As students head back to school (already!) it reminds me of the importance of being a lifelong student of yoga. Adhikara is broken down to mean adhi “oneself” kara “to make”; in other words, it is the process of making oneself ready for practice.

How do we make ourselves ready? First, we make time for our practice by scheduling a class or by getting on our own mat at home on a regular basis. Next, we keep an open mind and heart so that we can take in new information and apply it in our own bodies. Then we show up consistently and with awareness.

Another definition states that we make a wholehearted dedicated effort to being a student of yoga. It implies that we are open for deeper spiritual study and respect for what is being studied. We find a teacher to study with along the way.

There are three levels of studentship. I compare them to the levels of heat in hot sauce. They are mild- for those students that are dabbling in yoga once in a while as mainly a physical practice. Then there is medium which is for students that have grown their interest and show up regularly for practice and then there is on fire hot. These students get on their mat most days (or daily) and take time for studying the deeper meaning of the practice via yogic texts and often are so passionate about yoga they end up teaching others.

As a student of yoga myself I have gone through all of the levels; sometimes stepping back to medium at busier times in my life and then back to hot, etc. I consider being a student of yoga as a lifelong journey. The more I learn and know the more there is to learn and know!

There are so many benefits to being a student of yoga. You build strength and flexibility in balance. You release toxins and emotions through the practice to clear your body and mind. There are moments in the practice that you gain clarity of being connected to something deeper- your spiritual essence. Your breathing expands and your ability to breathe more fully and deeply increases. Yoga helps you to age more gracefully. It calms your central nervous system so anxieties and fears lessen. You are connected to a community of wellness-oriented people. The list goes on and on.

What level of student are you? How can you grow your own practice? A couple of suggestions are: 1- upon arising in the morning or before retiring for the evening take 5-10 minutes to sit upright (in a chair or on a cushion cross-legged) and practice ujaii breathing by inhaling to the count of 4 pausing then exhaling to a count of 4 and pausing- center yourself for your day and at night release anything before going to bed. 2- Add simple movements- sun breath or sun salutations in the morning and lying on your back for gentle hip openers/twists in the evening. Your body/mind and heart will thank you for it!

Lastly, I am offering a 3-week Intro to Yoga for newer students or for those who want to delve into alignment and recharge your practice on Saturdays September 11, 18 & 25 from 12-1 p.m. in-center. For details click on register for classes then click workshops.

Janie Gunn