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Basic Guidelines to the Practice of Yoga

May 2, 2011
Initially you might experience a little stiffness or awkwardness while doing the postures but with practice this feeling should disappear. The different postures will show which parts of the body are stronger or weaker than other parts and the weaknesses can gradually be worked on and reduced.
There should be no straining, forcing, struggling or pain during yoga practice. There should rather be a sense of extending, flowing and graceful stretching into each pose. Once the maximum stretch has been attained you should be able to relax into the posture and hold it for a comfortable period of time. If any difficulty is experienced in attaining a posture try using a chair or the wall to carry and balance the bulk of your weight.
Listen to your body. The two main aspects of all yoga postures are steadiness and comfort. Find your comfort zone in the pose and relax into it. Do not overextend the muscles. Yoga practice should be pleasurable and comfortable. Sometimes conflict arises between the mind and the body. The mind wishes to do more and forgets that the body is not yet ready. If you work your body too hard it will take its revenge by being stiff the next day. Try not to let your mind wonder during yoga practice. Focus your attention on the breath and on what the body is doing and how it feels.

Yoga can be practised during pregnancy with adaptations to the postures to suit each individual’s needs. These will vary from person to person so it is necessary to be in tune with your body and to note any discomfort which may arise and alter the positions to suit yourself.

You do not have to look like the model in the photographs. How you look during yoga practice is not of major importance. What counts is how you feel.

Do not practice yoga with a full stomach. Allow four hours after a heavy meal and two hours after a light meal before attempting yoga postures. Ensure that the bowel and bladder have been emptied.

A static posture is a posture in which the body is held still and continues to breathe comfortably e.g. The Downward Facing Dog Stretch (Adho Mukha Svanasana). A dynamic posture is a posture in which the body moves e.g. Cat Stretch.

Most of the classical yoga postures work a certain part of the body quite intensively. It is therefore necessary to do a counter posture afterwards. An example of this would be the Shoulder Stand (Sarvangasana). This pose closes the muscles of the throat and balances the thyroid and parathyroid glands. After practising this posture it is necessary to do something that will open the throat area and allow oxygenated blood to wash over the glands.

Try to keep your eyes closed while you practice your postures as this will enhance your concentration.

Always work both sides of the body evenly. What you do with one side of the body you must always do with the other side of the body. You will find that one side of the body is always stronger and more flexible than the other side. This is normal.

Almost everything in yoga works to assist and enhance the natural functions of the body. Always work the right side of the body and then the left side, as this aids the peristaltic movement of digestion.

Put on some gentle background music to accompany your yoga session.
Always finish your yoga session with a period if relaxation in the Pose of the Corpse.
This is extremely important as it allows the body to absorb the benefit of the exercises just practised.
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Amber Land completed her yoga teacher’s training at Ananda Kutir Yoga Centre in Cape Town in 1992 and has been teaching yoga ever since. She is trained and teaches in the Sivananda Integral Yoga Style, incorporating what she considers the best aspects of other schools into her teaching. amberland@vodamail.co.za | www.hathayoga.co.za

Images: Amber Land www.hathayoga.co.za and Saskia Schelling, www.serenityyoga.co.za 
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