Handling yoga class registrations over the years has given us an insight into the mindset of a new and apprehensive student walking in.
Can I do the class?
I have never done it before
I am not good at it
I am too old
I am not fit enough
Actually, you can embark on a journey of self-discovery or yoga anytime. Even the asana practice can be started anytime, as long as you are respectful of the body and its limitations. The only caveats could be specific medical conditions. So, it is a good idea to consult a yoga teacher before starting your practice.
We shall remain more focussed on the asana practice here, as that is what yoga is associated with. We will then gradually move towards unfolding the hidden dimensions of yoga as we elucidate its wider meaning to readers.
Most people start practicing yoga because they wish to improve their physical health in some way or the other. It could only be about improving their joint mobility or working on flexibility, balance, strength, and endurance. Or it could be about maintaining the right Body Mass Index.
Here are some tests to check what you need to work on:
- Start with joints: Check the rotation of the wrists, neck rotation to the sides, shoulder rotation (internal and external). Sit in vajrasan and check if your knees and ankles are stretching well.
- Flexibility: In a standing position, let your shoulders fall forward, check the position of your palms and your chin. Ideally, with well-stretched hamstrings, the palms should reach the ankles or even the floor. Try doing bhujangasan or cobra pose. Check how close your lower body is to the floor when you move up. What is the angle at the lumbar spine area, is your spine bending deeply there?
- Balance: Still in the standing position, lift one foot up, and see how well the body adjusts to the new position, does it balance? You can also hold up your knee in your palm and check it further.
- To test strength: Hold the elbow plank and if you are able to hold it for 30 seconds to a minute, you are doing fine but you need to add up core strength. If below 30 seconds, you definitely need to work on your core. Do not worry about the other body parts, a strong core will eventually lead to a strong body
- Test of endurance: This can be done well with Surya Namaskars. See if you can do 2 rounds. If you begin to have labored breathing before 2 rounds are completed, you need to work a bit on endurance too. A good marker of endurance subsequently is the ability to do five rounds of Surya Namaskar.
Understand your body: Set reasonable goals for designing your yoga practice. We will elaborate on the importance of Yama and Niyama in later posts, but at the outset it is important to understand if your societal and personal situations draw your mental energies in an outward direction. It will be difficult to go deeper into the asana practice with deep and stressful external engagements.
A calm mind and a deep breath are two of your best allies to start the practices. Other things to observe is that before and after an asana session, the food should be fully digested, so you should eat approx. 4-5 hours prior to the class. You must also take care that the body is not fatigued. Mornings and evenings are the best times for yogic practice.