I'm taking yoga classes at a studio once a week. How often and long should I do my yoga practice at home?
This question also helps us decide to develop new or change old habits. We become what we do. If you're used to waking up at the last minute and rushing out the door, that can become the unconscious routine that sets the pace for the rest of the day. If you change that habit to get up earlier and practice yoga, your day will begin calmer and your body will feel better all day.
Of course you might need to change your bedtime habits, but we're talking lifestyle here. How much do you want to become more flexible, calm down and relax or discover deeper meaning in your life? You don't get those things from just reading. Something in your life has to change, and yoga is a great path to follow to get there.
So for beginners I suggest starting with at least 15 minutes a day, five to six days a week. If that's difficult, then every other day, instead of three on and three off. Eventually build up to 30, 60 or 90 minutes.
Take time to practice just your three-part breathing for up to five minutes, and then move into the six movements of the spine. Then review anything you can remember from your classes. Listen to your body and stretch and move from the inside out. For more experienced students, you might want to pick two or three poses and just practice those for the entire week, watching how things change and you change from the beginning of the week to the end.
I also encourage videos and tapes to practice along with. Ask your teacher for a recommendation or if handouts are available.
Also remember that yoga can be practiced at your desk or on a break or by just relaxing into a tense situation by slowing down your breath and breathing deeper. Soon your practice will become new habits, and a new consciousness will guide your life on a regular basis.
DIANE UTASKI Answers Yoga questions in her column; send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org