Going to a yoga class at a studio can definitely get you in a calm mood, but sometimes a class just isn't possible. Fortunately, you can always practice yoga at home as long as you have the proper precautions in place. If you're not going to a yoga class, it's no excuse for skipping a yoga practice altogether. You can easily set up your home to get the same benefits of going to a yoga studio.
Home vs. Class
While you might not get the benefit of a trained yoga instructor at home, you can still practice yoga on your own. Some of the differences include the lack of a yoga teacher to walk you through the technique and posture of a given pose, as well as some of the mood-setting atmosphere benefits you get at a studio, like darker lighting, quiet and more space to stretch. However, there's nothing stopping you from getting the same benefits you get at a studio through home practice; self-led yoga practice is better than none at all.
There are some great benefits to practicing yoga at home, especially when it comes to the convenience of unrolling your mat in your home for a quick session. It's cheaper and quicker than going to a studio, even if you miss out on having a teacher walk you through each pose. And, since you're in control of the time, style of yoga, mood and atmosphere of your home, you can tailor each to your own specific needs and preferences.
Setting the Mood
One way to make a home practice more beneficial is to set the mood more like the quiet, peaceful setting of a yoga studio. Dimming the lights, using soft music and eliminating distractions can go a long way in setting aside special time to practice. If your phone is ringing, TV blaring and kids are interrupting you, you might not get in the right frame of mind for calming, beneficial yoga. Seek a space in your home that is quiet and gives you enough room to move freely.
Practicing on your own at home is great as long as you have a solid foundation and knowledge of the poses you practice. Trying a new pose at home can be difficult without a teacher to ensure you have correct posture and alignment. If you do want to try something new, try some online yoga or an app that you can use on your tablet or mobile phone; not only do you get instruction, but also a wide variety of teachers and teaching styles. Remember when you practice self-led poses you know how to execute properly to ensure you stay safe in your home practice.
Want more tips on creating a daily home practice? Check out my previous article on how to make yoga a daily routine.
Yoga is a mind-body practice, a moving meditation, it involves an piece of spiritual awakening and self-understanding that goes beyond the physical activity on the yoga mat. Setting an intention can bring your yoga practice to a deeper level. An intention can guide your practice as you stretch through increasingly challenging asanas (poses). An intention can also help direct your actions and decisions off the yoga mat to help you make more sound decisions, feel calmer and have an overall peace of mind.
Often in a yoga class an instructor will invite students to silently set an intention for their practice. Even if you practice at home on your own, you can still take a moment to set your focus during practice, as well as in your life. An intention can be a simple word you dedicate your practice to that represents a value you'd like to bring into your life. For example, love, trust, openness, compassion, truth or tenderness. Powerful intentions directly address feelings you'd like to modify. Feeling weak? Set strength as your intention. Feeling unsure? Go with belief.
To be fully effective, intentions are not a once-uttered wonder. During your practice, perhaps during your most challenging pose (Wheel or Shoulderstand) remember that intention, whether it be strength or belief in your abilities, and allow it to guide you through the posture. In the same way, when you are having difficult times in life, once your intention is set you'll be able to use it when you need it; to guide your decisions and actions and base them on your values. Intentions can keep you grounded so that you can connect with your true self, no matter what comes your way.
Intention vs. Goal
What really sets an intention apart from a goal is how an intention comes from a place of presence while a goal is a future plan of the mind. An intention represents your authenticity in the current moment and stays with you for as long as you need it. A goal, however, you have to use your mind to create images of what you want your future state of being to look like, which may or may not be a reflection of your authentic self/truth. While you may work hard to achieve certain goals, achieving them won’t necessarily keep you content or satisfied for very long afterward if you didn’t set an intention first.
Another way to look at intention in the setting of yoga practice is to ask yourself why you practice daily. What were you hoping to achieve? If you answer these questions with an open mind and heart, you will find your intention. When you begin to understand what you are seeking from your yoga practice, you can see how to direct energies and actions. Your intentions may change over time as you grow. Take the time to listen, and you will always discover your intention.
There are many opportunities in our everyday lives where we can add more yoga. Yoga is not just the physical practice on the mat, but it’s also who we are off the mat too! Here are 10 ways to incorporate the mental practice of yoga in your life:
1. Practice deep breathing when you’re on the train, stuck in traffic in your car, or doctor’s office. Place your hand on your lower stomach so you can connect deeper to your own breath and body, close your eyes and take deep breaths through the nose and into the belly. Breathe deeply.
