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The 5 Basic Principles of a Proper Yoga Practice

Updated: May 1, 2021

Yoga is not a pose, it is a whole-body experience.

Any individual who has stepped foot in a yoga studio understands that the practice of yoga is more than just exercises and stretching. But with so much information about yoga as a spiritual discipline and way-of-life, it can get pretty confusing.

Before we dive into the 5 basic principles of a proper Yoga practice, let me give you a little Yoga history lesson.

Yoga is an ancient Indian body of information that goes back over 5000 years ago. "Yoga" came from the Sanskrit word "yuj" which translates "to unite or integrate." Yoga then is about the union of a person’s own consciousness and the universal consciousness.

Ancient Yogis had a conviction that with the end goal for humankind to be in harmony with themselves and the current circumstances, they need to incorporate the body, the mind, and the soul. For these three to be coordinated, feeling, activity, and knowledge should be in equilibrium. The Yogis planned an approach to accomplish and keep up this equilibrium and it is done through exercise, breathing, and meditation – the three principle Yoga structures.

In Yoga, the body is treated with care and regard for it is the essential instrument in our work and development. Yoga Exercises improve flow, animate the stomach organs, and put focus on the glandular system of the body, which can generally result in better wellbeing.

According to Swami Sivananda, there are 5 basic principles of a proper Yoga practice.

They are:

1. Proper breathing (Pranayama)

2. Proper exercise (Asanas)

3. Proper diet

4. Proper relaxation

5. Self-inquiry or self-study (meditation)

Let's break each of these principles down.


1. Proper Breathing (Pranayama)

This implies breathing completely, fully and rhythmically, utilizing all the parts of your Lungs to build your oxygen consumption. Proper Breathing should be deep, slow and rhythmical. To accomplish this, you need to be able to regulate the length and span of your inward breath, exhalation, and the retention of air in your lungs or the pauses between breaths. Yoga Breathing Exercises or Pranayama teaches you how you can recharge your body and control your psychological state by managing the progression of Prana – the life force. This helps you accomplish a more quiet and more engaged mind, and builds your energy level.

Exercises like Nadi Shodhana (alternate nostril breathing) and Kapalabhati (breath of fire) stimulate the nervous system, detoxifies the cardiorespiratory system (through the elimination of gaseous waste), and conditions us to maintain a calm and steady breath during times of physical or emotional stress.

When the breath is calm, the mind is calm.

2. Proper exercise (Asanas)

This principle revolves around the thought that our physical body is intended to move and exercise.

Proper Exercise is accomplished through the Yoga Postures or Asana which works every part of the body – stretches and tones the muscles and ligaments, enhances the flexibility of the spine and the joints, and improves blood circulation. The asanas are intended to manage the physical and physiological elements of the body. Practicing these Yoga Poses makes your body relaxed, gives you more strength and energy, and restores the different frameworks of the body. The Yoga Posture goes along with Proper Breathing. Every movement and stretch should be guided by your breath, making your movement and your breath coordinated and feel like one and the same. The execution of the Asana is valuable to the body and simultaneously contributes to profound spiritual and mental development.

Practice your yoga postures every day!

3. Proper diet

What you eat extremely affects your mind. Improper diet can result in mental inefficiency and blocks spiritual awareness. Proper Diet is one that nourishes both the mind and the body. It should be well balanced and based on natural foods. Proper Diet in Yoga also means eating in moderation and eating only when you are hungry. Food should sustain our bodies. It should keep the body light and supple, the mind calm, and it should also help in keeping a strong immune system.

The most fundamental ingredient behind this principle is simply choosing foods that are Sattvic.

What are Sattvic foods? They are bland (not overly spicy or fattening), whole (not processed or pre-packaged), fresh (think garden), and plant-based.

What you eat extremely affects your mind.

4. Proper relaxation

Proper relaxation alludes to both proficient and satisfactory rest and unwinding between asanas as Savasana.

The capacity to loosen up the body in a supine position while keeping awareness resets the inner harmony (homeostasis). At the point when Savasana is worked on during asana class and the body can unwind, it can repair and fix itself all the more successfully.

By releasing the pressure and tension in the muscles and putting the entire body at rest, you rejuvenate your Nervous System and achieve inner peace, making you feel relaxed and refreshed. This relaxed feeling is extended into every one of your exercises and activities throughout your day and causes you to save your energy and let go of worries and fear.

Proper relaxation is a staple, not a luxury.

5. Self-inquiry or self-study (meditation)

The manner in which we think profoundly influences our lifestyle. Work on keeping an inspirational standpoint throughout everyday life, this will encourage in having a quiet mind. Positive thinking and Meditation help you to eliminate negative thoughts and puts your mind under amazing control.

Swami Sivananda urged his students to ask constant questions, to keep looking for answers to better understand ourselves and our general surroundings. Learning this essential truth brings us empathy towards all creatures, mindfulness about our current circumstance, and a kept yearning for harmony and comprehension.

By asking questions, we seek to find the truth.


Last year, although my yoga practice flourished, I turned more towards pranayama & self-inquiry (meditation).

I turned inward and chatted with my soul. Spoke to my mind, and really allowed my body to show me what she wanted and needed.

Yoga is more than just a pose - it encompasses the whole being.

So while my practice has become more meditation and "basic" poses, I am more of a Yogi today than I was 2 years ago.

So I leave you with this question:

Which of the 5 basic principles are you working on?

Yoga is YOUR practice, YOUR time, YOUR journey. Let it be what YOU need it to be. Step on your mat and Let it all Go.




*Disclaimer: This Disclaimer forms a binding agreement between you and Chantal Croucher also known as Yogatation, a Sole Proprietorship operating out of Ontario, Canada. In continuing to watch this video and practicing yoga with me, you release me from any liability related to any injuries or issues which may arise from the risks of practicing yoga through this video. YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR OWN ACTIONS IN PARTICIPATING IN THIS YOGA CLASS. These videos are posted for educational and informational purposes only and not tailored to you specifically in any way. Please ensure you are practicing in a safe space and consult a medical professional before your practice. Lastly, please note that the techniques and approaches to yoga contained in these videos are simply my teachings and I make no representations about their efficacy nor do I promise any results.

Namaste and enjoy the practice.

***Information and References: The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga

-Swami Vishnu-devananda


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