Variety is the spice of yoga

Bags of spices at market
Image CC0 Pixabay

Here’s a tricky conundrum: to improve in yoga asana we need to practise, practise, practise. Particularly with ones that we find challenging (which will vary, depending on the person), we’re unlikely to be able to physically manage them on the first attempt. Some asana might be achieved after only a few more attempts, others can take years to achieve. But one thing is true, if we never practise them, we’ll never get better at them. That is why Sri Pattabhi Jois, creator of Ashtanga yoga, said “Practice, and all is coming” and “Yoga is 99% practice and 1% theory.”

But, if we only do the same things, again and again, there is a chance of the mind and the body becoming settled into the routine, knowing what to do. The mind can then switch off and the body can go into autopilot. This is less good because yoga involves the connection between the mind and the body, and paying attention to what the breath is doing and how the body is feeling, reacting, today, right now. But it’s also not so good if we’re repeatedly doing things that might not be so good for us physically – maybe through slightly faulty technique, poor biomechanics, or just from repetition. This applies to everything we do in life, not just yoga asana! Think of RSI or very one-sided sports like golf.

So, what can we do? Definitely don’t stop practising yoga asana! But, you may want to add in some variety (spice) into what you normally practise, especially if you have a home practice that you think needs spicing up a bit.

Bored of sun salutations? Try this variation which is suitable during pregnancy (and is suitable for anyone else of course!).

Or you could try variations of specific asana as outlined in this Yoga International article – the featured asana are the ones found within the traditional sun salutation.

Or you could try the salute to the moon.  There seem to be many variations of this, but the printed article I have from some years ago most closely matches this video – it’s a kneeling sequence. Elsewhere on the Internet the moon salutation is mainly depicted as a standing sequence e.g. this Ekhart yoga video or this text and image version.

Or try the Jivamukti Magic 10: 10 poses in roughly 10 minutes. There is a video or detailed text guidance or picture and text version.

Or you might want to follow a video, perhaps trying a different yoga style from your usual one. There’s plenty of free yoga video websites and subscription ones to choose from.

Adding some variety into your yoga asana practice will not only bring benefits to your physical body, but will help challenge the brain, something which is increasingly being recognised as helping to avoid the onset of dementia.

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