2. Meditate on a plane, train or bus while travelling.
3. Practice peace, compassion and love; not only towards others, but to yourself as well. You can't be a loving, happy, healthy person if you don’t love yourself first. Be compassionate towards yourself even when you can’t quite accomplish that hard yoga pose (yet), practice one that feels right for your body and modify when needed!
4. When standing in line at the grocery store think of three things that you're grateful for. Express gratitude (whether verbally or mentally) before eating. Allow this to become a habit; it will help you cultivate gratitude in your life.
5. Practice Utthanasana (Standing Forward Fold) when you feel stressed. Utthanasana calms anxiety and brings more oxygen and nutrients to the brain.
6. Practice Viparita Karani (Legs Up the Wall pose) after exercise, work, or after sitting for extended periods. This pose has many benefits including regulating blood flow, calming anxiety, relieving head and back aches; just to name a few.
7. Eat for health, not for weight loss. Nourishing our bodies with healthy, wholesome food is essential for wellness and vitality. Incorporate more plant-based food in your diet like beans, lentils, nuts and grains. Eat lots of colorful fruits and vegetables along with healthy fats.
8. Counterbalance your daily activities. For example, do a chest opener after spending time on a computer, writing, or driving; most of our daily routines involve slumped shoulders and rounding of the back. Open your chest by practicing back-bends daily.
9. Practice inversions every day. Inversions are great for your health! Remember you don’t have to do fancy inversions like handstands, you can practice something as simple as Legs Up the Wall pose or even Child’s pose after a long day.
10. Be in the moment: turn off your phone, computer, or television and be open to the present moment. Spend some time (maybe a day) completely unplugged from the electronic world.
Yin Yoga is a non-heated, slow-paced style of yoga in which asanas (postures), are held for longer times (sometimes for 5-10 minutes). This spiritual, meditative style of yoga is beneficial for recovery after injury, pain management and enhancing the mind-body connection. While more active yang styles, such as vinyasa yoga, focus on movement with the breath, strengthening and toning, yin is the opposite. Yin yoga targets the deep connective tissues, known as the fascia, within the body. This meditative style helps regulate energy flow throughout the body.
Yin Yoga Poses
Most yin poses are seated or reclined postures. You follow a more meditative approach to release tension from the fascia. Meditation is an important component to this style of yoga. You might initially struggle with sitting still and working through feelings and sensations that come up during each posture. Cultivating a meditative mindset is important for finding spiritual stillness, harmony and balance. Yin teaches you to truly sit still and listen to your body. Often it can be difficult to find moments of stillness and surrender. In yin practice, it is the perfect time to come into one's own body and mind, accept what is, and simply learn to be. This spiritual practice is important for working through not only physical limitations, but also past emotional ordeals.
Benefits of Yin Yoga
Benefits of a non-heated yin practice include: regulating energy levels in the body; calming and balancing the mind and body; increasing mobility, especially in the joints and hips; lower stress levels; and faster recovery from injury. Releasing tension from the fascia not only for movement, stamina and flexibility, but also achieving greater relaxation. Once you get into a regular practice, you can sit still longer for meditation and find the practice of meditating more rewarding and calming.
Yoga can be transformative, and though the advanced yoga postures are in fact difficult to the beginner, the changes that yoga can bring into one’s life belie the apparent simplicity of just stretching muscles. After all, we stretch muscles at the gym during a warm up. So, what is the difference between yoga and regular workouts? Yoga integrates the breath with movement and consciousness with physical stretches as a way of strengthening the internal muscles of the body; particularly the pelvic floor.
In yoga, through the breath, and focusing on it within our body, we come to a greater understanding of both our body and ourselves. We begin a more conscious relationship with our individuality. We meet that unique expression of ourselves expressing physically in that moment. We can begin a process of changing that which is blocking the vital flow of our energy.
That is why it doesn’t matter what state we are in when we begin practicing yoga. We might not be flexible, or perhaps we are in pain, or distracted. It is a journey of discovery, not of trying to fit ourselves into an external idea, even if that idea is represented in that moment by the yoga posture we are trying to do. T.K.V. Desikachar (son of the great yoga master Sri Krishnamacharya ) wrote that the body can “only gradually accept an asana”. We should not strain ourselves, or judge ourselves, if we cannot fit into that posture. That posture is a possible outcome, yes, but what we do in our practice of yoga is to take the journey.
