Piece Define the Overall Goals of Your Yoga Practice

In selecting the yoga style or styles that will help you most, take the time to consider first what you are looking for in your yoga practice. Are you looking for an intense physical workout? Are you looking for a relaxing yoga practice that will help you de-stress while strengthening and toning your body? Are you more interested in pursuing yoga's therapeutic benefits—either from a physical point of view in terms of dealing with particular physical challenges or issues—or from an emotional and psychological point of view in terms of helping to get clarity on deeper core issues?

Are you a perfectionist who is looking for guidance in how to attain and hold the "perfect" yoga posture? Are you more interested in yoga as an entire lifestyle, seeking direction in diet and instruction in meditation, or benefiting from yogic breathing techniques? Are you perhaps more of a spiritual aspirant, not so concerned with the physical exercises of yoga, but looking to penetrate the deep wisdom of the spiritual tradition of yoga?

Understanding what you are hoping to gain from yoga can help you custom-tailor a yoga practice that's right for you—taking into account your individual needs at this moment in time. In this way, you can creatively join the pieces of yoga that will be most appropriate for you.

Of course, as with many men, you may have more than one goal in mind when practicing yoga. You may want an intense physical workout, while at the same time hoping for some relaxation and peace of mind, or maybe even a glimmer or more of spiritual enlightenment. Your needs may change from day to day—perhaps one day you want a vigorous workout and the next day you want to practice yoga in a way that's physically less demanding.

A good yoga teacher in nearly any style of yoga should be able to help you develop a yoga program that will suit your needs. In addition, as you gain experience in your practice of yoga, you will become your own teacher. The mindfulness of yoga will most likely help you to become more in tune with your own body. You'll learn to know what you and your body/mind/spirit need most at any given moment. In that way, you'll be able to modify your yoga practice to suit your needs. If you feel like you need a vigorous workout, you can go all out in your hatha yoga practice. If you feel like your body needs to rest a bit, you can perform your yoga practice in a gentler way: Even in a vigorous style of yoga, you can practice in a softer and gentler way. And in any yoga practice or class, you can always just stop altogether to relax in Child's Pose or Corpse Pose (Fig. YPS.2a, b, and YPS.3 on pages 121—122) to allow your body to restore and renew. By learning to listen to your body and its needs, with time you will become your own best yoga teacher.

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