4 Rules Of The Mat For Self-Development
In our Yoga mat practice, it’s important to remember we’re not pushing for perfection, but excellence. Aristotle said “Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." Considering the way that yoga can target the tightest and weakest places in our bodies, each position can feel like a trophy the Yogi has earned through fearless self-development.
Here are my 4 Rules of the Mat for Self-Development:
REGULARITY OVER INTENSITY: Many people try to push really hard twice a week in an intense yoga class. I’ve seen that practicing at least 20 minutes per day in between those classes gets significant results. The body needs regularity to condition muscles into a new level of strength and flexibility. When you are more regular, you can also be more intense, but don't ever push so hard that you are too sore to practice the next day! Resting when you need it also gives your body a chance to regenerate.
MASTER THE BASICS: In every asana there is an assigned use of pranayama (breath control), bhandas (core engagements), and dristi (eye gaze). If you can master the application of these three techniques in every basic posture, then you will find yourself in more advanced postures much more quickly. Connect the depth and velocity of the breath needed for each asana to employ the appropriate bhanda, and you will find yourself floating where you used to sink.
THE 80% RULE: When you feel yourself going into 100% of your flexibility; back off 20% and engage the stretching muscle. This helps to build stronger tendons, which supports the integrity of the joints. Strength on extension is the name of the game. You want your muscles to be strong and long. This process of training neuro-muscular isometric contractions at different degrees of extension is what builds strong Yogis, and creates a practice of longevity. This can be done much easier at 80% of the extension than 100%.
PAY ATTENTION: This is a time and place to practice being gentle and supportive of yourself, so that you can eventually reflect this disposition to others. Yoga forces us to see ourselves without rose colored glasses, and that's when you want to remember that the most advanced Yoga is to be more humble, patient, and friendly.
Above all remember to smile and treat yourself with grace when you notice parts of your physical and emotional self that can improve.