Stress Relief to Spiritual Relief
Whether they are guided by an instructor’s well-timed word, or in appreciation for the feelings of peace and connection that they have nurtured, each student eventually begins to explore the more spiritual aspects of the practice of yoga.
The student has already learned that they face the rest of their day more calmly, that their stress levels have plummeted, and that everything seems a little bit easier to face after a yoga class. They have reaped the benefits of the mind-body experience, meditation, the deep, full, abdominal breathing and the positive, supportive atmosphere generated by classmates.
Lost in Translation
When we begin to learn more about yoga, reading about Patanjali and his Eightfold Path, more often than not the explanations are cloudy. Crowded with Sanskrit terms and jumbled religious references, the simple philosophy of the Yoga Sutras becomes confusing and distant. The desire to learn becomes an intellectual struggle, and everything that’s opposite of the physical sensation and emotional calm of a great yoga practice.
The eightfold path is one of strict ascetic guidelines that only the most devoted practitioner could achieve. Like the goal of mystics in all of the great religious traditions, the ultimate aim of yoga is for the practitioner to achieve union with the Divine. Enlightenment, or Samadhi, it is generally understood, is not probable or even possible for most people.
Keep it real
Those of us who live in the real world requires something a little more practical to help sustain us in the everyday chaos of modern life. The lofty goal of enlightenment can wait until after we’ve paid the bills.
Luckily for the down-to-earth, yoga is not an “all or nothing” practice. This is one of those instances where trying to achieve some of the work is far better than not trying at all. Because the ultimate goal is to act within ourselves as well as interact with the world around us with the peace and contentment of enlightenment, any step we take will be a step in the right direction.
However, there is another way to approach this study. There are modern applications for the ancient wisdom, and we are able to understand them and incorporate them into our daily lives.
Make it your own
In our practice of Asanas, we know that each of the poses has variations and flavors depending on the physique, strength and flexibility of the student. Similarly, each of the limbs of the eightfold path can be adjusted or modified to provide the student with the maximum benefit based on what he or she brings to the practice.
You don’t need to change faiths to practice yoga. Some say that yoga transcends and includes all religions, it is beyond religion. I’ve heard it eloquently called a “prayer tool”, and compared to the way that music is utilized as a tool for worship in many churches.
Best yoga mat for carpet
Simply put, we are transformed by applying ourselves however we are best able. So, how might a modern yogi apply the Eightfold Path? How would students extend their practice off the best yoga mat for carpet?
There are many practical everyday applications for the Yamas and Niyamas, Pranayama, and the other limbs of the eightfold path. Moreover, these lessons can be applied anytime anywhere by anyone. Non-yogis and yogis alike can benefit from the lessons they can teach us.
Yoga Strap? Yoga Block?
What Westerners know as “Yoga” is primarily based on the combination of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and the Hatha Yoga Pradipika popularized by B.K.S. Iyengar. One of the reasons Iyengar’s approach to Yoga was so accessible to more people was because he introduced the incorporation of various props and tools to facilitate complex poses.
What do I really need?
To the beginner, the plethora of equipment can be mind-boggling. As Yoga becomes increasingly popular, marketers are urging consumers to purchase more.
Here is a guide to the basic props beyond the essentials of clothing and best yoga mat for carpet.
The prop most beginning yoga students will benefit from is a yoga strap. Inexpensive, simple and useful – a strap will be something you will continue to use even as an advanced yogi.
- What to look for – A typical yoga strap ranges in length from six to nine feet long and is made of soft cotton or hemp. There is a clasp or buckle to be able to loop the strap securely (like a belt). The taller you are, the longer a strap you will need. Shorter straps can be doubled up using the buckles if necessary.
- Try before you buy – To try it out at home, you can use a soft cloth belt (like the one for your bathrobe), or even a long, wide luggage strap! When using a strap in your poses, it’s important to not let the buckle touch or chafe the skin.
- Using your strap in a pose – Keeping in mind all of the safety tips for beginning students, you can try using your strap in Paschimottasana or Seated Forward Bend.
- Keeping the feet flexed, and the legs long and active against the floor, loop your strap around the balls of your feet.
- Remember that the most important part of this stretch is to keep the front of your body long, and your back as flat as possible, use the strap to slowly fold forward, reaching your nose in the direction of your toes.
- This is a great hamstring stretch, and it takes most students several years of practice to be able to comfortably reach their feet while still keeping their torso long and flat. In the meantime, your strap helps you add resistance to the stretch without breaking form.
The second most popular prop among beginners and advanced yoga students is the yoga block.
- What to look for – Yoga blocks are roughly nine inches long, six inches wide, and either three or four inches high. The dimensions of the sturdy yoga block are important, because students use them at each of their various heights – standing on the skinny end to stretch up an extra nine inches, on the flat three-inch edge to stand up six inches, or on the six-inch plane to give a littler nudge. While we often only use one block at a time, it is useful to have two matching blocks for many beginner poses.
- Materials – They can be made from foam, cork, wood or even bamboo. As long as the blocks are sturdy enough to support an adult’s weight, the blocks’ material is solely at the budgetary, ecological or aesthetic discretion of the student.
- Try before you buy – In Iyengar’s earliest books, the blocks are literally bricks or chunks of wood! If you happen to have these building supplies lying around, your house, you can try them out at home!
- Using your blocks in a pose – Positioning the blocks at shoulder-width on your best yoga mat for carpet, place your hands on them while resting on hands and knees. Keep your hands on the blocks and use them to support you in Adho Mukha Svanasana, or Downward Facing Dog pose by lifting your pelvis into the air and slowly straightening the legs – lengthening the backs of the legs as if the heels wanted to touch the floor.
- Beginners who have tried “down-dog” without blocks could feel a huge difference, because the props help take a lot of pressure off the arms and upper body in this pose.
Often, studios will supply props to lend to students for the duration of the class, however it is useful to have them available for your practice at home because they can assist beginners in navigating poses more safely when unsupervised.
These are, of course, only the most basic props used in yoga, and a brief glimpse at their uses. Yogis may also use blankets, bolsters, chairs, benches, wedges, or even ropes attached to a wall!