All yoga classes include an opening period of centering and focus. This beginning segment sets the tone for the rest of the practice.There are many possible openings. During the best openings, the flow of breath is established, the mind begins to quiet and the body begins to warm up for more challenging postures.
Setting the Tone
Whether you are a teacher or a student planning a home practice, it is critical to set the tone for your yoga practice. Choose a space that is quiet, with soft lighting and moderate temperature. Music can also help set the tone for a yoga practice. Shakta Kaur Khalsa, author of "Kundalini Yoga," suggests adding an altar to your yoga practice space. Items on the altar could include photos, statuary and a candle.
The best yoga class openings are performed when seated in Easy pose, a simple cross-legged position. However, if you have physical difficulties that make sitting on the floor difficult, try sitting in a chair. Teacher B.K.S. Iyengar also suggests opening class while laying down. Ellen Vitale, founder of South Jersey Yoga, opens her classes in Mountain pose and includes some simple arm movements through a Half-Sun Salutation.
Breath awareness is a critical part of yoga. During the opening sequence, take time to connect with your breath. Erich Schiffmann, author of "The Spirit and Practice of Moving Into Stillness," suggests beginning by just being aware of your breath. After a minute or two of simply paying attention, Schiffmann recommends deepening the breath by practicing the yogic breath called Ujjayi breath or ocean breath. This breath is performed through the nostrils and includes long, smooth rounds of inhalations and exhalations.
Mantra and Chanting
Mantra or chanting is used to open a yoga practice. Mantra is a prayer or intention used to focus and steady the mind. It can be a single word, syllable or complete sentence. Chanting the syllable "Om," is a popular mantra to begin a yoga practice. In the Kundalini yoga tradition, the mantra "Ong namo guru dev namo," is repeated three times to tune in before yoga practice.
- Yoga Journal: How to Set the Right Tone with Music
- Yoga Journal: How (and Why) to Teach Chanting and Mantra
- Ellen Vitale, yoga teacher, founder of South Jersey Yoga
- The Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness; Erich Schiffmann
- Kundalini Yoga; Shakta Kaur Khalsa
- Light on Yoga; B.K.S. Iyengar
- Yoga Journal: Creating a Safe Space