INTRODUCTION

Just like when we were young children, when we first started to walk, it was hard in the beginning. It took time and practice. We would fall and get up again, and fall again… When we learn something new, our nervous system forms new synapses in order to control the muscles needed to perform any action. With repetition, our memory keeps this information creating a mental “path”, and we end up performing actions automatically. Just like when we walk, we don’t need to think how to walk.

Our nervous system keeps learning throughout life.

Asanas place our body in space in a way that some of them require the performance of muscles we never knew we had, and others completely throw us off.

When we «meet» an asana for the first time, we have to give ourselves time to study it. Our nervous system needs time to adjust and form new synapses! We should not be in a hurry to succeed. We should not stress ourselves with thoughts like «why can’t I do it?». Well, do babies get upset when they do not know how to stand up? No, they just keep trying, always excited about the new experience! Let yourselves get excited and keep trying!

SAFETY

Asanas place our body in space in a way that some muscles elongate, others shrink, while at the same time our joints are asked to work in ways they are not accustomed to.

Having passed the first stage of introduction, we now know how to start each asana and what to look for.

With practice, our body strengthens and becomes more and more flexible. It allows us to stay in the position longer each time and proceed to the next stages.

It is very important to warm-up. Muscles become more flexible and perform better when they are warm, and at the same time, they can send us signals of when to stop, in order to protect themselves from injuries.

Observation is really important here. We learn to observe our body, we recognize how it feels, we respect its limitations, and we take it only as far as it can go to keep it safe, at any particular time. Each day is different. We have to be «there» ready and immediately come out of a position if we feel that something in our body doesn’t feel right.

We have to pay extra attention to the safety instructions of each asana. These instructions are details that we learn right at the beginning, at the introduction stage. For example in Warrior 1 and 2, our knee should be exactly on top of the ankle and not farther, to avoid injuries.

CHECKING

After we enter an asana safely and accurately we need to proceed to more detailed assessments. We start assessing our body from the bottom to the top, from the earth to the sky. First we check all body parts that are in contact with the Earth and we move on towards the top. Sometimes it may be the soles of the feet, other times it may be the palms of the hands, the belly, or the head.

Whichever part of the body is in contact with the ground should give us a good «grounding». It needs to be as spreaded as possible and it should push the ground, as if it is trying to dig a hole! This «trick» will give us a strong and stable base. Moving towards the sky, we need to check the muscles that will need to be working in order to support the asana.

The whole body should be working against gravity. This is something we need to keep in mind the whole time. Just this thought will help muscles strengthen, muscles that we did not know we had, like the spine muscles that are responsible for our posture.

BREATH

We are now at the stage where with practice we have learned how to enter an asana correctly, how to check our posture and lock our body, allocating our strength to the right places.

Now is the time to add breathing to our asana. This is where magic and beauty starts! Every asana, depending on the body posture, «opens» and «closes» energy pathways. A controlled full breath helps us clean and charge crucial energy centers.

Unfortunately, very few students reach this stage, mostly because they cannot believe and appreciate the benefits controlled breathing has for our bodies. The benefits are miraculous and quite visible for our health, moods, and our whole life.

MEDITATION

Yoga’s ultimate goal. We have entered an asana correctly, we control our breathing and now we observe ourselves, enjoying the asana in full consciousness. This is yoga’s essense.

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