T.K.V. Desikachar makes another important point: “We should remain flexible so that we are still able to react to changes in our expectations and old ideas. The more distanced we are from the fruits of our labors, the better we can do this… Paying more attention to the spirit in which we act and looking less to the results our actions may bring us – this is the meaning of Ishvara pranidhana—surrendering. ”
The asanas are a way of preparing us to more fully meet the challenges of life in a way that does not throw us off balance, but increases our capacity to adapt to those changes that are inherent in life. They allow us to be more sensitive and aware to what is really going on inside and in life itself. This growing self-knowledge then provides us with a complete picture in which our responses to whatever situations confront us more accurately reflects what is truly present. There is a deeper engagement that goes beyond the wandering of the mind, the self-doubt, the domination of our preconceptions and expectations, or our need for something to be a certain way.
When we are distracted or preoccupied with doubt, worry, fear, and even hope that is attached to an outcome (need), the vital energy of our whole being is leaking, diffused. Through yoga practice, we can clear the debris, to redirect our subtle energy within, to sit within the body, our being, again. This is an energetic aspect of self-mastery. Integral to this is the knowledge of oneself as whole, and simultaneously a part of the wholeness that is within everything.
References: The Heart of Yoga, T.K.V. Desikachar
You may be wondering, how does yoga help with glowing skin? When you practice yoga, the blood circulation in your body is enhanced. This means more oxygen and less free radicals. The fresh blood from a yoga practice also imparts a warm “glow” to the cheeks. Apart from this, toxins are flushed out, and the body is toned, adding to the beauty dynamic. Yoga also helps in regulating the digestive and excretory system that helps the internal purification system to work in a better way.
Both men and women alike want to have healthy and glowing skin, however, this may be hard to achieve given the number of pollutants, UV rays, harsh weather conditions, and toxins in the air, they can all take a toll on one's skin. Yoga is a more natural solution to help achieve that glow we all desire. So roll out your yoga mat, and try the above yoga poses daily for glowing skin.
Finding balance in yoga can be challenging. Even though you’ve created a space on your mat to be present, there can still be a lot of distractions that make balancing on one foot with the opposite leg extended pretty difficult! If Vasisthasana (Side Plank Pose) has you feeling a bit un-balanced (pun intended),then these five tips will help you find your balance.
Find Your Drishti
If you've taken a yoga class or practiced with yoga videos at home then I’m sure you’ve heard the yoga teacher say to find your drishti, or focus, in practice. When you concentrate on an object or a gazing point in front of you, you minimize distractions or negative thoughts that might come up in a balancing posture.
Clear your mind and shift your focus on the breath. With so many other things to concentrate on in a balancing pose, it’s easy to lose your breath. This only makes it harder! Use your breath as a way to focus, and a way to find your fullest expression.
Focus on Alignment
Maintaining proper alignment is integral in balancing postures. Stacking your joints, relaxing your shoulders down your back and keeping your core engaged will not only ensure you keep a solid foundation and focus, but it will also help you strengthen your muscle memory.
Have a Solid Foundation
Establishing a solid foundation is one of the most important steps in finding balance. When you stand on one foot, the standing leg is basically doing the work of two feet. Keeping this is mind, set up for balancing poses by rooting down your energy first. Make sure your “roots” (your footing) is on solid and stable ground. You can’t grow your tree without roots!
It’s Okay to Fall
Even those who have been practicing yoga for many years fall. Falling is a sign of exploration! Accepting that you might fall will automatically relax your mind, the most powerful element in balancing postures. When you inevitably wobble, get back up and try again. Acceptance and perseverance are both part of a growing yoga practice.
Yoga can sometimes be challenging. We all face challenges in our yoga practice. Challenges on the yoga mat aren’t usually as hard as the everyday challenges we face in life. What do you do when you tell yourself you can’t do something? How does it make you feel and what do you do about it?
So, what if you can’t touch your toes, stand on your head or bind your hands together in an asana? Or perhaps the challenge is getting on your mat consistently?
It doesn’t matter if you can do fancy yoga poses. What matters is how you learn to embrace what seems impossible. Can you work at something again and again that you tell yourself you can’t do? If you can manifest this attitude on your yoga mat, you can bring this new skill into your life. Imagine how much more you can achieve! You will find that the willingness to step into the space of what you thought was impossible, gradually, yet consistently, gives life more meaning and possibilities. Yoga has taught me patience and perseverance and sometimes I feel unstoppable.
