Regular practice of yoga, helps in cultivating a strict discipline in food habits, cleanliness, sex and character, thus enabling one to become a better person.
The therapeutic use of yoga is widely known. In fact, today, yoga is considered a global phenomenon and an essential part of modern civilisation. However, yoga, when practiced in the wrong manner, and without professional guidance, can do more harm than good.
Equally important are the proper time, place and dress and the right diet. Yoga has to be practiced in a quiet, secluded place, where fresh air is easily available – like a verandah, terrace, garden, etc. Ideally, yoga should be practiced in the early hours of either morning or evening (on a relatively empty stomach).
However, it can be practiced either four hours after a heavy meal, or 20 minutes after a glass of juice or a cup of skimmed milk. On completion, one can have a meal after half-an-hour. Avoid tea, coffee, smoking, alcohol and spices.
The duration of practice should also be fixed according to one’s capacity. Most importantly, yoga should be practiced at a fixed time every day; in two sessions if one feels able. One may feel an initial stiffness of the limbs and muscles. This will ease with regular practice. During yoga, the attire has to be clean, light and loose fitting to allow free movement; preferably light cotton garments.
In cold climate, a shirt or thin sweater can also be used. To avoid discomfort, jewelry or accessories need to be taken off. One must always practice barefoot to ensure contact with the ground. Further, since the body has to be stretched in various directions, yogic practice has to be done on a clean mat, rug, carpet or a blanket. The seat should be firm and comfortable. Yoga should not be practised on any sofa surface.
During Yogasana, one should breath through the nostrils and not through the mouth, except in the case of Sheetali and Sheetakari Pranayama. While bathing is not directly related to yogasana, a shower before and after yogasana can refresh the body and mind.
Yoga should be commenced in a meditative posture, with a calm, tension-free mental state. Observe complete silence during the practice. One must not perform asanas during acute illnesses like fever, a severe asthmatic attack or extreme fatigue. Very weak patients in extreme exhaustion are warned against holding the breath (Kumbhaka) during pranayama.
Persons suffering from heart trouble, high or low blood pressure or any serious organic disease should avoid postures, which may prove dangerous. They should preferably practice yoga in the presence of a medical or yoga expert. If there is profuse sweating during practice, do not wipe it with a towel, but rub the body with the palms.
The sequence of yogic practices, i.e., Kriyas, Asanas, Pranayama, Chittashuddhi and Yoga Nidra should be maintained. Do not practice yoga merely by studying books, seeing television or others practising it. Beginners should first take lessons from a qualified and experienced Yoga expert. Pregnant women should avoid Yogasanas, Kapalbhati, Bhastrika and Suryabhedana during menstruation.
Asanas could be practiced during pregnancy upto the first 80-90 days. Pranayama can be continued without Kumbhak throughout pregnancy, as it helps considerably during labour. Take more raw food, salad and fruits. Drink at least 8-10 glasses of water everyday. Reduce consumption of salt, sweets, spices and chilies. Avoid tea, coffee, fried food, smoking, alcohol, chewing zarda, pan masala etc.
Avoid other physical exercises like gymnastics, weightlifting, jogging, tennis, swimming etc. after asanas and pranayama for at least 20 minutes after yoga.
Yoga is a way of life. It must be practised regularly and conscientiously, with thorough preparation, bearing all precautions in mind for true mental and physical relaxation. One has to also keep in mind that any results depend purely upon the individual, the nature of ailments and the regularity of yogic practice.