8 Key Principles of Yoga for Mind-Body Health

To properly master Yoga and attain some or all of the benefits, you want to keep a few principles tucked safely under your sticky mat for safekeeping.

Three basic benefits of Yoga are awareness, breath control, and calm. These basic benefits are also among the basic principles:

  • Be aware

  • Breathe

  • Stay calm and concentrate

So keep these principles in mind as you move forward.

Principle #1: Breathe

Every mind-body method preaches the importance of breathwork in successful and energizing movement. In every mind-body method, and especially in Yoga, the motto is: Keep breathing, and breathe deeply and consciously.

Principle #2: Keep a good attitude

Look for an open and dedicated attitude that allows you to find an inner quiet as you explore different movements and what they make you feel inside and out. Check negative attitudes at the door. Yoga demands openness, and you may discover characteristics that don’t work well for you, or ones you thought did work but suddenly don’t sit right.

Principle #3: Ground yourself

Whether you are standing or sitting, on one foot or two, make sure that you’re firmly planted on the ground with all edges of your feet (or legs or buttocks) feeling the surface.

Try not to float on top of the earth as if someone just plopped you down there. Rather, feel as if you are a true part of the earth, as if you are a tree growing out of the ground.

Principle #4: Align yourself

Check out your body and put it in not only correct spinal alignment (not swaybacked or stooped shoulders, for example), but also in a position that feels good. In your Yoga positions, you should feel long, strong, powerful, and energized, not as if you’re hanging there all sloppy.

You should feel a powerful breath flowing through you and a strong center with good alignment and posture. If you can’t breathe comfortably, check your alignment.

Principle #5: Modify poses when necessary

Don’t be afraid to alter a posture so that it feels good. Listen to your body and place yourself in such a way that allows your energy to flow. You shouldn’t be grunting and straining and in pain. Yikes, is that ever contradictory to the principles and concepts of Yoga practice!

Principle #6: Accept the mind-body connection

After you get into the position or modification that feels right to you, accept it. Yoga is not a competition with a goal and a finish line. Like other mind-body methods, it is a process, not an end. Accept where you are right now as perfect. Tomorrow may be different. But that’ll be perfect, too. Until you can accept, you may have difficulty making those steps to a mind-body connection.

Principle #7: Release your tensions

Let go of clenched teeth, fisted hands, curled toes, hiked-up shoulders, and other tension in your body when you are in a pose. Relax into the posture and see whether that modification or position still works for you. If that gripping is what kept you there, perhaps another modification is in order.

Principle #8: Meditate

No, no, we haven’t come to the “ohmmmm” word. Yet. But in each posture, allow yourself to pause, breathe, and settle into the position. Turn your focus slightly inward and relax. Take a few moments to just be. Try some breathing and concentration to keep yourself in a meditative or contemplative mindset.

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