Precautions for Hatha Yoga Asanas
Do follow these precautions for safe yoga practice and to get the maximum benefits.
- I suggest you begin with a prayer to the Lord. Bow down before your yoga teacher and all other yoga teachers and fellow practitioners because of whom, the practice of yoga is alive today. Promise to practice regularly, and pass it on to whoever you can. Ask for knowledge and light - as Swami Vivekananda says, this is the only unselfish prayer.
- Ideally, practice in the morning on an empty stomach. If not, wait at least four hours after a meal before doing any yoga
- Empty your bladder and bowels before the practice. Yoga is a cleansing process that works best when the body is clean.
- Wear minimum clothing – loose clothes are preferred. Shorts are recommended. There is no need for yoga tights, yoga mats or other expensive gear.
- Do not practice when you are unwell or sick. Even if you have a headache, avoid doing yoga. At this time, what the body needs is rest, not yoga.
Men should wear tight underwear (preferably a traditional langot) during practice. This prevents damage to the urinary and reproductive systems during stressful backbends and inverted postures.
- Women are suggested to avoid practice, especially inverted postures, while on their menstrual period.
- Follow the sequence - kriyas, sukshma vyayama, asana, pranayama, dhyan for optimum results. The entire series should take between one to two hours. The ratio between asana, pranayam and dhyan can be worked out according to the objectives of the practitioner. Youngsters will be more focussed on asana, middle-aged persons on pranayama and senior citizens on dhyan.
- Do not use any props as far as possible. Do not try any pose that you think you cannot do. When doing a pose if you feel out-of-breath or pain of any sort, stop immediately.
- If you get tired during practice, you can practice shavasan (corpse pose) between postures. Try to do shavasan for at least five minutes at the end of the practice. This adds inestimable value to the session.
- Do not do the asanas on a hard, cold floor like a cement floor. Grass, soft earth or at least a soft mat or rug should be used. This provides warmth and certain softness.
- When doing shirsasana (head-stand), it is suggested you use a small rolled-up towel, in the shape of a turban, under your head. There are two schools of thought for shirsasana. One says that you should balance on the crown of your head, keeping the body erect. The other says you should balance on the upper part of the forehead, taking care not to put any pressure on the crown, which is the location of the brahma-randhara chakra. Try out both variations to see which one suits you better.
- Avoid practicing shirsasana against a wall. It is better to learn slowly in the middle of the room.
- After doing shirsasana, be sure to do shavasana for five minutes to relieve the body from the pressures of the inverted pose.
- There is no need to learn hundreds of poses unless you want to become a teacher. Mastering a few poses of each type – forward bends, backbends, standing poses, seated postures, twists, inversions and balances - is sufficient