What To Do Before, During and After Yoga: For Beginner to Advanced Yogis

Little things make a big difference when it comes to making your yogic asana practice effective and enjoyable.  Below are several suggestions I follow to make the most out of my practice. Following them may lead you deeper into an experience of true yoga, where the harnessed powers of body, mind and soul are unified.  This union that we call "yoga" is greater than the sum of it's parts.  

Before yoga:

  • Care for your body with the Ayurvedic self-care practices of dry-skin brushing and self-massage with oil.
  • Take a shower to rinse away impurities from dry-skin brushing and self-massage with oil.  Limit use of soaps. 

  • Skip the lotion, as your skin will already be moisturized and conditioned by the oil.

  • Eat a light, nutrituous meal no less than 1.5 hours before practice; if that won't work, have a light, hydrating snack before you practice.

  • Hydrate by taking small sips of water throughout the day; before heated classes, drink fluids with electrolytes such as organic coconut water.

  • Avoid heavy caffeine or sugar intake before practice to aide your mental focus.

  • Go the bathroom, especially #2, to make space in the body for deeper detoxification.

  • For athletic practice (like power vinyasa or hot yoga) wear slim-fitting clothes that keep your body parts in place and won't get in your way as you move; for restorative or yin practice, wear loose, comfy clothes and warm layers or socks as needed.

  • Remove bulky jewelry so you can focus more on your body.

  • Fasten long hair so you can leave it be and go within.

  • Give yourself time to arrive to a class in a calm state.

  • Turn your phone to silent and let it go.

  • Bring props to your mat before you begin; I bring two blocks and a strap with me before any class, just in case.

  • Consider what heartfelt desire brings you to the mat on this day.  Let your heartfelt desire serve as an intention that informs your experience, and justifies your efforts.

During yoga:

  • In an active class, exert yourself to 50% of your total capacity; this saves your body the energy it takes to repair from a strenuous workout, and thus builds endurance, resilience and strength more quickly and sustainably.
  • When distractions arise in the mind, return attention to your breath or to your intention.

  • Follow your body's intelligence to do what is needed to keep you in a healthful state; avoid movements that promote acute sensation or pain; don't force your breath to follow any particular pattern.

  • Challenge your assumptions on what you can and cannot do.

  • Breathe during transitions and treat every movement as a meditation; minimize non-essential movements for to be energy-efficient and improve focus.

  • Close the eyes in postures where you feel secure to give the eyes a rest and focus inward.

  • Take small sips of water during practice as needed; don't chug.

  • As for incessant thoughts "leave your front door and your back door open. Allow your thoughts to come and go. Just don't serve them tea." - Shunryu Suzuki

    After yoga:

    • Move quietly and thoughtfully out of the practice, taking a moment to get grounded before leaving your mat.

    • Embrace silence as much as possible; avoid unnecessary noise or conversation to allow the benefits of your practice to be more deeply absorbed.

    • Hydrate; drink electrolytes if you sweat a lot in practice.

    • Avoid heavy caffeine or sugar intake to maximize the energetic balance that comes with practice..

    • Feed your body a light, nourishing meal; eat hydrating foods if you sweat a lot in practice.

    • Treat the rest of your day as a moving meditation.   

    • Breathe.

    In love and practice,

    Susana Wolds