The beginning of any practice
Before getting into poses, you will need a few minutes to prepare your mind and body. It is crucial to increase oxygen levels, stimulate blood circulation, and elevate body temperature. Such conditions are necessary to explore your full physical and mental potential.
Every practice session has a warm-up period, and you must take a few minutes to prepare your body and your mind for the rest of the session. Before stretching and contracting muscles, you need to stimulate blood circulation and raise the general body temperature.
Similarly, you have to bring your mind to focus in order to concentrate all your thoughts on the poses and movements. Lastly, you need to expand your breath capacity to increase oxygen levels in your bloodstream. By doing so, you guarantee the best muscles performance.
You can start your practice by standing, sitting or resting on your back. If you feel energetic, start your practice on your feet, but if you feel tired, you can start by laying on your mat. Then close your eyes, if that feels Ok.
Usually, your mind will be busy with thought patterns that are not related to what you are doing now; in this case, the practice session. You will probably be thinking about memories, missing the good ones or regretting bad ones. If not, you will be thinking about the future, planning actions, expecting positive outcomes or worrying about negative ones. In such cases, you have to avoid engaging these thoughts and escape the loops of such thinking patterns. To do so, you need to bring your attention to your breath.
Firstly, observe your breath without any questioning or judgment. After a few rounds, you will begin to modify your breathing pattern and make sure you are only breathing through your nose. Make your inhalation and exhalation of equal length. I usually count in my head, inhaling one, two, and three, exhale one, two, and three. You can repeat this until you feel like you have a constant and even breathe.
Keep in mind that this is the breath rhythm you should have during the entire practice. If you catch yourself breathing faster or not breathing at all, it would mean that you are forcing yourself past the limits of your strength and flexibility. Pull back from the pose or try a variation that allows you to recover your breath. You are meant to explore your limitations, without crossing the line. That is known in yoga as "playing the edge.” This edge appears to you when you sense resistance from the muscles.
Once you established a steady breath, begin to move your body. These movements are usually slow and soft because your muscles are still cold, and any sudden action will only bring tension to the body, which will limit your flexibility. Look for repetitive movements to notice how your body heats up while making your muscles more elastic, and bring circular motions to your neck, shoulders, and hips in both directions.
You can also incorporate gentle stretching’s. By doing so, you will get a sense of how flexible is your body is at the time of practice. Your body is never the same, somedays you are stronger or more flexible than other days, in different parts of the body. I like to start at the hips because they are the part of the body that usually needs it the most. A soft forward fold is always right.
Do I feel stiffy today? Am I tired? Do I feel muscle soreness? Am l anxious? Am I sad? Do I feel enthusiastic? These are the kinds of questions you want to ask yourself during practice. The answers will determine the structure of the practice and the sequence of poses.
You will notice that when you are ready to start going into more dynamic poses. In the next article, you will learn what to do after your body is warm. If you don't have time for a long practice, please make a short warm-up, but don't skip it because coming into strong poses without proper warm-up could lead to injuries. Leave most challenging poses for sessions longer than 45 minutes, and dedicate 10% of your practice time to warm-up.