The integrating factor of a home yoga practise

The group class is a good thing. It's a place of motivation and ideas and (hopefully) good intention. It helps start the journey but it can also hinder the journey depending on the nature of the class. Classes can sometimes hold up to 20 even 40 people so there is no individual attention. So again, it's a great place of motivation and new ideas.

As long as you know what you're doing.

The one thing I notice with some clients is the inability to breathe well. Sometimes I think, if only we could all exhale, the ability to let go of memories and poop and bad habits would just be so much easier. A lot of us breathe in the upper chest/clavicle area and therefore little prana goes to our belly, where our gut feelings and food churnings take place. Without prana, the vital force that helps move the digestive fire to break down food and ideas, things feel stuck and undigested. 

A lot of group classes are offering breathwork, which is wonderful, however it can seem an intimidating place to learn and practise. Creating your own sacred space, where you feel comfortable and calm, lends the right qualities to go deep within this practise. Yoga is not traditionally part of the Ayurvedic protocol but it has been termed a "sister science" meaning that where Ayurveda leaves, Yoga can take over. When I started my journey in Yoga, became qualified as a teacher, there were 250 of us in class in southern India all acting like little sheep, doing the same thing from 4am to 10am at night. It was exhausting and intense and honestly way too much for my Vata ridden body at that time. I was severely constipated. Interestingly they had an Ayurvedic practitioner on site that gave me some castor oil. It helped move things but the constipation came back. It wasn't until I left the ashram that I went regularly and from there my yoga practise improved, because I got to do it alone, at my pace and in my time and NOT WHEN I WAS MENSTRUATING.

I happened to pick up Dr Frawleys Ayurveda and Yoga book at the time and the perfect union was born. I got to be an individual yoga practitioner.

Here is one factor you will read in Frawley's book. Prana heals all, when you can tap into it. Here's the other side - if you're straining your breath at any point, you just created Vata (also known as nervous disorders, constipation, dry skin and hair, brittle bones, reproductive issues). One thing you can't see on Instagram poses is how their breathing was like to get into that pose.

You might sometimes be lucky enough to experience a teacher that encourages you to smile in pose. This is an excellent practise because you need to be calm to truly smile and being calm is one factor for calming Vata down and allowing prana to move through the channels. When you hear someone say "breath into...." what they are trying to say to you is focus on the area and see if you can feel it drop (if you're Vata inclined and Pitta too), but if you're more Kapha inclined, see if you can create an intensity to move heat lest the Kapha body revert back to an naturally inert state.

Yama, niyama, asana, pramayama. This is part of Patankali's ashtanga yoga (8 limbs people). So a traditional yoga class will always have some pranayama at the end as a way to refine the mind after refining the body. However, living in the West and not in a sweet Indian village, should you find yourself all jacked up immediately upon arising in the morning, try it the other way around. Vishnu Devananda (Sivananda lineage) when he was teaching in NYC did just that and also cleverly created mini savasanas between asana because he noticed people would leave at the end of the class when it was time for Savasana.

We do a morning practise in Ayurveda to set the "tone" for the day. Some of us have decided that yoga should be included in that morning practise. I highly encourage the same of you, even if it's 5 minutes, to make it your own and have the space to "feel" the breath, to go inside without having to listen to too many instructions. You might then find you get more out of your group class. I encourage my clients to be a 1/2 step behind instructions in a group class so they have time to check in before moving rather than feeling like they need to keep up. Remember your teacher can only give a GUIDELINE. It's up to you to make it your own.

And you know you are unique right?


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Sandra Radja

Established in 2012 The She Oak aims to provide healing through diet and lifestyle counselling as well as educational programs. I believe in teaching others to not only know their inherent constitutions that will best serve them but also how to help themselves should they mis-align with their true nature. Ayurveda treats the individual not the disease.