Practice Notes

What to Wear

Clothing should be flexible, non-binding and appropriate to season and temperature. Shorts and a tee-shirt, leggings and an exercise top work well. Do not wear socks, tops with tight or turtle necks and avoid baggy clothing that lumps up when practicing.

Where to Practice

Practice in a clean, level, warm, well-ventilated and private space. There should be room overhead for full extension of the arms in Surya Namaskara, or when practicing arm balances. Practicing in the direct sunlight is not advised. At the same time, finding the “perfect” spot for practice can sometimes become a way of avoiding the practice. When the will to practice is there, almost any place you can spread out a mat will work for practice. Concentration will build with time so that practicing under non-ideal circumstances will become possible.

When To Practice

Practice on an empty stomach. Wait three to four hours after a large meal, one to two hours after a light snack. Early morning before any food is taken is the best time of all. Practice when there are a minimum number of distractions and pressures for other responsibilities. In the formal Ashtanga Vinyasa tradition no asana (posture) practice is done on new and full moon days. Observing this restraint to practice can be helpful in not becoming too attached to practice and routine. It also provides time for the body to rest and recuperate.

How Long to Practice

A two to three hour practice time, once a day, on a daily basis is ideal for advanced students. This is, of course, not always possible. A half an hour, or an hour, daily is still enough time to benefit from the practice. Under extraordinary circumstances little two to five minute sessions spaced throughout the day are useful. Remember five minutes of practice is far better than none.

Equipment

A non-slip, level surface, such as a good hardwood floor, linoleum or a firm rug can provide the stability needed. Carpets and rugs vary greatly as to the traction they provide. When a surface becomes wet from perspiration, its properties change; wooden floors become slippery, and tightly woven cotton rugs, and blankets give better traction. A sticky-mat and cotton blanket are ideal.

Stiff people will find the use of a 9″ x 5″ x 2″ cork block helpful, during the standing and some seated postures (a book can substitute for a block). Straps, firm blankets, cushions and eyebags may also be helpful.

The Menstrual Cycle

Women should not do regular asana practice during menses flow. Vigorous practice can disrupt or stop the flow. In particular the inverted postures are to be avoided. However, practice of postures like Trikonasana, Baddha Konasana, Balasana and Upavistha Konasana can relive cramping and pain around the sacrum and hips. These postures also promote deeper breathing which is conducive to a meditative state of mind. Consult with a qualified teacher for more details on practice specific to the menstrual cycle.