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3 keys to unlock greater benefits from yoga practice
2006-10-31

There are many factors that influence the quality of your yoga practice and your satisfaction with the overall experience. These factors range from the style of yoga you practice, the instructor you choose through to the environment in which you practice. Some of the factors you can easily control, others may be more dependant on what's available to you. When starting out practicing yoga, you should keep searching for the perfect combination that makes your practice the most satisfying and enjoyable.

There are however three factors that are 100% under your control, that affect not only your enjoyment of your practice, but just as importantly, the benefits you receive from each practice.

Challenge yourself

One of the purposes of yoga, like every exercise regime, is to incrementally improve your body's physical capabilities. Yoga of course has the added advantage that it also helps to improve many aspects of your health and well-being that general exercise cannot.

Even with these increased benefits, yoga is not a magic cure-all. Achieving these benefits requires your commitment and effort each time you practice. Achieving incremental improvements to your capabilities requires (and allows) you to further challenge your own physical limitiations. Over time gradual improvements result in large gains in your yoga abilities and the health benenfits of your practice.

In every posture you should be looking to make sure first that you are stable and comfortable in the posture. You should then be aiming to slowly and smoothly deepen the stretch as far as it remains pain free for you to do so. In all postures you should feel the stretch in the relevant muscles and deepen into the stretch in a controlled manner to avoid damaging your muscles and ligaments. Only through challenging your current abilities can your body develop, grow and strengthen to achieve new abilities, but also listen carefully to your body to know when to stop.

Breathe

Without breath and air, there is no life. Using this definition of the importance of breathing, it is not difficult to accept that correct breathing has an inpact on your health. There is a lot of discussion and research within the medical comunity into the importance and health benefits of yoga breathing. While these may well prove to be real benefits, adopting relaxed, controlled yoga breathing definitely helps to improve your overall yoga practice.

The natural tendency, when practicing an asana (yoga posture) that tests your physical strength or flexibility, is to tense your body and shorten your breath. This stressful breathing technique encourages you to tense your muscles and fight against the asana and the stretch. This is the opposite of the desired state for practicing yoga.

Instead it's important that you concentrate on your breathing, completing a long, controlled inhale exhale cycle that fills your lungs to capture the maximum amount of oxygen for each breath. Focusing on your breathing in this way, helps you to remain relaxed and allows you to be more aware of your physical condition enabling you to better feel the stretch, be aware of tension in your muscles and concentrate on releasing that tension and loosen to muscles you're working on. Through this increased awareness of what you body is telling you and by noticing and releasing tension in your muscles, it's easier to accept each stretch and go deeper into each asana and hold it for longer without injury.

Practice, Practice, Practice.

As with all exercise, the benefits only come with a commitment to regular practice. Only through regular practice of exercise does the body start to develop, strengthen, adapt and change according to the physical demands you are placing on it. Practicing yoga is no different. Regular practice helps to build the muscle strength required to hold asanas. More than that, you'll develop increased lung capacity and provide the regular stimulation to the internal organs that helps balance chemical and hormone levels. Frequent practice helps to learn any new skill or ability and yoga is no different. In particular repetition helps your body learn the correct position for balancing postures, to the extent that it becomes second nature - just like riding a bike. Another area where frequent practice is highly beneficial is learning how to slow and calm your mind, to purge your thoughts of the worries and stresses of the day.

A helping hand

Obviously there are no shortcuts to achieve these 3 keys to a more beneficial practice, but you can get help along the way. At Total.Yoga.Practice we are dedicated to helping yoga practitioners like you on your journey to a healthier and balanced mind and body. Every 2 weeks our Total.Hatha service provides our members with a fresh, hour long, professional yoga instruction video streamed directly to your computer via the internet, helping you to regularly schedule a challenging yoga practice into your busy life, even when you travel.

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Ushtrasana - Camel Pose
2006-10-29
watch the free streaming yoga video, helping you learn how to do yoga online for free The full and extended backward curve of the body stretches the abdomen including the stomach and intestines to stimulate the digestive and reproductive systems. The extension of the neck also stimulates the thyroid gland. The backward bend of the spine opens the vertebrae to releive back pain and help to improve the posture. Camel pose should be followed by any forward bending pose. Camel pose should not be practiced by people with severe back pain.
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Moving deeper
2007-02-05
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