1 | Don’t practice at home
When people ask me for tips on how to exercise at home I tell them to drop the idea and go to classes led by an experienced instructor.
Kind of funny hearing this from someone who is giving tips on yoga exercise, huh?
I decided to post about yoga as I find it to be one of the universally good things for
almost everybody. And I know there are people whose schedule or financial situation doesn’t allow them to attend a regular class or they might find it hard to find a studio where they’d feel at home.
And despite the fact that it would always be better to have someone teach you, yo can do yoga at home with very little equipment (basically none). As long as you follow my other nine commandments you’ll be fine 😉 But still. Try to find a class* with a nice yoga teacher they will help you align, give useful tips and help you fix mistakes you can’t yourself be aware of.
2 | Breathe
Breathe and focus on your breath. Don’t multitask (don’t watch TV, listen to radio or talk to anyone while exercising). You’ll only reap the maximum effects of your exercise session if you stay present in your body. Also… lesser risk you will overdo it and pull a muscle when you pay attention to what’s happening inside you rather than around you.
3 | Listen to your body
Pain isn’t the new gain as you might have read on that last insta motivation post. Pain is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong. Listen to it!
I don’t wanna preach or criticize anyone’s lifestyle but yoga is about awareness and kindness. And also patience. It’s not about pushing your limits and declaring a war on your body. And I swear you actually achieve even greater results when you progress patiently and don’t overdo anything.
4 | Don’t push yourself over your limits
Sthira Sukham is one of the main principles of practicing yoga asanas and it means steadiness and ease. And that is how you should exercise – with steadiness and ease. That means that if you are attempting a pose and find yourself really uncomfortable or you are loosing balance, you’re not ready for it. Yet.
Choose an easier variation or another pose that targets the same part of the body and come to the difficult asana a few days or weeks later. You’ll get there. No worries.
5 | Don’t look into a mirror
I understand, you read the paragraph one and decided to make sure that your alignment is right to get the most out of your practice (I know it’s not about how great your tushie looks in your new yoga-pants. Well, not just.)
The problem is nothing in your body is really disconnected so moving your head to see in the mirror is destroying the asana for starters. One of the most dangerous moves would be when you are stretching your spine intensely and you move your neck; this way you could even hurt yourself. So just don’t.
Also in every asana there is a determined point of focus – the drishti and that is an important part of it all. It’s not yoga if you don’t focus (focusing on your mirror reflection doesn’t count).
If you want to make sure your alignment is right and there is no one around to asses it, in digital era there’s nothing easier than filming yourself exercising.
6 | Talk to your physician first
In case you are ABSOLUTELY sure that you are PERFECTLY healthy (does a person like that even exist?), of course you do not need to. But if you ever had a surgery, injury or have any chronic health condition just consult your doctor first and enquire about possible restrictions.
I always say that anyone who is still alive can benefit from yoga but the asanas that are beneficial are not the same for everybody and the practice should also be adjusted to your specific needs at a certain point in time.
You will definitely need to take special care if you are pregnant, have high blood pressure, heart disease or have had a spinal injury/surgery. Or any other injury for that matter.
7 | Don’t practice when you are feeling unwell
You know these days: You start feeling tired, your back is aching, your throat is a bit scratchy… And then you remember that yoga is a remedy practically for everything (including death) so why not google “yoga against cold” or some “immunity boosting” sequence. Because you will feel worse!
And how do I know that? Because I tested it for you (multiple times – well, the scientific approach requires repeating an experiment before jumping conclusions). You are welcome!
Another one of the main yoga principles is “Ahimsa” which means (in a very loose translation) kindness. That means kindness towards all living beings – including you. So be kind to yourself, make yourself a nice hot cup of tea, snuggle under the blanket with your pet tiger, rest, watch a movie, read a book, drink plenty of liquids and have some vitamin C.
If your back is really, really aching, stretch your neck and shoulders gently while sitting, spread some tiger balm on your chest and back (it will warm up and loosen the muscles and clean up your sinuses). To relax and feel a bit better try the yogic sleep – yoga nidra.
8 | Keep warm
Although the yoga crop tops, tanks and tiny shorts look really great on Kino McGregor, we don’t all live in Miami. If your home is on the cold side, wear as many layers of clothing as needed to make you feel really warm even while sitting and doing nothing. Keep it on even when you start feeling warmer after you start moving.
First of all your muscles and fascia stretch the most when warm so the results will be better but mainly you don’t want to pull anything, do you? It heals surprisingly long.
9 |Don’t eat before doing yoga
This is a very pragmatic tip. Having a muffin before jumping on to the mat won’t prevent you from reaching enlightenment however you might feel extremely uncomfortable in some positions. The same goes for drinking too much (not meaning alcohol, but sure that would make it worse).
It’s best not to eat at least an hour before exercising and drink really modestly before and (if you can’t be without it completely) during the session.
10 | Don’t skip shavasana
It always amazes me when I see someone jump up before the final relaxation and run for the showers. Without shavasana at the end, you did not do any yoga today. As I already mentioned and couldn’t stress enough – breathing, focus and working with your mind – all that is an indivisible part of yoga and without it, it’s all just stretching.
You might wanna object that you only came for the stretching and do not care for the rest but then still you are robbing yourself of a whole range of amazing benefits. Think about it…
PS: If what puts you off is that you find it really, really boring… then it is ESPECIALLY you who should practice staying still and staying calm.
So to sum it up
Be careful. Be patient. Be kind to yourself. Be present. Take it easy.