January 18 | The Practice | The results |
Yoga is all about alignment. You hear it a lot in class — shoulder to wrist alignment, knee to ankle alignment. Have you ever considered how you can align your yoga practice to compliment your life off of your mat? By tradition, yoga is a practice that evolves and changes…To experience the full-benefits of yoga, it’s important to frequently consider what’s happening in your life, day-to-day.
Trying to decide what kind of yoga class is right for you at this time? Try asking yourself these 3 questions:
Generally speaking, during the winter months we tend to go more inward and crave a slower, more personal or intimate practice. Some of us may even have a hard time braving the elements to get to the studio. From personal experience, I know that when the sun sets before I get out of work, it takes a lot of willpower for me to not go directly home to curl up with a book.
This is an example when a Power, Hot, or Boot Camp class is most beneficial. They are faster, more muscular-based classes with higher heat and more of a physical (and therefore mental) challenge. They go against the natural tendency of “like increasing like,” which is an Ayurvedic phrase explaining the human tendency to lean toward a practice (or food or habit) that they like, which only causes them to like it more and never try anything else.
In the winter, it’s easy to lean towards a slower-paced class — so it is vital to shake things up and go to a class that uplifts you physically and energetically.
Which takes us to question number two…
Any number of emotions are felt by the average person in one day. You can be stressed walking into work knowing the day you have ahead; anxious about your weekend plans; happy to hear from a friend you haven’t spoken to in awhile; fearful of how your presentation will go tomorrow. All of these emotions impact your energy … Stress is often the major player that materializes in your body on a physical level, thus ringing the alarms that you aren’t taking care of your energetic body. Symptoms like weight loss, weight gain, fatigue, sleeping trouble, digestion issues, hair loss and more can indicate that your body is in a state of high stress.
Yoga is a powerful tool to help de-stress and balance your energetic bodies. In this instance a slower, more mindful, breath-heavy class like Flow, Restorative, or Deep Stretch would be ideal. Those classes will leave you feeling rejuvenated and empowered, rather than depleted and worked. Work this into your practice, especially if you have a hard time slowing down. You may be surprised at how quickly your body will crave a slower pace.
Pranayama is a Sanskrit word meaning breathwork, or the practice of controlling the prana, life-force or breath. Every yoga class you attend will have breath cues, reminding you to inhale or exhale as you move through the postures. With the focus on breath, yoga, quite literally, helps you focus on your life’s vitality through controlled movements and complementary breathwork. Mindful breathing is often one of the most challenging aspect of yoga. So before scheduling your yoga class, check with yourself and ask, “how is my breath?”
Bringing your attention to your breath will indicate how you are emotionally and energetically. It is the ultimate indicator of our emotional balance because breath is an unconscious act. The body does it for you. When you are nervous or scared your heart rate rises and your breath quickens, signaling to the brain that you are feeling in danger or uneasy. Adversely, when you are sleeping or relaxed, your breath is slow and deep, your heart rate at a comfortable, resting pace. Your breath is your guide, both on and off the mat.
If your breath is labored or heavy, try a slower-paced class like Flow. This class focuses on breath to pose alignment, inhaling and expanding, exhaling and compressing. It mimics the body’s natural flow. As you inhale your chest rises and your lungs expand, then when you release your breath, your chest compresses and the breath deepens into the bottom belly. If your breath is relaxed, leverage your mindful state and sign up for Vinyasa!
When you bring your yoga class into alignment with your whole wellbeing, your practice will become profoundly more personal and meaningful. Challenge your mind, body and spirit by choosing classes that are different than your usual routine. Explore. Play. And remember most of all to enjoy your time on your mat today!