7 MEGA INGREDIENTS THAT WILL ENHANCE YOUR YOGA ASANA PRACTICE ON AND OFF THE MAT
Each one of these points is in a synergetic union with the point before and after. Numbered for clarity, but feel free to mix and match.
1. EMBRACE A PRANAYAMA PRACTICE
By practicing Pranayama you can improve the quality of your life. Pranayama improves the function of the breathing muscles and mechanisms while distributing Prana/life force throughout the whole body. Breathing feeds every cell with new energy. The nervous system generally dictates the breath, but through conscious Pranayama exercises one can control the quality, rate, speed and intensity of the breath, thus affecting the nervous system. The nervous system directly controls the heart rate, the physiological, the mental and the emotional states. Breathe consciously during your yoga practice so that you can breathe consciously off the mat. Continue reading about the breath.
2. PRACTICE NON-VIOLENCE, AHIMSA
Nurture a graceful relationship with your body. Cause no force or injury to yourself by yourself. Use your intellect to control your movements through the conscious focus on your inhales and exhales. Don’t push your body with your will without the energy of breath guiding you in and out of positions. Allow the breath to dictate the depth of a posture, as posture isn’t an obligatory end product, but a process of adjusting the mind and the body towards better function. Let the breath release either your tension, stress or pain; don’t push through it. Practice ahimsa, compassion to yourself and your own process.
3. ENGAGE YOUR FEET
Use your feet and toe muscles in order to build a strong foundation in any yoga asana. As you engage your feet muscles appropriately, you aim to correctly distribute the body weight of your whole body. Activating the arches of the feet will activate the muscles of the legs, the inner things and the core. This synergistic connecting between the feet and the core, helps decrease instability in the body and allows us to steadily move from the centre.
4. MAINTAIN THE POWER IN YOUR CENTRE, CORE
Move from the centre by activating musculature around your trunk, feet, legs and throat. As a result you will gain better balance, allow for a smoother movement of upper and lower limbs, achieve better control of range of motion and improve body awareness. Minimize your corrections during asana practice by starting any movement with a strong centre/core. Traditional yoga teachings shares this through the use of bandhas, or locks.
5. FUNCTION OVER DEPTH
Practice emerging into postures slower, by maintaining steady breath, even weight distribution on both feet and strong core involvement. Consider tracking your joints evenly at the same speed and rate while focusing on maintaining even body weight distribution. Be aware of your body sensations and gain little depth with control, instead of charging into the deepest aspect of the posture and than readjusting. Any time you notice a strong localized sensation in form of pain or burning, use your breath to back off from that depth and redistribute the body weight evenly through your feet and core.
As you learn to move your body parts evenly, you will deepen the awareness of your senses, gain more strength and trust, enriching your field of experience.
6. USE A DRISHTI: ENGAGE YOUR EYES
Choose a focal point, or Drishti, to allow your environment to serve as a reference point during static asanas. When moving your head, consider tracking your eyes in a smooth line and gain more neuromuscular control and awareness. A Drishti simplifies the processing of external visual stimuli and focuses them mind on the present task, instead of overloading the brain with visual interpretations of the surroundings. This will help with balance, movement control and increase awareness.
7. MIND THE BRAIN WAVES
Brain always makes brain waves that can affect our mood and our experience. Yoga asana and Pranayama exercises shift the brain waves from Beta (state of waking consciousness, problem solving and reasoning) to Alpha (more relaxed, daydreaming state bridging the gap between consciousness and subconsciousness, inspiring healing). As we slowly approach Savasana, it is possible to drift off into a Theta state (deepening into sleep, where we can regenerate and repair at the cellular level) and towards Gamma waves (which have been observed in deep meditation). Exercise your brain and cellular vibration through the practices of meditation, Pranayama and yoga asana.