This is an excerpt from Beth Shaw's YogaFit 3rd Edition by Beth Shaw.
The essence of the YogaFit lifestyle is breathing, feeling, and listening to your body; letting go of expectation, judgment, and competition; and staying in the present moment.
The foundation for a successful YogaFit lifestyle is in your ability to practice the essence of YogaFit both on and off the mat. As you read the following elements of the YogaFit essence, consider where you might apply them to your daily life. Then, once you begin practicing the poses and workout formats, notice how they enhance your experience in the poses.
- Breathing. Breathing is vitally important to your yoga practice because it gives you energy, keeps you in the moment, and facilitates the process of unifying mind, body, and spirit. Breathing during your YogaFit session is typically done through the nose. Deep diaphragmatic breathing is the key to a successful asana and meditation practice. The breath is your most powerful tool for calming and relaxing your body and clearing your mind; in fact, if you are not ready to begin a physical practice, just doing 5 to 10 minutes a day of deep diaphragmatic breathing will begin to bring you the positive health benefits of yoga. Effective breathing also helps you get deeper into your poses. Regardless of the pose, you should always focus on maintaining a long, smooth breath.
- Feeling and listening to your body. In the Western world people are often disconnected from their physical bodies. Yoga can help reconnect the body, mind, and spirit. You should aim to feel something in every pose. During practice, remind yourself to check in with your body and to modify your pose to provide less or more sensation, as appropriate. When you feel something in each pose, you are grounded in the moment and aware of your body and its potential. The ability to identify and feel your feelings gives you tremendous opportunity to connect with yourself and with others honestly.
- Letting go of expectations. Too often in life people have unrealistic expectations of themselves and others. These expectations can manifest in your yoga practice and lead to injury on the mat. Be patient with your practice. Respect the process, and go at your own pace.
- Letting go of competition. As the great yoga philosopher J. Krishnamurti said, when you compare, you are disappointed. Your practice is your own. No two bodies are alike, and no two lives are alike. Comparison makes you feel either superior or inferior. Neither is beneficial.
- Letting go of judgment. It is no one's place to judge others' lifestyles or actions. Practice replacing judgment with compassion. Do you want to be judged by others for the way you look or for the way you are? Think of how unfairly you feel treated when someone who barely knows you misjudges you. The truth is that most judgments are based on inadequate information. Ask yourself how much you know about a person you have placed a judgment on. Ask yourself why you feel compelled to make a judgment. Is it to make yourself feel better? Taking it one step further, when you notice yourself judging another person, you can simply turn the mirror toward yourself. It is a tough practice, but everyone needs to remember that you cannot notice anything in others that isn't present in yourself. This step can then give you a chance to practice compassion for yourself and for others.
- Staying in the present moment. In his book The Power of Now (2004),Ekhart Tolle argues that true peace can be found only in the present moment. Tolle says that the present moment is the only moment in which you can truly live your life. When you're stuck in the past or projecting into the future, you miss out on what's in front of you. On your mat, notice when your mind slips into thoughts of the past or future. If it does, simply bring your awareness back to your breath and your body.