Five tips to maximize the benefits of a daily yoga practice:
To begin with, look at yoga as much more than exercise.
There are many places where a yoga practice intersects with exercise, but on its own, yoga does much more for the body and mind.
Yoga stretches the muscles, tones and defines them. It soothes the mind and helps restore calm. Consider the many physical and emotional benefits of yoga by incorporating the following five steps:
Step One: Vipassana -Mindfulness.
According to Dr. Vasant Lad, a leading expert in Ayurvedic principles, a daily yoga practice can enhance cellular growth in the frontal cortex of the brain. There is synapse-genesis and neuron-genesis. In plain English, this is the part of the brain that governs how we respond to stress.
Notice what worries you prior to yoga. Then, watch how the steady practice of vipassana soothes your panic-mind and replaces it with clarity and calm. Practicing mindful breathing calms the mind and is an important step to consider in your practice. Using the principles of vipassana allows you to mentally attune to the shape. In this phase, the mind adjusts to the new physical demands placed on the body. Rather than panic driving the movement, allow calm long ujjayi breathing to move the body through each shape. The result will be greater ease and greater energetic release.
Step Two: Ujjayi Breathing – Pranayama-Cellular Nourishment Of Each Asana
The second step is to breathe and flow into the posture. Use an ujjayi breath, which means to breathe deeply in through the nose and out through the nose. This allows for maximum oxygen intake during your practice.
Move into the shape with ease, let your ujjayi breath move your body. With this breath awareness, oxygen-rich nutrients enter the body and carbon dioxide exits. With ujjayi breathing your internal energy is restored and cells are nourished. This is possibly the hardest phase to master because most people see the shape or the asana as a goal and not as a living, breathing mindful action. In this second phase, you need to let the breath move the body. The practice of vipassana, (mindfulness) and ujjayi breathing combined will help you to get the most out of your practice.
Step Three: Kundalini-Tension Release –Shushuma In Each Asana
The third phase is to find a dynamic energetic flow of Kundalini release. This release happens on the exhalation phase of your ujjayi breathing resulting in a feeling of balance and renewal. As you move and breathe, find balance and do not let the shape you are moving into cause panic. This is your ego hijacking your mind and body. Should the ego begin to take over, deepen your breathing and let the kundalini energy release. By maintaining breath control, balance is restored to the body, space is created in the chakras, the tissues (dhatus of the body), the mind falls into alignment with the body and an overall sense of calm and peace is restored.
Step Four: (Sukha) Enjoy The Sweet Spot Of Each Asana.
The fourth step is total balance and relaxation in the posture. This is the point in your practice where the prana is strongest. This is where maximum benefits can be reached and where you find the “sukha” or sweet spot of each shape. Here shushuma or a widening of space is created in the body, allowing for greater exchanges of oxygen intake and waste elimination, resulting in that feel-good calm.
Step Five: Sthira- Strength Required For Each Asana:
The fifth step is to be aware of the strength needed to enter and exit a posture. But the sthira, the strength of each asana should not be the driving force in your practice. Finding the balance between sukha (sweet spot) and sthira (the stength) in your practice will help you to maximize the physical and emotional benefits of your practice. Try sweeping out of the posture without a struggle. Again, allowing your ujjayi breath to release the Kundalini energy from the body. Transition from one posture to the next without aggression or ego-determination and you will gain so much more from yoga. Next time you practice, think about vipassana, ujjayi breathing, kundalini energy, sukha and sthira. These five steps will help you to maximize your daily yoga practice.