Yoga isn’t just about your time on the mat or in the studio. The ancient practice evolved from the desire to connect your mind, spirit, and body, and that involves a lot more than the time you spend physically practicing asanas. That is why yoga is considered an all encompassing practice for life!
There are some habits and routines, steeped in yogic and Ayurvedic tradition, that can add even more to your experience of yoga. Remember, asana is just ONE of the eight limbs of yoga. Try to integrate some of these little changes to your everyday routine, at least for a short while. You’ll be surprised at how strongly some of these simple tips can impact your overall consciousness and vitality!
While some may sound tricky at first, don’t stress if you find it difficult to integrate these habits into your everyday routine. Changing habits rarely happens with a simple click of your fingers. Like your yoga poses, it may take lots of time and gradual change before you get to the perfect practice.
Morning air feels so clean and crisp, and the pre-dawn atmosphere is full of vata energy that is just waiting to be taken in. This vata energy is ideal for movement, and the energizing dosha can keep you full for the entire day. Some people find this particular advice difficult to integrate into their daily lives – after all, sleep is so wonderful – but even a few early mornings a week can make a great difference to your yoga practice.
Practicing yoga first thing in the morning is also the best time to make some deep changes to your body and overcome your individual issues. Once you start to feel the changes, you’ll notice how beautiful the light in the mornings can be, and you’ll wonder how you ever slept through it for so long. Waking up early is one thing – but make sure you get a good look at the morning sky as well!
Be brave, turn on that cold tap and jump in! As the cold water hits your skin, your lungs spring to the sides of your ribs, causing you to take in a big inhalation of fresh prana. What better way to start the day?!
Cold showers also eliminate yin acid and toxins that your body tends to accumulate throughout the night. This is why it can help you to feel more clarity, doubled with a refreshing willingness to take on the day. You don’t have to stay in the shower for long, anywhere between 30 seconds and a minute is fine. Rub your body vigorously with a flannel for extra stimulation, and then dry yourself up with a scratchy cotton towel to get the circulation going even more. You’ll instantly feel clear and invigorated – the perfect state to be in before a morning yoga practice!
At night, your tongue is like a warm, spongy incubator for bacteria. Eliminate this build up by giving your tongue a thorough clean, and you will remove toxins that accumulate overnight on your tongue. In some schools of Ayurveda, special tongue scrapers are used as it is thought that cleaning your tongue with a toothbrush will just rub bad bacteria back into your tongue.
Others advocate a more thorough clean of the very root of your tongue with a toothbrush, until your eyes water and you gag. It is thought the watering of the eyes is protective against cataracts, and the gagging will eliminate poisonous mucus from your monkey glands. There’s no need to be excessively violent, try gently scraping your tongue first, and build the practice from there.
Your body is fueled by what you feed it, so be mindful of what you choose to eat. This may sound like common sense, yet eating appropriately can be one of the hardest yogic daily habits to master. Every yogi knows they need to eat right, yet so many struggle to put it into practice.
A lot of people choose to eat emotionally or for entertainment rather than with the intention of giving long-lasting energy that helps the digestive system to run smoothly. If this sounds like you, it’s time to start tuning in to your body. Try to pay attention to how your body reacts to what you feed it, then you will be able to better choose the foods that work for you.
The adage that you should “breakfast like a prince, lunch like a King, and dine like a pauper” also applies to eating appropriately. Give your body more in the morning and midday to fuel your day’s activities. When you are tired and winding down in the evening, so is your digestive system. At night you should try and keep your meals lighter, softer, and smaller.
Part of deepening your yogic practice is about awareness of what helps you to be the best you can. If there are people, situations, or reactions in your life that are causing you to feel off kilter and unbalanced, take a moment to breathe and re-center. This turning in can help you observe the chaos around you rather than react or be affected by it.
If you still cannot abide the negativity around you, take a step back and reevaluate. Do you really need to hold on to these relationships or sets of circumstances? If the answer is no, don’t hesitate to let them go and make way for change. Maintaining a sense of peace, tranquility, and positivity sometimes requires you to remove yourself from certain places and situations, and doing so can make your yoga practice that much more fulfilling.
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