Most of us are familiar with Shri K Pattabhi Jois’ famous saying: “Practice and all is coming”. But how often do you consider what you do BEFORE you practice? With love in the air this month, what better time to show yourself the respect you deserve by observing some basic principles in preparation for your practice.
While yoga is most popularly manifested as a physical practice, it actually offers us a complete and holistic way of approaching life, including an ethical code of conduct called the Yamas and Niyamas, which is outlined in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Sauca, meaning purity or cleanliness, is one of the Niyamas which is important to consider before you practice. At a practical level, this means things like keeping your mat clean, taking a shower and brushing your teeth. The asana and pranayama practice then works to achieve internal purity by removing toxins and oxygenating the blood. This purification also works on a mental level – read more about Guruji’s teachings on The Six Poisons in this month’s “What is Ashtanga yoga” section.
Eating healthily plays an important role in creating internal purity. But your practice is affected not only by what you eat, but also WHEN you eat. Try not to eat anything for at least two hours beforehand, allowing your body ample time to digest the food. This is one of the reasons why a morning practice is so good – because you have not eaten anything since dinner the previous day.
Finally, please remember to observe ‘Ladies Holidays’ and take rest for the first three days of menstruation. This was a specific instruction from Guruji and one which we endorse here at Jois Yoga. Our yoga practice is intended to increase the upward flow of energy, or prana. However, during menstruation, the directional flow of energy is downward, or apana. So from an energetic standpoint, it is a time to allow the body to do what it must in expanding the apana, and wait til the body has finished its work to begin again to increase prana via asana practice. When you re-commence your practice, it is advisable to refrain from doing any inversions until your cycle comes to an end. You should also make a conscious effort not to engage your bandhas during the days of your cycle.
Most importantly, listen to your body as you will intuitively know what is right for you.