NOTES ON PRACTICING YOGA
THINGS TO CONSIDER
“Practice, practice, practice ... all is coming." ~ Sri K. Pattabhi Jois
Moon days can vary by a whole day amongst different Ashtānga Yoga studios. So, please check our home page, schedule page or Google Calendar for our AYOC moon rest days.
The gravitational effect of the moon is strongest when the moon is both new and full. That’s why the ocean’s tides are more extreme on these days. How it affects living systems such as plants and animals is perhaps more subtle than the effect on the ocean, but it is still real non-the-less. It is a long-standing tradition in Ashtānga Yoga to rest on these days. Following this lunar rhythm connects us with one nature’s most prominent cycles, and provides a welcome respite from daily practice. Attune yourself to nature by following the lunar rest day cycle.
For our moon days, we use an Indian astrology system that divides the lunar cycle into 30 time periods. In the West, a simply astronomical calculation of when the moon is full or new is used. In the Indian (Jyotish) system, the period of time prior to the point when the moon becomes exactly new/full is considered to be the ‘moon day’ (called a tithi in Jyotish Astrology). Our moon days come from the following online source: mypanchang.com and are calculated for Irvine, CA.
The term ‘moon day’ is a misleading translation of the Sanskrit term ‘tithi,’ ‘lunar phase’ is a better conception. Each tithi is the time period for the the moon to traverse 12° across the sky - making 30 tithis (lunar phases) per lunar month. These tithis begin at varying times of day and even vary in duration as much as 19 to 26 hours. What gets called full and new ‘moon days’ – from a yoga perspective, from Sharath Jois’ perspective – are the 15th and the 30th tithis of the Jyotish Astrology system. And just to keep us on our toes: In Jyotish, day begins at sunrise not midnight!
WATER: Why we don't drink during class / practice
Do not drink water during practice. Whenever anything is put into your stomach, your body sends resources there to process it (even just water). This hinders circulation and metabolism which in turn hinders the benefits and progress gained from your practice. Be sure to drink plenty of water more than 30 minutes or more prior to practice.
FOOD: When & What
Do not to eat for several hours before yoga. Just like with water during practice, food affects the body in the same manner but to a far greater degree. Digestion is a laborious process for the body. When our stomach is empty our metabolic and circulatory functions can purify the blood, organs and other tissues to a much greater extent. It is also important that after practice too, we wait - at 30 minutes - for the body’s autonomic functions to return to a more neutral state before eating.
Food should leave us with clear energy; food should not make us feel sluggish. We should not overeat. We should only fill our stomach half full with solid food, a quarter full with liquids and the remaining quarter left empty. We should not eat when we are not hungry. We should wait until the stomach is empty before eating. These guidelines help us to maximize our digestion & assimilation and increase our vitality.
Fresh, seasonal and unprocessed foods, foods that are easy to digest and balanced in flavors, not too spicy, salty, sweet nor sour - these are all good guidelines for a healthy diet conducive to our spiritual & yogic development. We will find that the more we follow these guidelines that our progress in and benefits gained from practice will improve significantly.
Early morning is the easiest time to follow these suggestions.
WHEN TO PRACTICE
How Often Should We Practice? Whenever able and willing, it is best to practice every day [i.e. 5 - 6 days per week with the exception of ladies holiday (see below)]. However, for various reasons, it may not always be possible to do a “full practice.” Try to avoid an “all or nothing” approach. Do some practice daily - even if it’s just sitting and breathing with bandhas and drishti for 10 minutes - still highly beneficial. If you do have to miss your regular practice, try not to miss more than 1-2 days in a row; try to practice for at least 2-3 days in a row before missing a day. A little practice every day is better than a lot of practice sporadically. Be as enthusiastic as possible. The steadier your practice, the more stable your mind-body-system will become, and you will develop the proper foundation for prāāyāma, meditation (dhyāna) and spiritual growth.
Menstruation is natural. It is a time when the female body needs more rest & nourishment to cleanse & regenerate the tissues of the uterus. Women should therefore rest from āsana practice the first three days of her cycle. Mūla Bandha, Ashtānga Yoga & any strenuous work should be avoided during menses as this will require too much contraction of the pelvic floor and lower abdominals and hence interferes with the natural downward flow necessary for cleansing. Some women also notice themselves to be more prone to injury during the three days prior to menstruation. So please be mindful and enjoy the rest days - they are for you!
Bathing brightens mental dullness, calms restlessness and hence brings more clarity to our practice. Washing our yoga clothes & yoga mat so they smell fresh is also uplifting. This is called External Cleanliness (Bāhya Śauca); it is an aspect of the eight limbs of Ashtānga Yoga. Internal Cleanliness (Antar Śauca); means keeping the mind clean. That is to say we don’t allow feelings of sensationalism (kāma), frustration (krodha), haste (māda), confusion (moha), greed (lobha) & envy (mātsarya) to cloud our sensibility.
PHILOSOPHY - SVĀDHYĀYA
Study of yoga philosophy helps us in every aspect of practice & in life. From study, we can better understand how to practice more correctly to improve our physical progress. From study, we can better understand what the higher aims of yoga are. If we have a purpose to yoga other than just the physical enjoyment of practice, then when we encounter the inevitable physical set-back, there is another dimension to the practice which supports us. This helps us overcome the natural feelings of loss that we sometimes experience. The ability to apply yoga philosophy during challenging times, to reframe our thinking and to remain conent & joyous is wisdom. If our well-being is attached to things which are not permanent, which are temporary, then we suffer emotionally, we lose our ambition in the face of the naturally occuring hardships. So yoga philosophy is very useful for improving the quality of both our practice & our life.
GOING TO MYSORE
For information on visiting Mysore and studying at the Shri K Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute, please visit kpjayi.org.