Pranayama ~ Proper Breathing
Our breath is our life force. Breathing in fresh oxygen brings prana = life force or energy, to the body. Exhaling releases the carbon dioxide, or all the stale and stagnant air and energy from our body.
In our modern lifestyle, we rush from one thing to another. We forget to breathe properly. Our breath instead is shallow and our inhalation and exhalation get out of balance. This imbalance in our breath can cause us to feel anxious, fatigued, or unclear in our thoughts.
When we breathe deep into the abdomen, space is created for air to be drawn into the lowest and largest part of the lungs. This engages the diaphragm in the breathing process and supports the body to be more energy efficient while breathing.
Savasana ~ Relaxation
With the glorification and pressure of living a busy modern lifestyle, we have lost the ability to relax. Even when we have downtime, we are so wound up, stressed and tense that we never truly relax.
When the mind and body are constantly switched on, we are constantly using energy. Keeping the body in a state of readiness drains us of energy so that when the time comes to actually do something, we have little energy left to act. It’s no wonder we’re left feeling drained and exhausted.
Learning to relax allows the body to become more energy efficient. Here are a few ways to incorporate relaxation into your life:
- Child’s Pose
- Savasana (Corpse Pose)
- Remove distractions (phone, music, TV, etc) and just sit and do nothing for a few minutes each day.
- Epsom salt and essential oil bath
- Guided relaxations
Asana ~ Proper Exercise
The fundamental difference between yoga exercise and ordinary exercise is that physical culture emphasises violent movement of the muscles; yogic exercises oppose violent movements as they produce large quantities of lactic acid in the muscle fibres (Sivananda Companion to Yoga).
Yoga postures focus first on the health of the spine, its strength and flexibility. Many yoga postures and flow sequences also allow you to incorporate proper breathing, relaxation, or meditation/positive thinking into your practice. The physical postures, or asanas, are the part of yoga that most people are familiar with. And through practising the physical postures, without force or harm to the body, the connection to mind, breath, and spirit deepens.
In yogic philosophy, Proper Diet refers to a vegetarian diet or a diet that does no harm. The word diet, for many people, triggers negative reactions. For this reason, I like to think of this point of yoga as Ahimsa nutrition ~ or nutrition and food choices that do no harm.
This can be in the form of choosing a plant-based diet or it can be in the choices we make as consumers. Whenever we purchase food we are making a choice that has the power to help or harm someone. We can choose to buy the fruit and vegetables excessively wrapped in plastic or we can choose to consider our environment and the other living beings in it, by saying no to plastic packages. We can buy from a local independent store or farmers market, which supports local communities and farmers, or a large corporation that has a bigger carbon footprint through their transportation of food supplies. If you love eating meat, then perhaps adding in just one meal a week/day that is vegetarian as a way to practice no harm in the traditional sense of this yogic principle. Small changes make a big impact!
Positive Thinking and Meditation
Meditation is the core of yoga practice. Through all the other practices mentioned above, we begin to clear the mind of distraction to concentrate and be present in the moment, and therefore reach a meditative state. Once we have begun to clear out the clutter in the mind and we can begin to practice meditation as an experience on its own, connecting with the stillness and silence, rather than needing the distraction of movement to reach a place of calm within the mind.
A few things to consider when beginning a meditation practice:
- The place. Choose a quiet, clean and tidy space, free from distractions to meditate in.
- Regular practice. Choose a time and be consistent each day. This helps to re-train the mind to begin to slow down in preparation for meditation around the same time each day.
- Create a habit. Repetition is key to creating a new habit.
- Sit comfortably. Have some cushions ready to sit on, place under your knees, etc to keep your body feeling supported and comfortable during your meditation. When you feel comfortable, your mind will less likely wander off to think about the pain it feels as the legs relax and the hips open in a cross-legged position.
- Breathe. Relax your breath. No need to force your breath, which will just create tension in the body.
- Separate from your mind. Before beginning your meditation, have an internal conversation with your mind. Let it know you are meditating and that for the following length of time it will be quiet and will release judgement and attachment to any thoughts that do rise up.
So how do you yoga?
As you can see, there are many ways to incorporate yoga into your daily life. So how do you bring these elements of yoga into your daily routine? Share your tips for bringing yoga into your daily life is simple ways with us in the comments below!
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