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How do we make a yoga posture 'work'?

Yoga asana (posture) may not be the only part of yoga; however, it is a very impactful and powerful part of the practice


Yoga has been shown to improve muscle strength and mobility, support respiratory and cardiovascular health, alleviate stress, anxiety, depression, chronic pain, optimize sleep, mitigate age-related and neurodegenerative declines, enhance overall wellness, peace of mind and quality of life (1) (2).


All these benefits bring countless people to the mat. Yet we don't really know if what we are doing in asana is unlocking the benefits and wisdom or those postures. Perhaps there is some discomfort or tightness in your body? Maybe even pain? Or it somehow doesn't feel right? If it isn't accessible to us, we may wonder if we are getting what we need from the posture.

 

How do you practice yoga asana in a way that reveals the benefits of that posture?



Along with the many benefits of a complete yoga practice, each yoga asana has it's own specific set of benefits for the body. For example, the tradition shares that half spinal twist, Ardha Maysendrasana, is highly beneficial for the health of the spinal column and supports digestion. If we wissh to get the benefits of that posture and experience success in yoga asana consider these 6 ways to get there.

 

1.STILLNESS

Yoga asana operates on the premise of sthira & sukham - "steadiness and ease". Reach for as much steadiness (sthira) when you hold a posture. It means we may not need to change poses as frequently. Try to hold your body with stillness. Remember yoga isn't entertainment, it's about going within. Resist the urge to fidget and twitch. This will elevate your practice as you will be practicing in alignment with yoga's own goals for itself.

 

2. STEADY BREATHING

In order to get to ease, we need to find some calm. Connect with your breathing while you are holding a posture. Breath slowly and with rhythm. Count slowly to 4 as you inhale and slowly to 4 as you exhale. Repeat this and hold the pose as long as you can.

 

3. RELAXATION

Sukham or comfort comes from relaxing the muscles when holding yoga asana. EVERYONE FEELS TIGHT IN A YOGA POSE (It isn't just you)! Flexibility isn't the goal it is a side effect and it's inevitable over time. You will get there. Focus on finding options for postures that you can hold and relax into them. Consciously strive to relax any parts of you that you aren't using. Notice your jaw, your brow, your belly... are you squeezing any parts of you that don't need to be held? Relax and let things flow.

 

4. FINDING YOUR EDGE

There is benefit in locating the edge for you. Find that challenging place and hold the posture without experiencing harm. While there are many ways to practice, growth can come from a challenge. Find a balance between challenge and relaxation. Beginners take lots of breaks; with time and experience hold the posture for longer periods of time. .

 

5. FOCUS

Focus is cultivated in yoga and many people say that focus is the most powerful benefit of the practice. In fact, ancient teachers have indicated that asana is preparation for the more deep and powerful contemplative practices like pranayama and meditation. Find focus in your asana practice by concentrating on your breath, reciting a mantra, or visualizing an uplifting image in your mind. Gently refocus your mind when it wanders off.

 

6. WORK WITH YOUR TEACHER

Work with your teacher to find the options, techniques and practices that are appropriate for your age, body and stage of life. Not everything can be applied to everybody <3

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