When it comes to making the most of our yoga classes, one key thing is frequently overlooked.
There are many ways in which you can extend the benefits you receive from a yoga class, and ideas on that is just a Google search away.
But in my mind, the most overlooked way to get more out of a yoga class is to pay close attention to what you are doing with your body between classes.
If you’re taking a class once, twice, or even three times a week to help you do away with pain or discomfort (or even for a positive reason, to improve your posture, to become more fit, or to derive mental or emotional benefits), the class will no doubt provide that.
But it’ll be difficult to build on the benefits of one class to the next if afterward you are hunched over a computer keyboard all day, or the ultra-plush couch in your living room sucks you in for a few hours of daily TV.
If the class lengthens and strengthens your muscles and improves your posture (and hence, breathing), then anything you do that negates these benefits afterward will reset you back to where you were, right?
Short of hiring an expert to tell you how to set up your office or observe how you use your time at home, follow a few basic rules:
- Set up your work chairs to raise your hips higher than your knees (your lumbar spine won’t collapse, your breath will be freer, and your energy will be higher).
- Opt for standing when possible, or alternate between standing and sitting.
- Check in with your breath a few times a day: is it naturally expansive, or is it shallow? If the latter, how are you sitting or standing that’s preventing it from feeling naturally expansive?
Take a look at a couple of illustrations:
1. While not terribly bad, this is an example of a rounded back that makes the breath shallow, shortens the hamstrings, and, over time, saps us of our vitality. You could make yourself sit up straight, but then you’d actually be working, tightening your muscles to prop yourself up.
Try this instead:
2. You could rearrange your seat so your feet are on the floor and your sitting bones are supported and your back is naturally straight.
3. You could stand, if your working surface is at a good height and your line of vision to your work is below eye level.
Why does this matter? Well, when you return to your yoga class, the stretching, the balancing and the strengthening poses will actually have a chance to build from one class to the next, as opposed to just resetting the compression that your muscles and vertebrae got exposed to between classes.
This will help to deliver what yoga promises: better body awareness for better body functioning.
Author: Ricardo das Neves
Images: Original illustrations by the author
Editor: Renée Picard