*All of the following suggestions are take directly from Light on Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, opinions or suggested course of action from any of the owners, employees or affiliates of Neighborhood Acupuncture and Healing Arts, LLC.
Light on Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar (p.57-60)
Hints and Cautions for the Practice of Asanas (Postures)
1. Without fire foundations a house cannot stand. Without the practice of the principles of yama and niyama, which lay down the firm foundations for building character, there cannot be an integrated personality. Practice of asanas without the backing of yama and niyama is mere acrobatics.
2. The qualities demanded from an aspirant are discipline, faith, tenacity and perseverance to practice regularly without interruptions.
Cleanliness and Food
3. Before starting to practice asana, the bladder should be empties and the bowels evacuated. Topsy-turvy poses help bowels movements. If the student is constipated or it is not possible to evacuate the bowels before the practice of asanas, start with Sirsanana and Sarvangasana and their variations. Attempt other asana only after evacuation. Never practice advanced asana without having first evacuated the bowels.
4. Asanas come easier after taking a bath. After doing them, the body feels sticky due to perspiration and it is desirable to bathe some fifteen minutes later. Taking a bath or a shower both before and after practicing asanas refreshes the body and mind.
5. Asanas should preferable be done on an empty stomach. If this is difficult, a cup of tea or coffee, cocoa or milk may be taken before doing them. They may be practiced without discomfort one hour after ea very light meal. Allow at least four hours to elapse after a heavy meal before starting the practice. Food may be taken half an hour after completing the asanas.
6. The best time to practice is either early in the morning or late in the evening. In the morning asanas so not come easily as the body is stiff. The mind, however, is still fresh but its alertness and determination diminish as time goes by. The stiffness of the body is conquered by regular practice and one is able to do the asanas well. In the evening the body moves more freely than in the mornings, and the asanas come better and with greater ease. Practice in the morning makes one work better in one’s vocation. In the evening it removes the fatigue of the days strain and makes on fresh and calm. Difficult asanas should therefore, be done in the morning when one has more determination and simulative asana should be practiced in the evenings.
7. Do not practice asanas after bring out tin the hot sun for several hours.
8. They should be done in a clean airy place, free from insects and noise.
9. Do not do them on the bare floor or an uneven place, but on a folded blanket laid on a level floor.
10. No undue strain should be felt in the facial muscles, ears and eyes or in breathing during the practice.
Closing the Eyes
11. In the beginning, keep the eyes open. Then you will know what you are doing and where you go wrong. If you shut your eyes you will not be in a position to watch the requisite movements of the body or even the direction in which you are doing the pose. You can keep your eyes closed only when you are perfect in a particular asana for only then will you be able to adjust the bodily movements and feel the correct stretches.
12. If you are doing the asanas in front of a mirror, keep it perpendicular to the floor and let it come down to ground level, for otherwise the poses will look slanting due to the angle of the mirror. You will not be able to observe the movements or placing of the head and shoulders in the topsy-turvy poses unless the mirror reaches down to the floor.
13. During the practice of asanas, it is the body alone which should be active while the brain should remain passive, watchful and alert. If they are done with the brain, then you will not be able to see your own mistakes.
14. In all the asanas, the breathing should be done through the nostrils only and not through the mouth.
15. Do not restrain the breath while in the process of the asana or while staying in it. Follow the instructions regarding breathing given in the technique sections of the various asanas as described hereafter.
16. After completing the practice of asanas always lie down in Savasana for at least 10 to 15 minutes, as this will remove fatigue.
Asanas and Pranayama
17. Read carefully the hints and cautions for the practice of pranayama before attempting it. Pranayama may be done either very early in the morning before the asanas or in the evening after completing them. If early in the morning, pranayama may be done first for 15 to 30 minutes: then a few minutes of Savasana, and after allowing some time to elapse, during which one may be engaged in normal activities, practice asanas. If, however, these are done in the evening, allow at least half an hour to elapse before sitting for pranayama.
Special provisions for persons suffering from dizziness or blood pressure
18. Do not start with Sirsasana and Sarvangasana if you suffer from dizziness or high blood pressure. First practice Paschimottanasana Uttanasana and Adohomukha Svanasana before attempting topsy-turvy poses like Sirsasana and Sarvangasana and after doing these poses repeat Paschimottanasana, Adohomukha Svanasana and Uttanasana in that order.
19. All forward bending poses are beneficial for persons suffering from either high or low blood pressure.
Special warning for persons affected by pus in the ears or displaced retina
20. Those suffering from pus in the ears or displacement of the retina should not attempt topsy-turvy poses.
Special Provisions for women
21. Menstruation: Avoid asanas during the menstrual period. But if the flow is in excess of normal, Upavistha Konasana, Baddha Konasana, Virasana, Janu Sirsasana, Paschimottanasana and Uttanasana may be performed with beneficial effect. On no account stand on your head during the menstrual period.
22. All the asanas can be practiced during the first three months of pregnancy. All the standing poses and the forward bending asanas may be done with mild movements, for at this time the spine should be strong and elastic and no pressure should be felt on the abdomen. Baddha Konasana may be practiced throughout pregnancy at any time of the day (even after meals, but not forward bending immediately after meals) as these two asanas will strengthen the pelvic muscles and the small of the back and also reduce labor pains considerable. Pranayama without retention (kumbhaka) may be practiced throughout pregnancy, as regular deep breathing will help considerably during labor.
23. No asanas should be done during the first month after delivery. Thereafter they may be practiced mildly. Three months after deliver all asanas may be practiced with comfort.
Effects of asanas
24. Faulty practice causes discomfort and uneasiness within a few days. This is sufficient to show that one is going wrong. If you cannot find the fault for yourself, it is better to approach a person who has practiced well and get his guidance.
25. The right method of doing asanas bring lightness and exhilarating feeling in the body as well as in the mind and a feeling on oneness of body, mind and soul.
26. Continuous practice will change the outlook of the practitioner. He will discipline himself in food, sex, cleanliness and character and will become a new man.
27. When one has mastered an asana, it comes with effortless ease and causes no discomfort. The bodily movements become graceful. While performing asanas, the student’s body assumes numerous forms of life found in creation – from the lowliest insect to the most perfect sage – and he learns that in all these there breathes the same Universal Spirit.