How does it work?
Your yoga session will be determined by three factors: Available time, emotional state and physical capabilities. Let’s look at each one separately.
Available time: Now more than ever, time is of the essence. We believe we don’t have time. I’m not here to tell you how to spend your time. That is actually a waste of time. But I need you to establish a time to do yoga. Is it just 15 min? Only twice a week? Fine, but please dedicate that time to the practice. Forget about the world, about your family, about your partner, about your job. It is me time. I will break the practice into multiple sessions in 15 minute increments: 15 mins, 30mins, 45 mins, 60 mins, and 90 mins. If you want to spend more time doing yoga you probably already are way deep into it and, like me, you are not coming back.
Emotional state: You need to be honest with yourself about how you feel now, that is, at the time you are to do your practice. I will break it down into three levels of emotional energy: One: low energy. You had a long day or long night, you feel like you were just run over by a truck, you feel tired or sad. Two: mid energy. You feel OK, you feel focused, positive, and you are rooted, open to explore your body. Three: high energy. You are excited, you are anxious, you are angry. In yoga for no yogi, the goal is to get you on mid energy level. According to yoga, that is the place you want to be if you want to be happy.
Physical capabilities: This is the hardest one, even for well experience yogis. Yoga is also about dealing with your limitations. You have to be critical with your body, but that doesn’t mean that you have to be negative about it. In order to accept and to love others, you have to start with yourself. Yoga can help you deal with that. The two problems when establishing your physical capabilities are underestimating and overestimating. When you underestimate your body capabilities fear is the obstacle. You limit yourself, your potential and your commitment; you miss reaching full expression of yourself and full connection with the world around you. If I could assure you that you can go and come back from the moon safe and sound you probably would go. You wouldn’t want to miss that in your life. In this case fear is the obstacle. When you overestimate your body capabilities, pride is the obstacle. You go too far and you hurt yourself. In yoga, that rarely happens immediately, but I assure you that it happens. It’s just a matter of time. I know many experienced yogis with major injuries. You force yourself to overcome pain, but pain is your body telling you that you went too far. We don’t want that. So, how do you know what your limit is? Simple, if you are breathing too strong or too fast or you are just not breathing at all, you went too far. Take it back a little. That’s it. No pain, no struggle. Follow your intuition. If you want to be happy now, do you think you want to feel pain or struggle?
How it Works
Once we know the three elements we can establish a sequence of poses that will reset your emotional system and your body. In other words, after the practice, you should feel calm but energized. You should feel at the top of your own strength and flexibility. Your body should be filled with hormones connected to a happy state of mind, that is, Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin and Endorphin.
But I won’t lie to you. Frequency and duration are key. First of all, it is way better to practice 10 minutes every day than one hour a week. Also the benefits of a one-hour practice are better than a 15 min practice. My recommendation is at least 10 minutes a day and at least one one-hour session a week. Let the practice grow in you.
Poses and Intensity
I like to classify poses according to the level of intensity. Intensity refers to the amount of energy flowing through your body. You don’t need to be too spiritual to understand that there is energy running inside your body. That energy makes your blood move through your veins, electric impulses run through your nerves, muscles contract, cells create cells, organs segregate hormones and so on. Different levels of intensity address different benefits for your nerves and muscles. When your nerves and muscles work at optimal levels a positive chain reaction affects to your organs, which affects your glandular system, your vital functions, your emotional state and your cognitive functions. Based on this idea let’s take a look at the different types of poses:
Anaerobic poses: These poses generate high energy in your body. Your muscles are highly engaged, even if they are stretching at the same time. Your cardiac rate increases and you sweat. These poses are great to rebalance strong emotions. Also they increase muscle mass. Strength is triggered by these poses.
Therapeutic poses: The energy level on these poses is medium. The stretched muscles are fairly relaxed and the engaged muscles are not fully contracted. These poses awake the muscles that are not being active due to trauma or negative conditioning. As these muscles turn on, stressed muscle that are normally overcompensating for the sleeping ones begin to relax. Therapeutic poses fine-tune the balance between strength and flexibility of all muscle systems in your body. Also these poses significantly increase mind focus and concentration which has a great impact on thinking processes.
Restorative poses: The energy levels are minimal. Your muscles are completely relaxed. As a result, the blood flows deep into the joints. This allows oxygen and nutrients to reach the entire muscle, accelerating your recovery cycles. At the same time, muscle pressure over your nerves decreases and your nervous systems resets to new minimum levels. That means that your muscles recognize ideal levels of relaxation and can disregard peak levels caused by emotional stress.
Based on your available time, your emotional state and your physical capabilities, there would be a mix of poses according to this classification. Some days you need to deal with strong emotions or to heal small injuries, other days you need to energize your body or sometimes you just need to relax.
You might think that it is easy to tell what your body needs. This is not an easy task. In our modern world, mind and body are very disconnected. Out body gives us signs for when we are not feeding it well, for when we are abusing it, for when we are underusing it. Most the time we don’t pay attention to the signs. Now more than ever, in Western society, we suffer from cardiovascular problems, early locomotive deficiencies, anxiety and depression. Our body is not something apart from us. We don’t have a body. We are our body.