Foundations for Yoga Success1. Ahimsa—Non-violence to yourself or others. As we learn to practice ahimsa toward ourselves, we can better practice peace in our world. If you hurt (“bad pain”) then stop immediately.
2. Satya—Truth. Be honest with yourself. Non-harming trumps honesty. Be honest when you don’t feel safe or you have an injury. Be honest with perceived limitations. Ask yourself: Can I stay in a posture (asana) for 1-2-or-3 more breaths to explore soreness or stiffness with attention and compassion, allow emotions to arise, dissolve and free the body for deeper movement?
3. Breathe—Master yoga teacher Sean Corn says that as long as your movement is safe and you are breathing, you have an exemplary yoga practice. The breath is prana—vital energy. Breath gives us access to greater life force and strength. In asana practice we discover our natural rhythm of breath, pranagati.
4. Follow instructions for getting in and out of postures carefully. Every instruction is given so you will be safe and receive the maximum benefit of the pose (flexibility, strength, balance, endurance, focus). Listen and carefully follow directions for basic postural alignment including hand and foot positions.
5. Do not fling or force yourself into any posture. Momentum is not your friend. Forcing is harmful and unnecessary.
6. Be compassionate with yourself. Breathe compassion into stiff or sore body parts. Send love to yourself throughout the practice.
7. Be present in the posture. Stay conscious as you get into a pose, “work” the asana and move out of the pose. Focus on what’s happening in the moment and notices how it changes as you move and breathe.
8. Explore asanas/postures like a child. Observe yourself—your habits, preferences and where your body is in space (proprioception). Experiment. Notice how you breathe in each phase of the pose.
9. Rest! Work in harmony with your whole body through each pose. Rest in child’s pose or corpse pose (shavasana) when your energy is very low or you need to integrate.
10. Generally, lift, lengthen and extend the body. Avoid collapsed, compressed or rigid positions. Open, extend, support and invite the breath into all the spaces and the spaces within the spaces.
11. Make sure to end with a reclined shavasana. A good guideline is one minute of shavasana for every 10 minutes of practice. This practice: a. Assists in integrating and retaining the benefits of the asana practice and b. Teaches complete physical relaxation with total awareness.
12. Check with your physician, chiropractor or other health professional if you have questions or concerns about your ability to practice yoga asanas. Certain asanas are contra-indicated for knee injury, spinal conditions, pregnancy or hip replacements, etc. Most important: Listen to your body and practice on the side of ahimsa (non-violence)
13. Avoid eating before any kind of asana (posture) practice—at least one hour before a light snack or at least three hours before a heavy meal.
14. Avoid drinking anything within 20 minutes prior to 20 minutes after asana practice. Do not drink anything during asana practice unless there is extreme thirst. (If this condition persists, examine your hydration practices.)
15. Practice a little every day. We lose benefits after 96 hours.