Updated: Nov 14
Asana, the 3rd limb of yoga is just as important as every other limb. The thing that makes this limb special is that it is the place where we translate the other limbs. It helps us physically sort out our koshas (5 layers of being). It’s how we discover where we are, vs, where we think we are. A direct reflection of our homeostasis. It’s where we meet ourselves head on and sort through our baggage, because physical movement is a formulation of thought; so there is a physical link to thought. Any input we receive has a physical to mental response, and vice versa, for better or for worse.
Asana is king because many people sit for long periods of time for their work and or hobbies and do various repetitive movements. There is a lot of physical and mental pain that comes with not being able to hold our structure well. If we do repetitive motions without doing them intentionally while breathing it won’t end well. Moving through a physical asana practice calibrates the body/mind, bringing us closer to equilibrium, we function optimally in this place and feel our best. We come to Asana to calibrate so our body automatically fires muscles in the correct order when we aren’t on our mat. We also come to asana so we take conscious breaths! The asanas are a space to breathe (it’s the exact reason why we’re there). Chances are we really need those breaths by the time we get to them.
Once we develop a consistent yoga practice it helps keep the rest of our lives reigned in. When the practice slips away, diet, hydration, sleep, self care in general, tends to get away from us. This creates too many negative side effects to list here. Asana is a tool to check in and evaluate how we’ve been treating ourselves. Practicing asana is a physical display of self love because we are taking care of ourselves in a powerful way through physical movement. A way that will make you stronger, more mobile and steady physically and mentally. It gives us freedom of movement by design. Without training the body (with a knowledgeable teacher), most people can’t physically work for 8 hours + a day without pain.
So how do you build a consistent practice?
1. Get one on one instruction from an experienced teacher.
We want to make every moment count. Our habits will carry into our practice which means we won’t be aware that we are moving possibly in an unsafe or inefficient way, because it will feel normal. It’s important to get an outside perspective.
2. Start small and basic to build confidence, faith and a sturdy foundation.
If you come out of the gate running GREAT, enthusiasm is welcome! But we should also be kind to ourselves and stay on the path when that enthusiasm isn’t there. That’s where the challenge tends to be. Good news though, enthusiasm comes and goes in a cyclical way so enthusiasm will be back again! We can change up the routine as needed, but stick with it when we’re unenthusiastic, bored, tired, in pain, busy, ect... This calibration process is so crucial to our overall well being.
Aiming to practice for 15 minutes a day 3 days a week is a great starting point. It’s so much more beneficial to practice in smaller doses more often than to practice 1 hour a week. Ashtanga yogi’s typically practice 6 days and rest on the 7th. Progress comes quickly if we practice 3 days or more.This is built up like any other muscle, methodically. If you plan to practice 3 days a week I suggest practicing 3 days in a row. This way you will build momentum and if you miss a day, you have plenty of time to make it up. Once you’re used to 3 days, then add another day. I find a lot of people struggle to develop a consistent practice when they try to stagger their 3ish practices throughout the week.
3. Link it with another activity.
Do 10 Half Sun Salutations (Ardha Surya Namaskar) after you brush your teeth (thanks Gill!). Up until recently, my personal routine was to put my son Nebulas down for his nap and then get on my mat soon after. When his nap schedule changed I adjusted accordingly and now get up around 4:45 to get my practice in. There was a time when Nebulas was an infant where I was practicing around 2am because that’s when it worked for me consistently (at the time) and I needed it to pull myself together in every respect.
Everything seems to spiral out when asana isn’t practiced. We tend to get stuck in our addictions and negative behavioral patterns. Asana breaks negative cycles and lays down healthier patterns. The key to success is consistency, and getting an outside perspective from an experienced instructor because we tend to not be where we think we are. Start small by dedicating 15 minutes rather than an hour, and often because we are building the habit of showing up. Link it with another activity that you do regularly to train it as part of your routine. Eventually it’ll feel weird to skip a practice. Keep in mind the greatest motivator is progress. So practice when you are motivated and also practice when you’re not motivated and motivation will come.
Thanks for reading!
Keep practicing Yogi’s!