‘Arriving’ here refers to bringing not just the physical body to the mat but also the mind. To consciously make an effort to temporarily empty the mind and lose all the baggage relating to work, family and other matters. Whether this baggage contains excitement, stress, worries, regrets or just ordinary thoughts – for instance, a mental note to buy tickets for a concert later that day, is immaterial. It is ok if the mind refuses to listen initially. With practice mind can be trained gradually. The second part of arriving is to divert the attention of the mind to the breath, body and its movements. Ideally setting aside at least 5 minutes to sit comfortably and contemplate on arriving before proceeding to warming up can be very helpful.
The importance of adequately warming up the body prior to any kind of physical exertion cannot be over emphasized. Yoga is no exception. There are two types of warm up –passive and active warm up. Passive warm up is achieved through external aids such as a heated room as prevalent in ‘Bikram Yoga’ or ‘hot yoga’ styles and active warm up is self-initiated as found in traditional yoga styles. Both types of warming up improve flexibility. Active warm up also increases the heart rate and prepares the cardio vascular system for the upcoming physical activity. It gradually increases the blood flow, metabolic rate and awareness of the nerve impulses thereby improving the subtle awareness of body movements. In natural environment we are aware of our limits as we constantly pick up the resistance feedback from our body. In a heated environment, where flexibility is aided by the external environment, it may not always be possible to pick up on these feedback, which can potentially lead to over-extension.
Yin yoga on the other hand targets the joints and deeper connective tissues. Yin yoga teachers recommend that muscles stay relaxed as activated muscles may tend to absorb most of the stress of the pose. Nevertheless yin yoga practice should begin with gentler poses before easing into advanced poses.
Regardless of the type of warm up you choose or the environment in which you practice yoga, it is crucial to be constantly aware of the feedback from your body. Over time this practice improves your ability to listen to your body more closely even when not on the mat.