Yoga can be learned at home by following instructions from authentic books or CDs. Yoga is kind of exercise that needs synchronization of body, breath, and awareness aimed towards health and self transformation. However, while trying to learn yoga at home by oneself, emphasize should be laid more on personal safety than on anything else. Each yogic exercise needs attention to details for it to be effective and safe, however, certain rules and principles can be adopted as general guidelines for safe and effective self-learning of yoga.
1. Confirm that you are not suffering from any acute or chronic medical condition. Do not learn yoga without consultation unless you are physically fit. Seek advice if you are too young or too old to learn yoga.
2. Yogic exercise should be practiced 4-5 hours after meal with an empty stomach. Do not eat or drink anything 2 hours before and 1 hour after exercise.
3. Avoid doing yoga if you are constipated or completely sexually depleted.
4. Do not attempt advanced yogic exercises before adapting your body to the basic exercises.
5. Preferably try to have vegetarian diet on the day of doing yoga exercise. Vegetarian diet being lighter, facilitates easier adaptation of visceral organs to the changing body postures.
6. On the physical level, celibacy increases suppleness of core muscles and sensitivity of body to exercise. Hence observing celibacy is essential at least during the initial practicing phase. Avoid intoxicants of any kind as they dampen body vital force just as fog dampens the luminosity of light. Vital force is a nurturing force of the body and is hampered due to intoxicants and sexual depletion.
7. Yogic practice involves body, breathing, and awareness. Mind and emotions are disturbance to the practice. Practice yoga when mind and emotions are at peace and you are not in hurry. Give enough time to each exercise.
8. Do light aerobic warm-up exercise like jogging, walking, swimming etc before yoga exercise. Warm-up exercise increases your breathing capacity, oxygen consumption potential, and suppleness of body. Ideally yoga should be practiced in fresh air and clean environment.
9. Any yogic exercise, whether it is breathing, postures, locks, or mudras, should be done without haste and in a relaxed manner with total awareness of whether body is experiencing pain, discomfort, or pleasure. Any kind of pain, discomfort, or effort while or after doing exercise indicate that the exercise is not right for you at that time and body is being harmed.
10. Comfort, ease, and pleasure while doing exercise indicates that the exercise is right for you at that time and body is being benefited. For example, if you are trying to touch your feet with legs straight, see to it that you feel the urge and pleasure in your involved body parts and attempt to bend only as much as it is easy and comfortable.
11. RELAX in the bent position for as long as it is pleasurable and comfortable. Any indication of pain, effort, or trembling should dissuade you from continuing with the posture. Similarly for doing back bends, or inversions etc… see to it that your body has BUILT the instinct and urge to take those positions.
12. Lastly, Do not make it your goal to conquer any particular body position, rather, try other exercises fluidly. Keep your practice goalless and explore exercises that you feel like doing instinctively. Listen to your body. If you cannot do any particular exercise at all, do not approach it directly. First hang around and master easier exercises that will eventually make it easier for you to do that particular exercise. You do not have to do same exercise daily.
Give time for your body to adapt to the exercises. Learning yogic exercises slowly will teach you patience, awareness, egolessness, and how to follow a natural course, the qualities which can be applied in your day to day life.
Though this style of self-learning is time consuming, it is safe and effective in the long run. Let the practice remain playful leisure activity rather than strict regime. After all, yogic exercise is natural process of breathing and wallowing harnessed instinctively to heal your body and psyche.
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Written by Chetan More for parimukti.com