WARMING UP BEFORE YOGA PRACTICE (Loosening Exercises)
Before starting Yoga the body may not be warm and might feel particularly stiff. The idea of Loosening Exercises is that pre-exercise stretching reduces injuries; warming up of the body is a different issue, because it maximizes blood flow to the muscles and makes the tendons more flexible.
To begin without warming up is a matter of applying a relaxed state of awareness rather than a perfect state of body. Overstretching before asana practice may actually defeat good intentions by tightening muscles and making them more prone to injury. On the other hand, stretching before practice allows the body to wake up a little and renews awareness of any unfocused or weak spots.
However, the need to warm-up prior to class really depends on the yoga style and the instructor. Loosening exercises help loosen muscles also, the teacher may begin with more gentle poses and gradually ease into advanced Asanas after the body has had the chance to properly prepare.
A good warm-up is exactly that: a warming of the body by increasing circulation. Be sure to find something that’s simple and enjoyable, because it’s far more likely to become a habit. Begin with at least five minutes of activity and increase it to 10 to 15 minutes, long enough to elevate the heart rate and warm the skin.
Take advantage of yoga’s inherent focus on gradually increasing individual awareness and apply it outside. The best way to prevent overuse injuries to the muscles and joints is to build a warm-up’s intensity slowly, so tissues become conditioned to stresses and then respond to them with increased strength and flexibility.
IMPORTANCE OF BODY ALIGNMENT IN ASANA PRACTICE
Alignment is the ability to balance the various levels of the body and the mind into a working whole, increasing your capacity to be straight in a posture should be encouraged but there are limits to where the body can go. Alignment should never place excessive pressure on the breath. If it does, this is body’s clear signal that there is too much pushing going on. If the breathing becomes truly unrestricted in a posture, then for that moment this is the best and most natural alignment possible, no matter how it looks.
If there is doubt as to what is the correct alignment of the pose, generally accept the signals from your own body and breathe even if it conflicts with external advice. A teacher is often necessary to point out this difference. To aid the development of awareness do not allow your breath to slide into complete apathy, attempt to be the both active (inhalation) and relaxed (exhalation).
Forcing alignment on the body is a mistake. The body’s limit with an Asana is what it is; attempt to maximize your alignment from there. Accept how it is and be in your center and the body will heal what is possible to heal.
Balance the breath between aliveness and alignment in a posture and the tranquility of accepting it as it is. Through acceptance change occurs, but only so far as is appropriate. Trust will develop as the body and mind begin to communicate more effectively and change will occur to the level that is needs. Do not seek to change: allow it to occur.
Written by: Shreyas Yoga Retreat
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