When you first get started, there is a period of figuring out how to get to the mat regularly. Learning what sort of class suits you, and understanding the format of the class and what the teacher is talking about.
Then you start to figure out how to get into some basic postural forms, discover what the breath is doing. discover how to focus and pay attention. The teacher provides helpful feedback to help guide you into safe and effective practice.
As the practice becomes more familiar perhaps we can then independently start to listen to our own cues and tune in to more subtle aspects. The guidance of the teacher is part of the picture, your own internal guidance perhaps starts to be of more importance.
Some practice styles prioritise teacher feedback, others tend to prioritise students tuning in to their own feedback. Our own feedback may be more subtle and easier to miss until we become more sensitive in our practice.
A teacher can never know what you are feeling in the same way that you can. At first you might have no idea how your feeling, but that sensitivity gradually develops. Your body might need to start grumbling more before it is listened to by you. The breath might get lost or become agitated or we might become out of breath before we listen to it.
Sometimes students ask me for adjustments and may be disappointed when I suggest that their pose is in a good place, and offer cues to help them feel for themselves. Often people like to be told what to do (or perhaps they are used to being told what to do).
Your body and breath are great guides, along with pausing to notice or taking more time in your practice to understand the responses being offered.
Pausing during our practice, rather than just at the end, to observe moments of stillness and quietness, may seem counter intuitive if it isn't something your used to. Pausing, sometimes after each pose, can help us reduce our tendency to rush and not pay close attention. Some people take to it like ducks to water, moments of space and quiet are why they came to the practice in the first place. Some like to feel heat and intensity of a challenging practice with a strong focus to support and stabilise them. A long savasana at the end, once our energy is spent, may be the closest we get.
Understanding your own practice can be your greatest teacher in yoga. Understanding the body and the breath, and ultimately understanding the mind and more subtle aspects beyond can be revelatory.
A teacher / guide can be of enormous help and point things out that your not seeing and help you avoid indulging some ideas you may have about your practice. Feedback is a collaboration through relationship with your teacher, your body, your breath and the fruits of your practice.
When practicing in the heat when your not used to it, you might need to modify your yoga practice slightly.
Here are some top tips:
1) Come to your yoga mat well hydrated
2) Take more time between yoga poses and transitions. Blood pressure might be different so allow more time between lying, kneeling and standing transitions
3) Listen closely to how demanding your breath becomes and ease off the effort if your breath doesn't remain steady and calm.
4) Practice with your mat on a wooden or tile floor, then when you lie down leave your arms hanging off the edge of the mat and enjoy the coolness you find there. Perhaps even step off your mat and practice with feet on the floor for the standing asana.
5) Consider leaving out the really vigorous parts of your practice if you find your getting too hot or sweating a lot.
6) Feel the differing sensations in the body from how you usually take your practice, an opportunity to take familiar postures through a new lens.
7) As always, enjoy and take more time sitting with the breath as your practice focus and less time in demanding asana.
Wishing you well in the heat.
Mostly attendees were in their 70s and 80s and they enthusiastically enjoyed exploring some yoga postures, breathing, relaxing and ultimately found it revitalising with smiles all around by the end of the short, 25 minute practice. (Or was that because lunch was next).
They sought out the handout to support them with a short, daily routine of yoga to help them rekindle this feeling in themselves.
Movement, breathing, focus, coordination, the fun social interaction of a group activity - all these aspects are helpful in preventing the development of dementia and keeping active in any way is great for everyone, including elderly folk.
Yoga can be gentle enough to include everyone, doesn't need fancy leggings or mats, and certainly doesn't need to feel esoteric or mystical. Let's move, breath, relax into ourselves and enjoy life a little more :-)
Founder of YogaSpace, 2009
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