Thursday, March 31, 2011

Bad Habits

Last week a friend of mine suggested I write a blog about bad habits in postures and how bad habits should be knocked out as early as possible in your practice. This was a good idea and I decided to expand on this a bit. I’ll cover a little bit about postures, but frankly, I could devote an entire blog to things you can do wrong on postures!

So below I’ve listed out five bad habits to avoid that will help anyone’s practice:

1) Breathing incorrectly – I’ve been asked many times for advice by people just starting out in Bikram and I always tell them to improve their breathing and do what the dialogue says for the breathing. It’s not just breathing in and out through your nose, but controlling your breath, breathing slower, doing things like “inhale breathing come up one more time!” when the dialogue calls for it, etc. The teachers at my studio do a good job hammering these points home. Breathing correctly actually makes it possible to do the class and helps with the other four points below.

2) Unnecessary movements – This covers all kinds of things, from fidgeting between postures to wiping sweat off to pouring water on your head. Recently we’ve had some teachers crack down on students getting up to grab a Kleenex in the middle of class, and this was a welcome improvement. This also includes leaving the room during class, something my studio tries to enforce as much as possible.

3) Screw loose brain – This is a tricky one and often the hardest one for me. If you’re all dispersed all over the place mentally, thinking about work, kids, shopping, whatever it makes your class much harder. This can also include blocking out distractions in the room, too hot, too cold, annoying people near you, drama, bad teachers, whatever.

4) Sitting out postures – This is a bit controversial because there are plenty of people with a good practice who regularly sit out postures. Look, I understand needing to sit out postures sometimes. I’ve sat out postures plenty of times, but it’s pretty rare now. I get it if there are physical situations or injuries or you’re just exhausted. The problem is when it becomes a habit. For example I know some people that have been practicing a while who always sit out the first set of Triangle. That’s a bad habit.

5) Incorrect posture form– My advice on this is to listen to the dialogue. Most of your questions about postures can be answered with the dialogue. I’d also suggest getting with teachers before and after class to go over postures, ask questions, etc. I’ve spent a lot of time with teachers looking at my postures one on one. There’s a lot going on in class and the teachers won’t always be able to make corrections, but even if you don’t ask teachers individually, if you pay close attention to the dialogue you’ll be able to fix a number of things. The sooner in your practice you can get the set-up and form right the better. I’m still trying to fix a few (minor) bad habits that I picked up from the beginning.



  1. I personally believe that the BREATH makes what I am doing a yogic experience (calm breath, high intensity). When the breath is golden, the postures can be as well. My instructors are always on students about the breath. I appreciate their strictness, because they emphasize the most vital aspect of practice... in the long run.

    To me, the priorities are - (1) Breath + Perfect Form, (2) Depth

    I used to stupidly compromise the breath and form for depth, which is the ego taking over. Depth comes over time. Do the posture slightly wrong, it's wrong altogether. Lose the breath, it isn't yoga. This is a life long practice.

    And yes, there are a couple bad habits I'm trying to get rid of as far as sitting out. I tend to avoid toe stand, and usually lay out on first set of Separate Leg Head to Knee. Just got to push myself and see what happens. :) Every class can be different. Thank you for the reminder!


  2. Yep, I agree about the breath. It's the fuel for everything else.

  3. I think finding real Prana is one of the most existential experiences I've ever had.

    I think in any of area of our practice we have to be aware of our habits and auto responses. It is a control we have over our bodies & minds. So many crazy/amazing things can happen in our own lives if we can learn control even for 90 minutes.

    Great post, Greg!

  4. Thanks for this post - I need to work on the breath and in pushing myself not to sit out. I don't sit out the same pose each time, but I usually need some kind of break.

  5. Heck yes.. didn't sit out once today for the first time ever. Habits can be changed! SUBTLE can be vastly important. Belly sucked in, not sucked in. Legs spread too far, too close. Pigeon-toed, not pigeon-toed. Fear, confidence. Too slow into the posture, too quick. Exaggerating, not exaggerating.

    The greatest guru is yourself.

  6. And seriously, hit up YouTube for some posture 101. Bikram Manhattan (that's the username) has some excellent videos, with very experienced students/teachers demonstrating. The resources are out here on cyberspace. Just take advantage of it. :)

    And it helps to ask the instructor before or after class, if you get a chance, on any adjustments that you feel you need. But even that, asking about everything all the time, especially if you are relatively new to the practice (less than 6 months, maybe), only does so much. The body needs time to physically change. Some answers come to you through consistent and enthusiastic practice.

    Keep sharing, my friend. I dig your posts.


  7. Thanks for all the comments!

  8. Good post, good advice!

    One of my favourite teachers often says; if you need to take a break, try and see if you can take it IN the posture!