N is for Necessary & Sufficient

“Necessary & Sufficient” is a measurement term, a measure of meeting requirements and meeting them completely.  For example, vitamins are a necessary component of good nutrition, but they are not sufficient.  In yogic terms, the asanas of a standard sequence may be necessary for one person but not for another who has different needs.  And, they may be necessary for one person but not sufficient for that person who may need additional asanas for body health.

On this page we are going to cover design of a yoga practice -- a practice that is Necessary & Sufficient to meet an individual's needs.  At the bottom of the page there is an example of a yoga practice developed to meet the objective.

Asana practice is an individual thing, designed purposefully for a person’s body, circumstances, needs, and desires.  An individual has to learn, experiment, then develop a practice that works for them.  In the Buddha’s words, “be lamps unto yourselves.”

A personal yoga practice is developed in three steps:

I) self-assessment to determine body and mind capabilities, needs, desires

II) designing a yoga practice:  identifying/selecting/sequencing specific asanas beneficial for you

III) developing time-phased plan to achieve the goal of performing the practice

I) self-assessment to determine body and mind capabilities, needs, desires

Starting point of self-assessment: needs, desires, capabilities

1) health and fitness goals. interests 

2) body areas and organ systems:

a) maintenance

b) improvement

c) therapeutic

3) lifestyle, life interests, e.g. appearance

4) other physical activities performed, e.g. sports, weights, cardio, Qigong, line dancing

5) mental state to be affected by asanas, spiritual preparation

6) yoga interests, preferences (if you have them, e.g. hot yoga)

How does yoga fit into an individual’s life?  What is necessary?  It is important to learn enough about yoga to determine this, to do a self-assessment.  This will be an ongoing process, repeated as yoga knowledge and practice increase, until you reach a stable point.

A serious rigorous assessment of physical capabilities and desires is valuable:

1) assess flexibility, strength, balance, coordination, agility, endurance

2) use all types of asanas as diagnostic tool for all body areas

3) determine current capabilities and desired capabilities

4) understand your body: body type, genetics, condition, specific health & medical issues 

5) know how your body responds to exercise: preparation, reaction to exertion, recuperation time, nutrition & hydration

The purpose of self-assessment is to be able to design a yoga practice for your needs -- physical, mental, social, spiritual.  What would be necessary and sufficient for you?  Consider different yoga styles, benefits, integration with your life.  Think about how the kind of yoga you are drawn to.  Flow yoga?  Intense hot yoga?  Calm meditative yoga?

II) Designing a yoga practice:  identifying/selecting/sequencing specific asanas beneficial for you 

Practice design decisions:

1) purpose: diagnostic, maintenance, therapeutic, improvement, pleasure/fun!

2) selection & sequence of poses

a) warmup, then gradual increase in effort, strain 

b) purposeful, e.g. working on certain body elements in certain ways

c) countermoves and balance among poses (pratikriyasana)

d) variety (vikrti) 

3) when and how to vary performance of poses: 

a) stationary hold 

b) dynamically moving through the pose (vinyasa krama)

c) varied form, i.e. angles of body and limbs

d) varied intensity, duration, repetitions

4) breathing properly with the movements of the asana

5) vinyasa sequences vs. individual poses

6) timing and scheduling for your life

You need to have either a comprehensive asana program or to select elements to include what you need of: flexibility, strength, balance, coordination, agility, endurance.

Your yoga practice should mesh with total body health & fitness in your life -- compatible with other exercises, disciplines – physical, mental, spiritual – complementary to other sports, physical activities.   Stationary asanas don’t replace the need for cardiovascularpulmonary exercise through other activities such as walking, running, perhaps sun salutations.  The result of your yoga practice integration with other activities should be total balanced fitness for body areas, parts, systems -- recognizing that certain sports and physical activities may use the body in unbalanced ways for which there needs to be some compensation with yoga or another approach.

Choose the school of yoga that works for you – remember, your body will learn what it does.  There is great detail available for each discipline – your will need to determine what is appropriate for you to know and pursue – for asanas and for the rest of yoga.

There are options for deciding on asana selection and sequencing:  learn for yourself, or simply pick up and use preplanned yoga programs from: classes, videos, the numerous websites of teachers and yoga masters.

III)  time-phased plan

Understand goals of your practice over time, for instance accomplishing certain asanas or body part exercise in every session, or per week, per month.

Set objectives, identify how to achieve goals: process, timetable -- strategy, practice, feedback/status/progress.

Execute the practice on a schedule -- daily or whatever works for you.  Stick to a plan, but be rigorous only as it fits your life, your schedule. 

Implement the practice in phases -- monitor progress -- revise as required.  Remember: the great yoga masters revised their practices over their lifetimes -- yoga practice principles and details need to evolve over time.

Note: the above 3-step process is highly structured and idealized.  Use whatever parts work for you.



Here is an example of an asana practice for developing total body fitness -- organized by degree of effort, body area affected, capabilities worked & developed.  

First is an example of a summary description of the practice routine.  This is followed by two asana sequences and a separate Sun Salutation vinyasa sequence.

The first asana sequence opens with stretching/warmup.  Asanas are sequenced for benefit, balance, expenditure of energy.  This is only the sequence, not details of asanas.  A few guidelines for performing each asana are included, but they are of a “structural” nature -- nothing on breathing, speed -- and the assumption is that sthira and sukha, mental focus, and knowledge of asanas for the individual are present (e.g. how an individual will personally perform the asanas that are idealized in graphic illustrations in this practice sequence.)

The second asana sequence is a much shorter asana routine that also addresses total body fitness, but in a manner appropriate for limited time availability or different fitness objectives.  Performance of this routine a few times weekly would develop satisfactory fitness to support most daily living requirements.

The sun salutation sequence has additional benefits.   Again, the purpose is to show how a practice can be developed and sequenced -- not that this particular practice is recommended for any specific person.

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