Hatha yoga has been used for centuries to promote relaxation, strength, flexibility, and overall health and well-being. Asana is a Sanskrit word that means “posture comfortably held.” Whether you are doing yoga at home or in a class, this should not be a competitioneither with others or yourself. What is important is your willingness to focus within and attend to what is happening from one moment to the next. That is a very different energy from furtively checking to see who can hold the pose the longest, wishing you were more limber, or forcing yourself to stretch beyond your limit.
The key is to do each posture slowly, paying attention to how you get into and out of the pose, how you hold it, how your body feels, and being aware of your breath. Aim for holding a pose in “effortless effort,” where you feel the stretch, bend, or twist but are not in actual pain, straining or shaking.
When doing yoga, your breath can be your greatest ally. The in-breath, puraka, is energizing; the out-breath, rechaka, is calming and balancing. With each inhalation, feel prana infuse your body with energy; with each exhalation, try to release a bit farther into the pose. Direct the breath into an area of tightness and see if that prompts your mind to relax and your muscles to let go.
Remember that yoga is all about what feels right to you. Tune into what works for you, your body and mind – at this moment in time.