Almost everyone strongly prefers to practice on an empty stomach. There are some exceptions. We recommend you practice at least two hours after a snack and four hours after a meal. Don't rush to eat right after practice, better to wait about half an hour first.
You will probably sweat. Maybe a lot. Make sure you are hydrated before practice. We recommend against consuming liquids during practice: it’s distracting, sloshes around, and robs you of your internal heat. After practice you definitely should re-hydrate. Take it slow so not to shock your digestive system too much; wait a few minutes first and drink slowly. Warm liquids are easier to assimilate. A more fun and less yogic alternative: wait for other students to finish and go grab coffee together.
Please make sure you have showered or bathed before you come to class. Wear clean clothes. Make sure your mat and other practice accessories are clean. Please don’t wear fragrances. There are showers available at ZaZen for use before or after practice. Longtime practitioners may notice that their practice sweat becomes sweet-smelling. Once this stage is reached, the tradition advises against showering or bathing right away after practice. Follow at your own discretion.
It’s customary and nice to greet the teacher as you arrive and depart. Nothing elaborate or verbal is necessary. A simple bow, nod, or wave will do.
Please maintain silence
Help yourself and your fellow practitioners to cultivate non-verbal awareness by not speaking unnecessarily. Don’t be too shy about talking to the teacher if you have a problem or question. Get the teacher’s attention discreetly, and then whisper or talk quietly. Sometimes it’s better to step outside of the practice floor.
Appreciate that practice works by going to deeper layers of the physical and mental selves, and that silence is usually most conducive to this. But appreciate we're also a community. We shouldn't be fearful of sound and words, and we should still show friendliness towards each other. No need to say hello to everyone every day, but do try to be human to each other!
Sometimes the practice touches on deep emotions. Usually painful ones, but sometimes happy ones. This is cleansing; this is healing. Let the feelings come. Observe them as they rise up and pass through. You may feel the need to talk to the instructor or to step outside of the practice room. Go ahead.
- Cultivate respect for yourself. Learn to listen to yourself. The most profound physical practice is learning to listen to the deepest layers of yourself. It starts with listening to your breath and growing your proprioceptive awareness of how your body moves between and holds itself in asana.
- Challenge yourself to become better. Show up as often as you can. Practice as hard as you can. At the same time, respect your limitations. Meet yourself where you are. Above all, don’t cause yourself harm. Don’t practice so hard that you won’t come next time!
- Ashtanga Yoga should let you live your life better. If you practice regularly, you will probably find yourself changing your habits. Sometimes abruptly, sometimes slowly. Don’t let your yoga practice get in the way of the truly important things in your life. Especially as you get more adept, the asana practice is a celebration of your physical being. Have fun with it! Don’t get worked up over your successes and failures. They’re both integral parts of the practice. Cultivate a sense of contentment, but practice non-attachment.
- Have respect for the teachers. You're practicing with these teachers because (hopefully!) you believe they know more of the practice than you do. Be open, and listen to the teachers verbal and physical instructions with charity. At the same time, respect their limitations. You know your body in a way the teacher does not and can not. You know your personal history. If things need clarifying or questioning, please do so respectfully. For you to honor, respect, and defer to a teacher is a way to practice going beyond the finitude of your ego and body mind. But one should also remem
- Respect your fellow practitioner and treasure your community. Respect each others’ space. Tolerate and learn to accept disturbances that arise in others but try not to produce unnecessary disturbances yourself. Some asanas entail encroaching on someone else’s space. Sometimes you’ll have to make room for people. Please cooperate.
How often should you practice?
Officially, we say you’re supposed to take practice every day and that you’re supposed to bring the internal dimensions of your yoga practice to every minute of your waking life.
If you practice three times a week, that’s a good baseline. You’ll gain regular benefit that you’ll notice and appreciate, and you’ll improve in your practice. If you practice four times a week, that’s roughly twice as effective. Make it five times a week and the benefit doubles again. You’ll find that it’s hard to practice on some days. You’ll be tired and sore some mornings. You’ll find that you have to adjust your lifestyle, your diet, your hours. That’s good! And if you adopt and maintain a true daily practice, which is practicing every day of the week minus one weekly rest day, typically Saturday, and one biweekly rest day for the moon, and lady’s holiday if applicable, you’re really on your way to mastering the game.
However, if you go beyond this point by not taking the prescribed rest or practicing twice a day, for example, while you may achieve some short-term physical goals, there is diminishing benefit and potential harm in the long run.
When should you not practice?
There is one rest day a week. Traditionally, it’s Saturday. And then it’s best to take the days of the new and full moon off as well, so it’s roughly three mandated rest days per fortnight. Lady’s holiday: Ladies, please take time off while you’re on your flow. Taking rest and taking care of yourself during this time IS the correct practice. As you become adept in the energetic dimensions of the practice, you’ll appreciate why. The shorthand explanation is that the internal dimension of asana practice is all about lifting up from within, and that’s precisely not what you and your body want to be doing while you’re on your flow. We generally advise ladies to take three days off but it varies person to person. Partners of ladies may sympathetically feel the energetic effects of the flow, and while practice isn’t contraindicated in those cases, you may want to tone it down and spend your energy supporting your partner.
You may practice, but please discuss things with the instructor first.
Practicing with compassion and intelligent sensitivity will help the injury heal or become integrated. Paying attention to the injury while still applying good effort will help you practice compassion and intelligent sensitivity.
Please discuss your situation with the instructor. At the very least, he'll have a better idea of how to adjust you. If you're conscious of your breathing, there’s always a way to practice. Sometimes it’s just sitting and breathing. Sometimes it’s just taking rest, consciously. Usually it’s a modification or two and a lot of extra emphasis on mindfulness and listening.
If you’re probably contagious, please be respectful to your community and don’t come to class. Practice at home! The practice is traditionally contraindicated if you have a strong fever because it generates internal heat. And some conditions call for strict rest. In those cases, you probably should just rest. Otherwise, we suggest doing what you reasonably can. Get on your mat, set your intention, and then start doing your practice. Oftentimes, once you do a few sun salutations, you will feel a bit better, and then can do more of your asana practice. It will help you, but don’t overdo it. If it doesn’t make you feel better or if you feel really bad to begin with, sometimes you just have to spend some time sitting and breathing consciously, and then take good rest.