11 Self-care tips for Ashtanghis

A disciplined Ashtanga yoga practice is considered by many practitioners to be the ultimate in self-care.
The benefits of a maintaining a daily yoga regime are well-documented and include more energy, relaxed nervous system, improved sleep, increased strength and flexibility, grounded energies, more positive outlook on life, decreased stress, better circulation, lower risk of heart disease and diabetes (plus many other pathologies), to name just a few.
The cultivation of such a lifestyle also takes an enormous amount of dedication. It is a lifelong process and is more than just coming to your mat on a daily basis. It requires being mindful of how you think, speak, eat, move and act in all areas of your life.
1. Regular Practice: Work up to practicing five to six days a week. Even 15 minutes counts as one practice session and is much better than a “feast or famine” approach to practice. Try to practice at the same time each day even if you vary the duration.
2. Observe Rest Days: Full and New moon days, Ladie’s Holiday (the first three days of menstruation) and one day completely off per week are standard yogi rest days. Never practice if you have a fever. Some Ashtangis do not practice on the same days they travel. Ashtanga is a demanding practice and rest days are necessary for recovery.

3. Hydration: It is vitally important to be well hydrated for yoga. This usually begins the day before your practice. Avoid alcohol, salty and processed foods. A cup of plain hot water is the best pre-yoga beverage, especially in the winter and if you tend to be cold.

A cup of hot water will also act similar to coffee in stimulating digestion. Coconut water or plain room temperature water is the best post-yoga beverage. Try to avoid drinking during your practice as it is too cooling and your energy goes into processing the water. If you must drink something take small sips to counter a dry mouth and avoid cold water.
4. Sleep: For full recovery and preparation for practice you need to sleep well. A steady practice will improve sleep. Avoid caffeine after 2:00 p.m. Refrain from computers and watching television one hour before bed. If you are prone to sleeplessness try and keep a regular sleep schedule, it helps to stabilize your circadian rhythms.
5. Yoga Super Foods: Cooked foods are best for a solid yoga practice since they are easier to digest. Soups, dahl, oatmeal, cooked vegetables, rice, almond butter and a Sattvic diet support a yoga practice. Do not eat a low fat diet it will harm your practice! Include avocados, coconut oil, olive oil, sesame oil and ghee to lubricate the joints and avoid constipation.
Avoid eating a heavy meal late at night, especially if you practice in the morning. The largest meal of the day should be a late breakfast or lunch. If possible, do not eat anything a few hours before practice. It is ideal to practice early in the morning before the first meal. My teacher, Shri K. Pattabhi Jois, told me not to eat for an hour after practice. If you must, eat something lighter to stop from getting low blood sugar and then eat a larger meal later.
6. Practice Cleanliness (Soucha): Your practice space should be clear of dust, clutter, and the floor should be cleaned regularly. A cotton mat can be washed once a week or more if you have a sweaty practice. Yoga clothes need to be washed promptly to avoid souring. The best detergent for yoga clothes or a cotton mat is vinegar and baking soda.
7. Oil Bath: Traditionally in India, Ashtangis would take an oil bath on the rest day. This does not mean soaking in a tub of oil, but rather using some clean sesame or castor oil to rub into the skin. It helps with recovery, calms the nervous system, promotes better circulation, improves the complexion, helps to relieve soreness and stiffness and is said by yogis to increase flexibility.
8. Soreness: If you are sore the day after your yoga practice, check in. Did you push too far? Or are you just waking up your intrinsic or dormant muscles? Take an Epsom salt bath, a short walk or eat a banana for potassium. And see tip number one.
9. Be Gentle with Yourself: Remember in taking a yoga practice, you are increasing your sensitivity and intuition. You are raising your vibration! You may not need the same amount of entertainment or stimulation as you did in the past. Take time to be in nature, walk barefoot when possible to stay grounded, take some time to be, give yourself permission to stop doing all the time, breath in fresh air, meditate, perhaps keep a journal and do whatever you can to allow the changes your practice is creating on a cellular level.
10. Show Up: The hardest part of a yoga practice is arriving on your mat regularly. Identify obstacles that are keeping you off your mat and figure out how to best alleviate them. Give yourself permission to enjoy your practice, it is not a penance. If you practice at home, light a candle or occasionally play soft music or sitar to encourage focus. If you find yourself “checking out” during your practice, notice that without judgment and “check in” with yourself or a qualified teacher. If possible, mix classes with a home practice.
11. Annual Yoga Retreat: Recharge your practice and engage in Sanga (yoga community). Spend a few days nurturing your practice. Eat, sleep, read and breathe yoga in an immersive space dedicated to yoga practice. Unplug from your responsibilities and the world (pratyahara).

Original article: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2014/11/11-self-care-tips-for-ashtanga-yogis/

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About ctyoga

Christiane has been practicing yoga for over 10 years. Her yogic journey began in 2000 as a student of Swami Nirmal (now at the Satyananda Centre in London) at the Fitness First gym in Kensal Rise, London. She experienced various teachers in different Fitness Firsts in Central London and around Clapham Junction before changing gyms and meeting Alexa Kho at LA FItness in Piccadilly Circus, London. Christiane attended Alexa's Anusara classes as well as her workshops. In January 2011 she enrolls in a 200hr Vinyasa Flow Teacher Training course with Rebecca Ffrench at YogaLondon. Vinyasa Flow is a modern form of yoga that comes from Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga and follows Sri K Pattabhi Jois. She quickly become passionate of this discipline and wants to deepen her knowledge; this brings her to meet and attend many workshops with Stewart Gilchrist, Shiva Rea, John Scott, Danny Paradise...all very famous teachers around the world. Being in the presence of such teachers is a significant experience for Christiane, in terms of her yogic journey, personal transformation and growth as well as understanding of yoga. After 11years in London, she moves to Milan to deepen and continue her journey. In Milan she teaches privately (1:1 and group classes) as well as in various yoga and dance centers. Milan is where her love for Ashtanga Vinyasa deepens and grows, bringing her to attend workshops with Lino Miele, Sharath Jois and most recently Kino MacGregor...all original students of Guruji, Sri K Pattabhi Jois. All of this culminates with a long awaited and long overdue trip to India, the birthplace of Yoga. Here Christiane deepens her practice and knowledge of Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga by doing a 200hr Ashtanga Vinyasa TTC with Yogi Kamal Singh at Tattvaa Yogashala in Rishikesh India. After the monthlong course, her travels take her around India practicing with various other world renown teachers, namely with Sri V. Sheshadri in Mysore and with Rolf and Marci Naujokat in Goa. In 2013 Christiane decides to embark on yet another yoga adventure, this time in Aerial Yoga! The course was divided into two weekends: level I in April and level II in June, after which she becomes a qualified Aerial Yoga teacher. Teacher and student of yoga, writer, adventurous soul, creative mind, curious world traveler & lover of the outdoors. Current HQ: Milan, Italy.
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