To assist with your practice of yoga — whether at home or in a class — we offer some general guidelines :
• Wait at least an hour after eating before you practice. If you’re really hungry, it’s okay to have a light snack (a half a cup of yogurt or an energy bar), but don’t overdo it. You won’t feel as comfortable or move as well with a full stomach.
• Drink enough water to ensure you are well hydrated, but as with eating, drinking too much will make you feel uncomfortable and have a negative effect on your yoga session.
• Wear loose, comfortable clothing made of fibers that breathe and allow you to bend and stretch with ease. You may want to dress in layers and remove outer garments (such as sweatshirts and socks) during the session and add back layers during relaxation when the body cools down.
• Many people like to use a mat when they do yoga. There are many types from
which to choose—“sticky” mats that keep your feet from slipping and fuller mats that provide more of a cushion. You can also use a towel if you are practicing on a carpeted surface. In poses where your legs are widely separated, take off your socks and use a sticky mat so that your feet don’t slip.
• Some yoga regimes require props such as bands, bolsters, blocks, and so on, but in general, you don’t need a lot of special equipment, particularly if you’re just getting started. Neckties, belts, and towels work as well as bands; a thick phonebook can take the place of a block; and a folded blanket can double as a bolster.
• As mentioned earlier, start your practice with a few warm-ups. It really helps to prepare your body and mind for the upcoming session.
• Some poses will instruct you to hold your hands in front of your chest at the heart center, palms together, in what is known as Namasté. Namasté is a Sanskrit greeting indicating reverence and honor and loosely translated means “I honor the divine in you” or “I greet the light in you.” This salutation brings forth feelings of respect, acceptance, and openness.
• As a general rule, inhale when your body expands (lifts up) and exhale when your body contracts (moves down, bends, or twists). When moving into a backbend, for example, inhale; conversely, when going into a forward bend, exhale. If you get confused, breathe in whatever pattern feels comfortable for you. Don’t hold your breath; the most important thing is to breathe. Don’t get stuck on whether you’re breathing “right” for a particular movement or pose. Unless directed otherwise, breathing is done through the nose.