Life Lessons from Yoga

January 20, 2010

Yoga Living magazine’s Robert Butera provided these great lifestyle tips disguised as how to get more out of your yoga practice. He recently authored the book The Pure Heart of Yoga: Ten Essential Steps to Personal Transformation. Honestly, you can apply these tips to your life, too. You needn’t be a yogi to benefit. In fact, Robert says it’s better to focus on the inner transformation first, which, in turn, allows the external one to unfurl. You betcha. Robert is a fan of taking it slowly.

So give it a read, then tell me what you think.

Ten Steps to Transformation in a Yoga Pose Practice

Step 1: Intention. Setting an intention to practice yoga immediately connects your mind and body to the practice in one seamless unit. From beginners to advanced students, practicing a yoga pose with a specific intention in mind brings power and focus to both the yoga and your intention.

Step 2: Attitude. Closely aligned with your intention for doing yoga, an awareness of your attitude helps you connect with the nonphysical essence of yoga pose practice. Maintaining a positive attitude while you practice will improve your yoga pose experience — and your daily life.

Step 3: Posture. Attention to the correct physical alignment of yoga poses improves the nervous system; the musculoskeletal system; the digestive system; the circulatory, immune, respiratory, endocrine, and cardiovascular systems; mental function; and emotional health. I recommend attending a yoga class when possible to have an experienced yoga teacher further assist you with physical alignment.

Step 4: Breathing. Learning how to breathe very deeply is the one of the primary benefits of a yoga practice. Breath control increases oxygen in your blood, instantly reduces stress, brings clarity of thought, and stills the mind. You will find that doing different types of breathing exercises when you practice the poses will change your experience dramatically.

Step 5: Archetypes. Yoga poses are based on things observed in nature and in the human experience. By understanding the story of each yoga pose and where it comes from, you can develop a deeper perspective on yoga by discovering the qualities that are inherent in the pose – and how to apply or internalize these characteristics in your practice and in your life.

Step 6: Energy Centers. This step explores the mind-body connection of the chakra system (energy centers), and how different yoga poses stimulate energy flow to these chakras in different and powerful ways. This is a vital component in learning how to deepen your awareness of the relationship between your body and mind. You can use the poses to address specific health conditions or weaknesses in your body.

Step 7: Concentration. This step lets you explore the distractions in your physical environment and mental landscape that are keeping you from achieving a deep meditative state. The better you get at applying concentration techniques, the more profound your yoga experience will be.

Step 8: Energy Seals and Physical Locks. Step 8 delves into the power of symbolic energy seals (mudras) and physical locks (bandhas) on the body to deepen your awareness of the body’s energy. This step will help you understand subtle energy and how to consciously understand the flow of energy throughout your body – and is particularly useful for advanced students to combat “yoga burnout” or “yoga boredom,” as it helps them cultivate a beginner’s mind.

Step 9: Psychological Blocks. Yoga has the power to help you see aspects of yourself more readily than through thought or self-reflection alone. In this step you explore afflictions of the mind (klesas) and identify obstacles in your psychology that may be keeping you from moving ahead in your life and your yoga practice.

Step 10: Emotional Transformation. This step teaches you how to transform emotions to master the ego and merge with the infinite. Practice these concepts and you will learn new ways to manage your daily life.

Treat these steps as a gateway to experiencing the richness that yoga has to offer rather than as a strict, methodological program. It is a template that will grow with you over time as certain steps become more relevant at different times in your life than others. Be careful to not be in a rush to experience all the benefits that these 10 steps have to offer. Enjoy the process and honor your patience, and in doing so, you will notice shifts in your practice in the months and years to come.

* * * * *

Robert Butera PhD is author of The Pure Heart of Yoga: Ten Essential Steps to Personal Transformation (Llewellyn, $21.95), publisher of Yoga Living magazine, and director of The YogaLife Institute in Devon, Pennsylvania, where he trains yoga instructors as well as students. Visit http://www.pureheartofyoga.com for more information.

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