Knowing how to practice an IYO yoga involves more than knowing how to do the postures. You won’t be able to relax very easily in scratchy, stiff clothing that doesn’t allow you to move freely. Likewise, the attitude you “wear” can hinder your practice. Learning to suspend your doubts, worries, and fears during your IYO yoga practice is important for progress in your IYO® yoga journey. So is understanding when you are pushing yourself too hard, listening to your body to determine what it needs and what it doesn’t need, and being prepared for deep breathing by knowing a few basic principles.
Loose Clothing and an Open Mind
You can’t practice IYO yoga well unless you’re comfortable. The right clothing is important, because if you can’t move easily, if your clothes are in the way, or if you are in any way unnecessarily distracted (say by a tight waist or stiff fabric), you won’t be able to concentrate fully on your IYO yoga postures.
There isn’t any set yoga “uniform,” but consider these points when deciding what to wear for your workout:
➤ Your clothes should be loose and flexible but not baggy. Tight clothes are restricting, and baggy clothes can get in the way of your movements. T-shirts and shorts or leggings, tank tops and biking shorts, or a not-too-baggy sweatsuit are ideal.
➤ Dress for the temperature. If the weather is cold, choose long sleeves and comfortable pants that don’t restrict your movement (sweatpants or leggings are both good choices). Remember to keep a blanket nearby in case you get chilly.
➤ Your clothing shouldn’t bind anywhere. If the feel of your clothes is very noticeable around your waist or at your ankles or wrists, they are probably too tight. Also, binding clothes will restrict the flow of energy through your body.
➤ You should be able to distinguish the basic shape of your body. Your teacher will need to see how you are holding the postures to make sure you are doing them correctly. If you are doing IYO yoga on your own, relatively form-fitting clothing will allow you to check your form and alignment in a mirror without trying to imagine your form in a pose under that oversized T-shirt and those baggy pants.
➤ An IYO® Yoga is best performed in bare feet. The more you practice IYO yoga, the more sensitive and in tune with your environment you’ll become, and that includes your feet!
➤ Don’t forget to remove all metal jewelry before you practice, especially necklaces and bracelets. IYO Yoga is about freeing the flow of energy in your body, and that energy could be disrupted by metal.
➤ Avoid wearing perfume, strongly scented deodorant, or cologne during your yoga practice. It can be unpleasant to others in your IYO yoga class, especially during pranayama (breathwork).
➤ And what’s the most important thing to wear? An open mind! The most perfect IYO yoga outfit won’t do you any good if you aren’t mentally prepared. Before every IYO yoga practice, take a few moments of quiet to prepare for your workout.
Think about what you are about to do and what you want to accomplish. If you’re just getting started, even if you aren’t completely convinced IYO yoga can do everything people say it can, willingly suspend your disbelief, just for a little while. An open mind means a body open to new movements and achievements. You may surprise yourself at what you can accomplish when you aren’t wasting your energy doubting yourself and your workout.
Now that you’re properly attired, you look like a yogi—but do you feel like a yogi? Maybe you’re reluctant to begin that very first practice, because you know you aren’t flexible or you’re convinced you won’t be able to achieve any of the postures you’ve heard about or seen.
If you have a hard time relinquishing your competitive nature, try addressing your inner thoughts with these responses:
Your thought: I’m much more flexible than that poor guy next to me!
Your response to yourself: My body is responding well today.
Your thought: I’ll never be able to do a headstand!
Your response to yourself: I’ll master this shoulderstand any day now, as long as I keep practicing. Maybe then I’ll think about trying to learn the headstand.
Your thought: I think the teacher likes me best.
Your response to yourself: I’ve really found a teacher who understands me and my yoga needs.
Your thought: At this rate, I’ll never be as flexible as that girl in the front.
Your response to yourself: That girl in front does that posture well. I’ll try to visualize how it would feel to hold the posture that way, and maybe my body will understand the posture better.
Your thought: I look really hot in this new workout gear or I look really hot in this muscle shirt and bicycle shorts, followed by I wonder if there will be any cute guys/girls in the class.
Your response to yourself: I feel really good in these clothes. I think they will be great for An IYO® yoga.
