Merriam Webster Dictionary Definition on Freedom: The absence of constraint in action;being released from something onerous;ease;boldness of conception or execution;unrestricted
To have freedom in your yoga practice means that you feel unconstrained,at ease & unrestricted. This allows you to be your boldest, brightest and best self on the mat and in the world. Below are tips on how to do this.
Learn Proper Alignment Then Play With Its Boundaries- When the body is in good alignment, it is safe for you to express your poses fully. When the bones are stacked & you are using the leverage and support of firmly engaged muscles, poses become available to you with very little effort. The basics of alignment apply to all poses. When you know them, you can look at a pose in any book, magazine or yoga class and be able to figure out how to execute it. This gives you more options on the mat.
Muscle Engagement-Not engaging the muscles is like trying to make a wet noodle stand up. When there is no support in the poses your body looses its ability be stable. Without stability, many poses are not accessible and injuries frequently occur.
Practice 4-6 Days per week-"Doing something 3 days a week = maintenance, 5-6 days a week = transformation." Antonella. Think of your muscles like your favorite pair of jeans. The more you wear (use)them the softer & more pliable they get. When you throw them in the washing machine, they tighten up and you have to start the process all over again. The washing machine is equivalent to inconsistent and infrequent practice. The muscles tighten back up. When the muscles are tight, your movements are constricted which takes away from your freedom
Be in Good Health
- Eat healthy
- Stay Hydrated
- Keep Stress Low
When the body feels good & is in good health, it works more efficiently and you have more energy for your practice.
Body Weight-the lighter the body, the easier it is on your joints & the easier it is to get in an out of your yoga poses. When the body is at a good weight, binds, floating, jump throughs, jump backs, and arm balances become more accessible. I have seen students practices transform by losing as little as 5 pounds. They can immediately do the deep binds in Ashtanga, their chest comes closer to their thighs in forward folds & their sun salutes have more of a floating quality. They have the freedom to move.
Deep Breathing-Your breath supports your practice and the poses in many ways
- Increased Stamina-many studies done on this
- Calm Mind-you don't battle your thoughts so you can be free to.....
- Focus- on your practice
- Supports movement in and out of poses-Many arm balances, floats, forward folds and twists are made accessible through proper breathing. Inhalation and exhalation have energetic and physical effects on the body. For example, if you exhale before forward folding, your belly pulls up and in created an inch or so or more space for you fold.
Bandhas-engaging the muscles below the bellow button through the pelvic floor creates stability & strength in poses allowing you to move freely.
Consistency in Style-You don't necessarily have to practice only one style, but try not to chose too many and to consistently practice the styles you choose several times a week. Even though Ballet and Hip Hop are both styles of dance and there are transferable skills in both, they are so drastically different that in order to master them you have to practice each one with devotion. The same goes with many yoga styles. For instance, Power Yoga, & Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga both use similar poses, however they are drastically different in execution and many poses that are in one are not covered in the other. They are different enough that in order to feel freedom in both methods, they both would have to be practiced consistently. It is the only way for the body and mind to get used to the practice so that soreness and difficulty go away.
Consistency in Poses-I have students ask me how to do complex poses all the time and I always ask them, "how often do you practice them?" One of the negatives of Vinyasa's every changing sequences is that there is no consistency in poses. A teacher may work on handstand today and may not include it in the class for another 3 months which makes it incredibly hard to perfect it and find freedom in it. If there is a pose that you really wish to master and feel open in, I recommend practicing it every time you get on your mat. Many teachers are okay with you adding it somewhere in their sequence or you can stay after class and practice it. You can also adopt a home practice which insures that you work on everything you want.
Video of the Day: Here is a pose you would want to feel free in!