|[ Excerpt from The Science of Yoga, page 60 ]
In addition to the practical guidelines I gave earlier, there are several more things to consider for an optimal yoga experience.
In general, it is always best to perform the practices (meditations, hatha yoga – asanas, kriyas, etc.) in the morning, immediately upon waking. This is the time when external surroundings are the quietest, and your body and mind have not yet become troubled by the concerns of the day.
If you have the habit of rising late in the morning, it is likely that you also have the habit of staying up later at night as well. The yogi sleeps early and rises early, which is part of a lifestyle that is conducive to good health, harmony and longevity.
In a later lesson I'll introduce you to some beginner purification practices, which you should perform immediately after waking up.
Avoid any excess activity, talking or movement, and resist turning your attention toward any concerns other than your morning yoga routine. Take up a comfortable sitting posture facing east (the direction of the rising sun) in a quiet place where you will not be disturbed.
Remain still, absorbing the calmness of your surrounding environment, allowing the mind a relaxing transition from the sleep state into awakened consciousness. This is an ideal time for sitting and meditation, so depending on your available time, try to take advantage of this period every day, even if it means only sitting quietly for a few minutes.
Ideally, you may spend 15 to 20 minutes in this state, before slowing moving into the physical practices, beginning with the warming exercises of the sitting jattis.
Continue on with the practices, as taught step by step in the lessons of this course. If you do not have time to practice all of the exercises in one sitting, then choose a few, but maintain the order in which they are given.
It is our human nature to feel an aversion to some activities and to focus on the things we like the most. Quite often, however, it is the very things that we dislike which we need the most, so always try to be aware of this and avoid 'avoiding'. In time, and with effort, the things you initially felt resistance to can become those with which you feel the most affinity.
Face the east or north while practicing any asanas, kriyas, pranayamas and other techniques in a seated or standing position.
When laying down for any practices, as well as in the final relaxation, make sure your head is toward the north. If this is not possible, then lie with your head toward the east. These are all meant to take advantage of certain polarities of the earth, which we will discuss in a later lessons.
Any serious study of the yogic method involves diligent and regular daily practice. In the beginning, this can be difficult, as most all of us already have a hard enough time finding room to accomplish all the tasks within our usual day.
Even if you are unable to practice in the optimum designated hours of the day, do whatever you can, whenever you can. Begin with a resolution to find as much time to practice as you can, without beating yourself up or pouring guilt upon yourself for times when you happen to slide off track.
Just continue to be diligent, and work as hard as you are able. But avoid adopting a complacent attitude of just fitting yoga in when time allows. Your life can and ultimately must change for the better if you want to truly experience the fruits of the yogic path.
As you practice more and more, you’ll find 'lower aspects' of your life falling by the wayside in favour of the higher practices of yoga, and periods of time previously occupied by other activities opening themselves up to your study of yoga.
NOTE: This yoga article is an excerpt from The Science of Yoga, an online yoga training program with streaming yoga videos and 600 pages of step-by-step yoga instruction.
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