By Kathi Duquette
In yoga, like most things, you need a healthy balance. Your yoga routine should include a variety of poses; avoid practicing the same ones and neglecting the rest of your body. Practicing a variety of different poses will provide the most benefit to your entire body.
There are many poses that simply feel good. They are easy to sink into and they can relieve tension and stress. A ‘rag doll’ pose is a good example of a feel-good pose. Hanging around in such a comfortable inversion releases stress on many physical and mental levels. Another example is the ‘legs up the wall’ pose. These are restorative and comfortable.
Practicing something as simple as ‘easy seated pose’ (comfortable seated cross legged pose) can cause an imbalance. Consider if in your easy pose you always keep the same leg crossed in front. One hip will be more open than the other. Conversely, if one hip is more open than the other, it is easier to sit that way. If you can work the other leg gradually into the front position you can balance out the hips. You really need to focus on working on specific areas like these gradually, over time.
Allow your body to progress in its own time – never forcing into any pose. Instead of focusing on looking a certain way in the pose, focus on releasing a certain body part or muscle. Think inside the body rather than how it looks on the outside.
Challenging your body to move deeper into poses will bring even greater flexibility and stress relief. The deeper breathing associated with focusing on sinking deeper into a pose, while tuning in to how your body feels each step of the way, is stress relieving. On the physical level, different poses offer different strength building and flexibility. While some poses offer benefits to many parts of the body in a single pose, others are more specific to isolated muscle groups.
Inversions, twists, side stretches, forward bends and back bends should be included in each practice session. Your yoga training session should include some inversions such as the standing forward bend, which gives your brain a fresh dose of oxygenated blood. A side stretch, a twist, and a back bend will keep your spine lubricated and supple. By moving the spine in different directions with awareness you are improving flexibility and decreasing risk of injury. Back bends stretch the front side of your body; forward bends stretch the back side. Twists give your organs a gentle massage, while lubricating and increasing flexibility in the spine.
Including all parts of your body into your yoga routine will bring some balance to many imbalances that occur from repetitive motions or poor posture. Over time you will start to notice imbalances that your didn’t know you had. Keep practicing a variety of poses to bring balance to all of your different parts. Keep in mind that your spine is truly the backbone of your body. Many yoga poses focus on keeping the spine strong, flexible and agile while strengthening the supporting muscles around it. Mixing in the forward, backward and side flexions will help to keep your spine strong and supple.
Be sure to practice safely for your body and include the basic five types (inversions, forward bends, back bends, twists and side stretches) of poses in every practice. Create balance and infuse your body with fresh oxygenated blood. Add some balance poses to further balance out the two sides of your body and to build on your body and mind connection. Don’t forget your savasana (relaxation) to give your body a few minutes to absorb its work.
Getting to know your body and all of its magical parts can only be good. Be aware of any weaknesses, but generally acknowledge all of the wonderful aspects your body holds. You can always work on straightening out imbalances and strengthening weak muscles. Appreciate all that your body and your breath do for you and reward yourself with a consistent yoga routine.
By Kathi Duquette
Certified Yoga Instructor
Certified Personal Trainer