Yoga for Healthy Living or how to practice Yoga correctly
Traditional Yoga is a spiritual practice and Yoga which we practice noweredays is only physical part of it which was brought to Western world in a very limited form. The classical alignments as they are conveyed to us by traditional Indian masters were defined and polished through centuries by male practitioners who trained intensively from early age. It is quite obvious that if ordinary modern person try replicate it he can get into trouble all his body. The good news is that we still can practice Yoga and feel the benefits of these antient techniques if we practice Yoga not just Asanas.
So what is Yoga practice? First of all it is a practice of body awareness. Observing body and breath inside, sensing every part of our your body. Feeling what are the needs and requirements of body, it's natural and healthy alignments.
After several injuries I decided to checked thoroughly every posture and found that some should not be practiced at all in their traditional form: such as Warrio 1, Trikonoasana, Warrior 2 because they are potentially stressful to hip and knee joints for ordinary person.
I will not ask in my class anymore to straight the leg in Trikonasana, for example, or have hips parallel to each other in Warrior 2, because It is not safe for hip joints and not needed to feel and experiencing the main forces in the posture.
In Warrio 1, I do not ask to square the hips, it would strain the back knee.
Event the classical alignment of Tadasana where hills slightly apart put stress onto the knees. It is true many Yoga practitioners do not have any problems with Yoga postures, however we should take into account that we have very different bone structures and what one can do easily, another person may do but on expense of overstressed joints. If we can do the posture it does not mean always that we should do it. Only by going deeply inside our body one can be confident if he can really do the posture or should modify it.
Constantly check if any parts of the joints are skewed or stressed. Streamline the ankle, knee and hip joints. If there is no sinking in any of the joints, especially hips, shoulders or lower back. If weight is distributed equally on all surface of a base. For example, chek if in Utkatanasan the weight is mostly on internal part of the feet. Use props and adapt in such way that main body intentions are present, do not try to replicate the teacher, do what is right for you.
AWARENESS AND ACCEPTANCE OF BODY LIMITS
Feeling where to stop the stretch or when to relax the posture. Breathing deeply constantly and relaxing little by little any tension, staying within the limits of the body without intensive stretch but observing only sense of expansion and relaxation. Breathing deeply inside strong posture, sensing it's strength instead of squeezing the last push up. Being conscious about your energy levels and give yourself few restful breathes instead of pushing above your limits. Using only variations which we can afford instead of pushing all body to extreme by challenging variations. I started to practice all postures with props even though I can still do them without, but if I do them without props I feel intensive stretch which I know will cause overstretching, while with props I still can feel the posture and body intentions.
The body limits may change especially with age and menopause (I will have special article devoted to menopause). Sensing present body limits is very important.
Keeping the posture or doing only the posture with deep stable breathing, avoiding holding the breath. Sensing the movement of the body inside the breath. Breath is a vehicle of prana (energy force) to the body, if we focuse on breath we can consciously relax or engage deep muscles, and realign all the body. If you are stay within the limits deep breath will tell where is the hidden tension in the body and by slow exhalation you can relax that part slowly. Going deeply with inhalation to the root of the tension or pain you can easy it by focusing all your intentions in one point. Sometimes it could be in completely other part of the body but one can sense it only by focusing deeply on his sensations.
Yoga philosophy is very different from philosophy of modern society which is goal achievement. Modern physical practice is based on judgment of our current state, goal and action to achieve the goal. Yoga practice instead teaches us to be present to our body, to feel your body, feel what it is doing and be fully present to it. This is the same principals in meditation. Through the awareness we can become fully present to ourselves and live happier and self realised life.
See you in the next class! Enjoy Healthy Yoga Practice.