To feel the great power of yoga spiritually and physically, yoga needs to become a lifestyle rather than just an exercise routine. Only when we start planning our days around yoga, do we actually begin to realise all the benefits of this practice. There are many things that you can do to progress; here are 10 essential habits that I have inculcated into my daily routine and benefitted from:
Early to bed and early to rise
The quiet time of the morning is very crucial in starting your day. You enter the day feeling centred and clear, as opposed to
the feelings of being rushed, frantic or scattered that come with not having enough time before going out the door for work or errands.
Rising early, after 7-8 hours of sleep, puts the body in better balance with its circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythms are physical, mental and behavioural changes that follow an approximate 24-hour cycle, responding primarily to light and darkness in an organism’s environment – it applies to most animals and plants. Going to bed earlier puts the body more in harmony with these natural rhythms and provides more restorative sleep.
You wake up feeling balanced and well rested which leads to a good yoga practise.
Drink water first thing in the morning
Drinking water in the morning immediately upon waking up can have amazing therapeutic effects for a multitude of health conditions—ranging from pain to asthma to cancer. This remarkable water therapy originates from ancient Ayurvedic medicine. In Sanskrit, the name for the practice is Usha Paana Chikitsa, which roughly translates to “early morning water treatment.”
Drinking water first thing in the morning on an empty stomach purifies the body’s internal system. An especially important result of this treatment is that it cleanses the colon, which makes the body much more able to absorb nutrients from food. A better digestive system automatically takes care of many other things. It is also one of the secrets behind a glowing skin, as water removes the toxins from the blood. Drinking water also improves the creation of new blood cells as well as muscle cells, and helps you in losing weight.
A lighter body and a better digestive system enhance your yoga practise.
Shower before & not after
A cold shower before practice works like hydrotherapy. It stimulates and invigorates your glands and prepares your body and mind for yoga. A shower freshens you up and removes early morning stiffness from the body leaving you more flexible and strong for your practice. Also yoga is a spiritual practice and therefore it is considered respectful to be clean before stepping onto your mat.
After your yoga practise, wait for at least an hour before taking a shower as it neutralises prana.
Eat 2-3 hours before your yoga session
During the yoga asanas especially forward and reverse bending poses, there is pressure on abdominal organs which may push the food upwards resulting in a feeling of great discomfort. If you do yoga while digestive processes are on, most of the blood circulation is diverted to the digestive tract.
Yoga is best done on an empty stomach. You will enjoy doing yoga if your stomach is empty. There should be an interval of at least 3 hours between your last meal and yoga practice. You may also feel sluggish on a full stomach as your body uses its energy for digestion.
Eat lighter meals
Heavier meals make you sluggish and tired. For a good yogic lifestyle, it is recommended to feel light and energetic at all times. Your meals should comprise of one part food, one part water and one part air. I had a teacher once who used to tell me that the moment you feel you can eat a little more, stop. It is best to always leave a little empty space in the stomach for healthier living.
Listen to your body and respect it
We are not in our best form on all the days. Every day is different and our body is different every day. Listen to your body; if you feel pain or discomfort on a certain body part, don’t ignore it or don’t push yourself into an asana that enhances the discomfort. Let go and relax. Being hard on your body is considered an act of violence or himsa and is against the concept of yoga.
Appreciate every achievement
The lesson on compassion and kindness begins with you. If you have mastered a certain pose that you could not do until a week ago or if you can bend a little more or stretch a little more, then stop and appreciate yourself. Your body will acknowledge your appreciation and reward you accordingly. The main idea behind yoga is to develop a relationship between the mind and the body. Pat your back on your good days and acknowledge how far you have come.
Smile through every pose
Take a deep breath and smile in every difficult pose. Smiling relaxes the body. Smiling activates the release of neuropeptides that work towards fighting off stress. The feel good neurotransmitters dopamine, endorphins and serotonin are all released when a smile flashes across your face. This not only relaxes your body, but it can lower your heart rate and blood pressure. This lets the heart work without overworking. You can hold your poses longer and comfortably with a smile on your face.
Practise yoga off the mat
Breathe in love, and breathe out anger, inhale gratitude and exhale desire, draw in acceptance and release resistance. Practise compassion and kindness towards yourself and others. Taking the learning from your yoga class into everyday life also works the other way round and improves your yoga on the mat. A healthy mind leads to a healthy body and vice versa.
Know that it’s about the mind too
Yoga asanas prepare you for meditation and meditation in turn deepens your yoga practice. Yoga means union of the individual consciousness or soul with the Universal Consciousness or Spirit. When one is in harmony within, the journey through life becomes calmer, happier, and more fulfilled.
Take a few minutes to sit still every day. Listen to your thoughts and calm your mind. A calm and sorted mind is the only way to a happy life!