Practice Yoga

In This Chapter

^ Making a schedule ^ Sticking with it

^ Squeezing yoga into your busy day ^ Revitalizing with yoga throughout the day

Time, time, time ... never enough of it, and it just keeps on passing us by. During the course of our busy lives, it's easy to become overwhelmed by the demands on our time. Family, friends, work, school, home ... all require their share. The furnace needs to be repaired, the dishes are dirty, the kids need to be picked up from soccer practice or ballet or the baby-sitters. You can't neglect time with your spouse, you have to finish the inventory at work, the baby needs some serious cuddling . and has anyone walked the dog lately?

Or maybe you're a student. You have five papers due in the next month. Calculus has completely eluded you. Seven chemistry problems are due tomorrow, and you're also supposed to have finished War and Peace by last week. Your roommate won't turn down the music, the library is closed because of a flood, and it's just starting to thunder, so studying outside isn't an option. You hear a rumor that your history teacher is planning a pop quiz for tomorrow.

And we're suggesting you add some time for yoga?

Yep. And you'll be glad we suggested it, too. You do have time for yoga, even if it doesn't seem like you could possibly track down one spare second. All it takes is a little organization and some creative thinking.

Time to get organized! All great accomplishments start with some type of plan. An effective yoga practice has a plan involving two important aspects:

> How often will you practice each week?

> What will you do during the course of each practice?

The first question depends a lot on your schedule, your motivation, and your desire. Ideally, yoga should be practiced three to six times per week. If you take a class once a week, that counts as a practice. Then practice on your own using the routine you and your teacher have crafted for you. Or, if you are on your own, set up a specific schedule of yoga days. A regular schedule is the best way to reap yoga's benefits. Yes, even just once a week counts as a regular schedule (but you may soon find that once a week won't be enough, and you'll find more time, and more ...).

When planning your weekly yoga schedule, remember that even though yoga isn't harsh on your body, you should still give yourself at least one day every week to rest. Rest is crucial for yoga. The time spent in asanas (postures) is balanced by the time spent resting, and it is this rest time when the body heals and replenishes its resources. Or, rest every other day. Survey the following list of suggested yoga schedules, and choose one that fits your life, or modify one to suit you:

□ Monday, Wednesday, and Friday: Yoga 20 minutes before work. Tuesday, Thursday, and the weekend: Rest.

□ Monday through Friday: Yoga for 30 minutes right after work. Weekend: Rest.

□ Tuesday and Thursday: Yoga for 15 minutes first thing in the morning (energizing poses) and 15 minutes before bed (relaxing poses). Weekend: Yoga for 30 minutes in the afternoon. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday: Rest.

□ Saturday and Sunday: Yoga for 60 minutes. Monday through Friday: Rest.

□ Saturday: Yoga for 60 minutes. Sunday through Friday: Rest.

Ouch!

Always practice yoga on an empty stomach. Just before breakfast or dinner is ideal. Digestion will interfere with what yoga is trying to accomplish in your body, and a full stomach will make exercise uncomfortable. Your whole body, including your internal organs, should be focused on your practice, not on processing that spaghetti dinner!

Once you have a schedule, keep it in your head, write it down, post it on the refrigerator ... whatever it takes. Then follow your schedule! Remember tapas, the niyama about self-discipline? Here's a great chance to use it. You'll feel great about yourself if you faithfully stick to your yoga schedule.

Now what about the schedule for your routine itself? Your teacher can help you craft the perfect yoga practice for you, taking into consideration any special needs you have or problems you'd like yoga to address (bad knees, allergies, back pain, frazzled nerves). Or refer to Appendix A, "Yoga Sessions for the Time You Have," for various suggested routines after reading Chapter 12, "Crafting Your Personalized Yoga Practice," to more clearly define your own purpose.

Don't forget that every yoga practice should include the following:

> A warm-up. It's important to get your muscles warm and activated before you start stretching them. Warm-ups help prevent injury and make a wonderful transition from daily life to yoga mode. A short walk in the fresh air makes a great warm-up, because it sends blood to all your muscles and gets those joints moving. (The quality of your walk is more important than the length; use the time to prepare your body and mind.) You can get a similar effect simply by massaging your legs, feet, arms, and hands. Work those muscles and joints to get them ready for action. If you're lucky enough to know a massage therapist, a professional massage before (or after!) yoga practice can be therapeutic. You might also try a warm shower or bath, or a heating pad on stiff areas, to warm your muscles before your workout.

> A balanced set of poses. Postures that bend or twist to one side should be balanced with postures that bend or twist to the other side. Forward bends balance backbends. Right-side-up poses balance inverted poses. Poses that stretch and expand are balanced by poses that curl and contract. Energizing poses balance relaxing poses. You get the idea.

> Every yoga workout should conclude with the final relaxation, or corpse posture. In this pose, mighty healing takes place . for your body and mind. Don't neglect this pose because you think you don't have time to just lie there. It's probably the most important of all the postures. (See Chapter 19, "Dead to the World.")

Wise Yogi Tells Us

The most spiritual time of day and the most ideal for practicing yoga is just before sunrise (about 5:30 A.M.). If you make it a habit to practice yoga before sunrise, then relax with a cup of herbal tea to watch the dawn, you'll find a new sense of peace pervading your days. And to think you've been sleeping through all that beauty!

Wise Yogi Tells Us

The most spiritual time of day and the most ideal for practicing yoga is just before sunrise (about 5:30 A.M.). If you make it a habit to practice yoga before sunrise, then relax with a cup of herbal tea to watch the dawn, you'll find a new sense of peace pervading your days. And to think you've been sleeping through all that beauty!

> Pranayama, or breathing exercises. Remember those breathing techniques from Chapter 7, "Can You Breathe?" After you practice your asanas, set aside a short time for the practice of a breathing technique or two. Replenish your body's prana, or life force!

> Dhyana, or meditation. You might not be ready to include meditation in your workout. If that's the case, that's fine. Diligently practice your asanas and pranayama, and you may find that meditation soon becomes a more compelling prospect. Or, if you would like to try it but are short on time, you might consider meditating at a different time of day. Whenever you meditate (after your asanas and pranayama or during separate sessions), remember that meditation is part of yoga, too, and will have a direct benefit on your workout. (Your workout will have a direct benefit on your meditation efforts, as well.)

Wise Yogi Tells Us

If you're feeling depressed or even just a little blue, which should you do—meditation or postures? If you guessed postures, you're right! The action of the postures is designed to move impurities and negativity out of the body. Meditation, on the other hand, involves stillness and concentration. If you are filled with negative feelings, meditation could actually concentrate them and make you feel worse. Meditation is best practiced in a positive frame of mind.

Here's a rhyme to help you remember:

If you're down, move around. Feeling great? Meditate!

Fitness Fundamentals

Fitness Fundamentals

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