Guidelines for a safe Yoga Practice
What to wear?
Do I have to wear a pink leotard? No, but if you have one, feel free to wear it! Just comfortable, non-restrictive clothes in layers are fine as your temperature can vary a fair bit during a class and become quite cool during relaxation. Bare feet are best as you will feel your way more easily, balance and grip better.
Do you have to be flexible?
NO. It will help make you more supple, which is one of the major components of fitness. Everyone is different, so never compete with others in the class and practice compassion to yourself as well as others. It is natural for your flexibility to vary throughout the day and from day to day, so don’t let this bother you, instead try to get an awareness of where each posture is taking you. Quite often the full posture is only a guide, after all, where’s the fun without a little challenge?
Always listen to your body, especially if recovering from illness or injury and learn the difference between a good intense stretch and pain! E=MC2 and Stretch=GOOD – Pain=BAD! Practice, perseverance and patience are good friends to accompany your Yoga.
Try to find the time!
Easier said than done, I well know. Always practice what you learn in class; fitting 10 to 20 minutes of yoga into each day will not only help you understand the sequences and postures more, it will give you a deeper understanding of yourself. I practice whenever the chance is there. Breath and posture awareness can be practiced whilst waiting for the kettle to boil or standing in a bus queue. Even a few sun salutations in the morning just before breakfast can make all the difference to your day! Take care not to leap straight into any exercise first thing in the morning, however, as the spine needs about 20 minutes to come round after all that time in bed. Always relax in Savasana (sounds nicer than the corpse posture) after your practice as this is when all that yogic energy gets assimilated by the body. If you have trouble sleeping, try using the relaxation you do in class.
Exercise has many wonderful benefits but not all exercise is suitable for everyone. To reduce the risk of injury, please consult your doctor before embarking on this or any other form of exercise if you are unsure especially if you have any major health challenges (e.g. recent abdominal or spinal surgery, heart condition, diabetes or very high blood pressure). People with eye problems and high blood pressure may need to avoid advanced inverted postures like headstand and expectant mums need to take care not to compress or strain the bump or back, so you always need to keep your teacher informed of any changes to your health.
Ladies need to be aware that it is safest to avoid strong inversions during the menstrual cycle, though other postures are highly recommended. In some styles of Yoga, the first three days are “ladies holiday”! You will have to decide what is best for you, though you may want to modify your practice as energy levels can be low at this time.
Yoga is best practiced on an empty stomach, allowing at least 2 hours after a full meal or 1 hour after a small meal. Proper nourishment is essential for health and wellbeing. If you need an energy boost before your practice, try a little fruit.
Tools of the trade
Always practice your Yoga on a non-slip surface; a blanket or towel is O.K. but a sticky yoga mat is best and can make all the difference to your practice.
Never sacrifice the breath for a posture. Try to always maintain a steady rhythm with the breath.
Will I get a body like Madonna, Sting, Gerri….?
Not necessarily, especially considering that they practice Ashtanga or Power Yoga! Regular practice of Yoga will strengthen tone and improve the suppleness of what you naturally have.
ENJOY your practice
It has been proved that people that keep it positive, light and fun get the most benefit from their Yoga. Of course there will be days when the body feels like a sack of spuds and the mind wanders off (“… now, what have we got in for tea…”) it happens to the best, just keep a compassionate heart and don’t judge yourself and others harshly.