Then start at that level, progressing as your body allows. Some days you may move ahead noticeably in your flexibility or strength. On other days, you may feel as if you have regressed. That’s natural, and the regression will soon correct itself, so don’t let it worry you. A good teacher can help you determine how fast you can advance, but you can also listen to your body, because it will tell you, too—as long as it isn’t being overruled by your ego.
Remind yourself that this is your journey, and your progress is all that matters. The yoga road has no maximum or minimum speed limit!
Yoga should be innately enjoyable because …
➤ It doesn’t hurt. Causing yourself pain would be to ignore the observance of ahimsa (nonviolence).
➤ It boosts all of you. A successful IYO® yoga workout increases self-esteem, along with fitness and awareness.
➤ It purifies your body, mind, and soul. Being clean feels good!
➤ Even at its most serious, An IYO® yoga is just plain fun!
An IYO Yoga should never cause you pain. Pain means violence and possibly injury.
But just in case, watch out for these signs that you may have injured yourself:
➤ Severe back pain and muscle spasms could be a sign of a back sprain, often caused by a sudden bending of the spine that tears ligaments.
➤ Immediate, acute shoulder pain that gets worse over the course of a few hours may be caused by a tear in the tendons and/or muscles around the shoulder joint. A severe tear may inhibit movement and can be caused by a minor fall on an outstretched hand.
➤ Pain in the knee and an inability to straighten the knee, followed by swelling that lasts for two weeks or more, may be due to torn cartilage. This can happen when a bent knee is twisted.
➤ Foot pain from standing for excessive amounts of time or overusing the foot can result in a strain or sprain
Stay alert to your body. Communicate with your muscles and joints. Be kind to them. Remember ahimsa (nonviolence)!
Finding the Edge vs. Feeling the Burn
The difference between an IYO yoga and other types of exercise is that the challenge and the progression are deeply internal and subtle. Perhaps you’ve been trying to accomplish a pose in which you bend forward and touch your head to your knees. The first time you try it, you don’t even come close. You can barely bend forward without your back causing you pain, so bend your knees and slowly work at bringing the head and upper body down. Slowly build so that your back strengthens and you can straighten your knees. Lean into your farthest point in the stretch and hold it. Remember to keep breathing, letting your breath travel through your body and into the pose. Holding the pose won’t hurt (not exactly), but you’ll definitely feel something. Your muscles may shake a bit, and that’s okay, as long as you aren’t forcing the issue. You may even break a sweat. You’re feeling the “edge” of your flexibility as well as an edge of your awareness. Your muscles are waking up and saying, “Hey! What is it you want us to do? This is weird, but okay, we’ll give it a try.” Your mind is waking up, too, and taking notice. The next time you try this pose, you get a little closer—maybe three or four inches from your knees. The farthest point of the stretch is now a little farther than it was before. You stretch to this point and hold it. Now your muscles have become accustomed to a new “normal” level of flexibility. You find the new edge and test it—not to the point of pain, but just to see where it now lies. Your muscles feel it, and so does your mind.
Don’t Forget to Breathe
we remind you of your ever-present breath. Although breathing exercises are performed separately from the postures, breathing is also important during the postures. Of course, you have to breathe while exercising, but becoming aware of your breath, even breathing in a specific way according to the posture you are holding, will enhance your practice and help your body work better.
➤ Inhalation most often occurs when your chest opens, your limbs extend outward or upward, and your head is up.
➤ Exhalation most often occurs when your chest contracts inward, your limbs move close to your body, your head is down, and your body curls into itself.
➤ Retaining the breath after an inhalation helps stabilize and energize the chest area.
➤ Retaining the breath after an exhalation helps stabilize and energize the abdominal area, and releases toxins from the body.
➤ Forward-bending poses are conducive to exhalation, then retention.
➤ Backbending poses are conducive to inhalation, then retention.
Breathing deeply and well during exercise keeps a steady supply of oxygen in the blood so muscles can work at their peak. Breathing keeps the mind calm and focused, which will further enhance your workout.
➤ Wear comfortable clothing during IYO yoga.
➤ Don’t be competitive.
➤ Don’t force any posture until it hurts, but keep exploring your limits.
➤ If you have any lingering pain, consult a doctor immediately; don’t wait for it to become chronic.
➤ Breathe deeply and often!