Yoga can profoundly improve your body. After just one class you’ll experience increased brain function, increased flexibility and reduced stress levels.
Yoga can relieve chronic back or neck pain caused by poor body mechanics (how we hold our bodies as we perform daily tasks like sitting, standing, bending and sleeping). It can even alleviate serious health issues. In recent studies, subjects who practiced yoga for several weeks achieved lower blood pressure and improved lung function. Continued practice can increase bone density and lower one’s risk of heart disease. However, to achieve such remarkable results, one must commit to an effective, ongoing yoga practice.
Bikram yoga is a systematic practice that realigns the spine and strengthens the muscles that support it. This holistic approach doesn’t just fortify muscles and joints. It also aligns the internal organs of the body, like the lungs and digestive system, ensuring they function optimally and without pain. However, to counteract long-term damage and get maximum results it is critical to develop an effective yoga practice. Persistent and continued effort is required to undo years of neglect.
Bikram yoga’s most senior teacher, Emmy Cleaves, once stated, “Frequency. Precision. Intensity. These are the keys to unlocking the treasures of Bikram Yoga.” This observation stems from her 40+ years of experience as a Bikram yoga practitioner. So let’s examine those three keys plus one additional one that will help us to develop an effective yoga practice.
To achieve the best results, make your yoga practice a priority. Commit to practice yoga three or more times per week, every single week. Early on, daily practice is beneficial. This will help you to establish good habits and quickly begin to see results, which will inspire you to stick with the practice.
As we like to say: Practice once a week and you will change your mind. Practice twice a week and you will change your body. Practice every day and you will change your life.
More frequent practice delivers the fastest results. However, consistent practice, regardless of how frequently your hectic schedule permits, will provide noticeable benefits.
Proper body mechanics require us to pay attention to the small details of our spinal alignment as we go about our daily lives. We must put conscious effort into how we bend and lift a heavy object or how we sit at a desk. Your yoga practice requires the same level of attention.
Approach each position mindfully. Work on the proper placement of your foot or the heel of your hand to wring the maximum benefit from each pose. Stay attuned to your movement, breath and posture during the practice. Focus on the moment, rather than doing each pose on auto-pilot.
Sustained, mindful effort is the key to the mind rejuvenating benefits of yoga. When you arrive on the mat, let go of the worries of the day while you focus on each pose, each moment, each breath. Give your best effort. Stay completely focused and in the moment. Distractions will begin to fall away in a way that carries over to your life off the mat.
The caliber of the results you’ll gain from your practice are directly proportionate to the amount of effort and energy you put into your practice. Put your best effort into every asana and you’ll walk away feeling energized, refreshed and renewed. Set your intention for each class. Then pursue the results you desire with passion and intensity.
Your yoga practice is a very personal journey. You’re alone on your mat, faced with the conflict between your body wanting to give up and your mind’s need to keep going. Yet, the collective energy of your certified instructor and fellow practitioners fuels your desire to push through the rough spots. It is this sense of community that will propel you toward a successful practice. Embrace that sense of community.
Park your mat next to different people during each class. Get to know fellow classmates. Learn from yogis you admire. Encourage those who are struggling or seem discouraged. Find inspiration through the strong sense of community. Doing so will help solidify your practice.
As you develop your practice you’ll discover that you have less (or no) aches and pains. Your mind is calm and you sleep better each night. Your clothes fit better, and you no longer dread stepping on the scale. Friends can’t help but notice that you have an ever-present glow.
Then just when things couldn’t be better, you hit that first wall: a new pain, an emotional class, stupefying boredom. The honeymoon is over, and you come crashing back to earth. It’s uncomfortable. Your body wants to take a break.
Instead, you hit the mat, refusing to give up.
That’s the moment you know you have a truly effective yoga practice. Your mind and body are crying mutiny, yet you power through anyway. You’re making headway and building character because of your practice. When the going gets tough, you get tougher.
You’ve started a yoga practice. It’s an excellent first step. Yoga is an ongoing journey. The practice develops over time. Keep at it. When you truly commit to it, you’ll experience tremendous benefits: improved health, pain relief, a calm mind, mental toughness and so much more. Practice consistently with focus, precision and passion, relying on the collective power of community, and you’ll create a truly effective yoga practice that will deliver maximum benefits.