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Starting a Yoga Home Practice

What You Need to Know

There are many reasons for wanting to start a yoga home practice. You might be the kind of person who likes to do things themselves. You might not want to spend money to go to a studio. There might not be a studio available near your home. The type of class you want isn't offered. You might not be comfortable with the idea of doing yoga in a class. Or you want to practice by yourself first and then go to classes after.

My own reasons for doing a yoga home practice was that I didn't want to spend the money and I thoroughly believed in my ability to learn from a book. The book I learned from was "Power Yoga" by Beryl Bender Byrch.

Part of the reason I wanted to learn from his book was because it taught a set series of poses: the primary series of the ashtanga yoga system.

I practiced three times a week. I would have like to have practiced more but I was too worn out. But even practicing three times a week I learned the series of by heart. When I finally went to a studio I found out that there was a lot that I could be doing better. And I also enjoyed practicing with other people.

Hopefully I can give you the basic information you need to do your own yoga home practice while at the same time being your own teacher, and a good one at that.

Pioneering a Yoga Home Practice

The very first yoga teachers must have learned from someone (or yoga was indeed a gift from the gods.) Much of the yoga we learn today, the phsyical practice of yoga asanas, has been developed by trial and error. Teachers and masters trying things out on themselves and on students or patients and noticing the results. This is like the pioneers who first crossed the wilderness bring civilization to the wilds. Or it is like a scout clearing a path throught he jungle so that others can follow.

Before I go any further, I would like to say that there is nothing wrong with going to class if you find a teacher you like and you like doing yoga in a group setting. And even when we are yoga teachers, or have our own well developed yoga home practice, there is always something nice about taking a break and having someone else tell us what to do.

But there is also the chance for you to develop your own good yoga home practice if you notice what you are doing and the results. If you practice feeling your body and controlling it and at the same time if you develop a clear idea of what you are trying to do in each yoga pose, you can do your own yoga home practice.

Moving Your Awarness Within Your Body

A lot of good teachers tell their students where to put their awareness and what to do in each of those spots. I've seen students responding to my instructions as if I was controlling them. I'm not. I'm just telling them the things that I know work and feel good in a pose. And that came with practice and an enquiring mind.

If you aren't curious, if you don't want to try to understand what you are doing or try to feel your body or understand it, at least not by yourself then a yoga home practice may not be for you.

That being said, there is also a certain level of acceptance required. Between those two extremes is yoga.

Have A Clear Idea of What You are Trying to Do

A question you might want to ask yourself is why do you want to do yoga? Is it to get more flexible, stronger, to feel more relaxed, to lose weight, to get fitter, to improve coordination?

All of those are qualites that you can notice improvements or a lack there of. If you are really specific and say that you want to be able to do the splits (front to back or side to side) then that is something you can clearly recognize and identify when you get there. The trick, or one of the tricks is to learn to know in each yoga pose that you do what you are trying to do. And that comes with practice. Each time you do a pose, ask yourself what you and what each part of your body is doing. Feel your body and adjust each part based on the idea of what you are trying to do.

With experience, or each time you do a posture you may "redefine" your idea of that pose on that given day, perhaps based on another pose that you are working towards or based on how your body feels. Thus instead of doing a pose robotically, according to a menu, you become like a chef who feels what is right. You make the pose alive, vibrant, responsive to circumstances. You become present both within your body, within your environment and within the pose itself.

Body Scan-Move Your Awareness Through Your Body

As for feeling all of the parts, you don't have to feel your entire body at once. Instead scan your body. Scan it in time with your breath. Each time you inhale feel one part of your body. As you exhale move your awaness to the next part. Do it logically, based on the pose you are in. In any standing pose you can start with your feet, work up your legs to your spine, neck and head, and then scan your arms. Focus on feeling your joints, the large bony structures like your pelvis and head, and notice how each part feels. You may find that you automatically work to make each part comfortable just because your awareness is there.

Define Each Pose

So how do you define a posture? It depends on what each part of the body is doing within that posture. And so a part of clearly defining any yoga pose is learning to define the parts of the body and how they can move. The better you know your body, the better you can clearly define for each part what it is meant to do within any particular pose. And if you don't know what each part should be doing, then the better you know your body the better chance you have of figuring it out. (And if you get really stuck, then go to class and ask a teacher.)

Basic Body Elements

As a general framework for feeling your body, the parts that you can feel, grouping of parts that you can feel are:

That's 16 basic elements. Less than the number of letters in the english alphabet.

Each of these are parts, or elements, of your body that you can learn to feel. You can practice moving and feeling these elements individually and learn to feel the limits they move within as well as control them within those limits.

The better you can feel your body and how the parts of it relate the better you can do any yoga pose, whether practicing at home or in a class.

Published: 2011 02 13
Clearly defined poses, exercises and stretches for improving stability, body awareness and flexibility.
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