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Guidelines that are Essential to a True Yoga Practice

The following suggestions are offered as helpful hints for newcomers to yoga and as reminders to those who have practiced for awhile. These attitudes differentiate yoga from simple exercise, they contribute to the development of a healthy mind as well as a healthy body, and they help to integrate body, mind and spirit. 

Listen to your body.  Our bodies speak to us constantly. We don't listen often enough, and even worse, sometimes when we do listen, we ignore the message. Sometimes we follow someone else's instruction when we should be listening to and following our own inner wisdom. For example, we are bombarded with information from the media that advises us to take symptom-disguising medicine when we're sick and to go about our work anyway. Do you follow such advise or do you honor the wisdom of your body when it calls for rest? A yogi treats the body with care and respect.

Be non-judgmental.  Become an objective observer of yourself. Relieve yourself of the burden of determining if you're good enough or not. Yoga is not competitive. We live in a very competitive society. We have been conditioned to judge ourselves in terms of many "norms" and standards of health, youth, beauty and fitness. When comparing yourself to others, you'll find someone who is more advanced than you and someone who is less. Simply observe differences without evaluating them. Learn to appreciate the perfection of being just the way you are today. As we learn not to judge ourselves, we can do others the same favor.

Go at your own pace.  Practice at your own level. Never force a muscle or joint. Never force the breath. Alertness, steadiness and comfort are essential qualities to be present when practicing poses and breathing exercises. Learn to be attentive to, and respectful of your body's individual abilities and inabilities on a daily basis. Be patient with yourself.  Keep body and mind open to the possibility of transformation.

Coordinate body, breath, and mind.  Relax the body, deepen the breath, and alert the mind. In many languages "breath" is synonymous with "spirit". In consciously noticing the harmonious relationship between body, mind, and breath, we develop the ability to make every activity of our lives a meditation. This requires willingness and practice.

Detach from the outcome.  Let your yoga practice be an effort without a goal. Free yourself from our cultural concepts of needing to achieve something, or becoming someone.  "Success" in yoga is to live in the present moment and to accept what is.  Feel the joy of discovering the self that already exists and is whole and complete.

"Be here now."  Stay focused in the present moment and place. Know where your energy is. Where the mind goes, the energy goes. I remember the first national energy crisis in the 70's when international politics led to oil embargoes. We were told that our country could decrease it's energy consumption by 50% simply by conservation.  We can do the same for ourselves by conserving prana, chi, life force. We waste enormous amounts of energy on our internal chattering.  How much time do you spend replaying past events in your head? How much time do you spend changing the transcript, as if you could live it over? How much energy do you put into rehearsing future events out of fear or worry?

Start noticing these patterns of mind and save your energy!                  

~Chris Eisenschmidt

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