years and bring you into alignment with your spiritual side which can be key to overcoming vices.
Now let’s look at some of the asanas, or positions, that are central to a yoga regime. We’ll give you a good basic beginning yoga workout to begin your journey!