How can you meet the difficulties on your yoga mat? Here are some tips:
As challenging as some yoga postures may seem, the key is perseverance. Listen to your body and safely explore your limitations, don't get overwhelmed, figure out where the challenges lie, don't take yourself too seriously and don't let resistance overpower you. Accept yoga as a lifestyle that needs to be learned and practiced with gratitude and patience.
Yoga can be a spiritual as well as a physical practice and therefore is beneficial at any time of the day. However, there times that are better for our own practice depending upon schedule, body and personality type. A morning person may need the stimulating effects of certain asanas to start the day, while someone who is slow to wake may be warmed up and ready to practice by sunset.
Early morning before sunrise is considered a spiritually charged time of the day in the Vedic tradition and is therefore ideal for yoga. Morning yoga will ease you into gentle movements shortly after you awaken in the morning. Sun Salutations are great for waking up the body, and after lots of movement and balancing, you can ease into some gentle inversions and heart openers. If your hips and spine are feeling open at this point – dive into the heart openers, like camel, bridge and wheel. These postures will leave you feeling awake and rejuvenated – maybe even more than your morning cup of coffee! Also, indulge in an extra-long headstand or shoulder stand to send fresh oxygen into your head. This will also allow you to feel ready to face your day.
Yoga before bed can be relaxing and contribute to a restful sleep. The perfect evening yoga practice should soothe and relax you after a long day. If you’re practicing later in the evening however (within a few hours of going to bed), you’ll want to resist moving into big heart openers and energizing inversions. You may want to practice soothing surrender postures like half pigeon and seated forward fold. Twists are also incredibly relaxing in the evening as well. Focus on breathing in positions such as Child’s pose, which stretches the back muscles and aids digestion. Just be aware how you feel and what you need.
There is no time of day that is “perfect” for everyone when it comes to yoga practice. The best rule to follow is the one of no distraction. Choose to practice at a time when you are least likely to be interrupted, whether it be early morning or late at night. The most benefits are yielded when fully conscious of each movement.
Consistency is also key in yoga practice perhaps even more than when you choose to practice. The more you do the same poses regularly, the more you will notice how your practice is producing change within your body and your life. The time of day we practice yoga should determine what postures we practice, and being aware of which postures are energizing and which ones are soothing.
Pay attention to which postures affect your energy levels at which time of day, and this will empower you to practice exactly when your body needs it. Remember – you are your best teacher!
Bhakti is derived from the Sanskrit word bhaj, which means – loving service. Bhakti-yoga means to connect to the Supreme by means of loving devotional service. Bhakti yoga deals with devotion to God and achieving the union with Him. This style of yoga teaches the relation between the devotee and the divine. It does not involve any technical or complicated procedures. There is no need of any intellectual capacity to master this yoga. It has appealed to the common man because it gives him a feeling security and develops a kind of reliance and dependence on the object of his devotion.
The path of bhakti-yoga is developed through a variety of activities. These include mantra meditation, or the chanting of the names of God. The chanting is done either individually on beads (japa) or in a community by chanting mantras accompanied by music (kirtan). The study of sacred texts such as the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad Bhagavatam, associating with like-minded spiritual postulants, eating blessed vegetarian food, and living in a way that upholds the principles of truthfulness, mercy, austerity, and cleanliness, are all core practices for a follower of bhakti.
Bhakti yoga assumes that there is a higher power that has created the universe and is all-powerful. This power has the capacity to confer grace and mercy thus protecting the believer from all the harms and evils. The devotee or bhakta is expected to make themselves fit for receiving this divine grace. For this, one should practice devotion and virtue. The goal should be to unite with this divine power and rest eternally in happiness and peace. The devotee surrenders all motives and acts to the Divine Power. They renounce all responsibilities towards the good or bad consequences of all their actions and ascribes it to the will of the Supreme.
Devotion and faith play a vital role in this branch of yoga. The devotee or bhakta should be highly religious, should adopt a friendly stance towards all the other living beings including animals, read religious texts, concentrate on the symbol of the Divine, think and wish well for others etc. The beauty of this yoga lies in its simplicity. This has made it one of the most appealing of all the yoga types. Following this yoga develops the peace of mind in an individual. A peaceful individual will always think happy and prosperous thoughts and will thus lead a happy life.
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