Following are basics which should be thoroughly understood before going any further in yoga practice. Although anybody can practise asanas, they become more efficacious and beneficial when performed in a proper manner after correct understanding.
Breathing - Always breathe through the nose unless specific instructions are given to the contrary. Try to coordinate the breath with the asana practice.
Awareness - This is essential to the practice of asana as it is to all yoga practices. The purpose of asana practice is to influence, integrate and harmonise all the levels of being : physical, pranic, mental, emotional, psychic and spiritual. It will have profound effects at every level of being if they are combined with awareness.
Relaxation - Shavasana (corpse pose) may be performed at any point during asana practice, especially when feeling physically or mentally tired. It should also be practised on completion of the asana programme.
Time of practice - Asana may be practised at any time of the day except after meals. The best time, however, is two hours before and including sunrise. At this time, the atmosphere is pure and quiet, empty stomach, the mind is clear. In the evening the two hours around sunset is also a favourable time.
Place of practice - Practise in a place where it is calm and quiet.
Clothes - During practice it is better to wear loose, light and comfortable clothing. Before commencing, remove spectacles, wristwatches and any jewelry.
Emptying the bowels - Before commencing the asana programme, the bladder and intestines should preferably be empty.
Empty stomach - The stomach should be empty while doing asanas and to ensure this, they should not be practised until at least three or four hours after food.
Diet - There are no special dietary rules for asana practitioners although it is better to eat natural food and in moderation. Vegetarian diet is not an essential although it is recommended at higher stages of practice. It is advised to half fill the stomach with food, one quarter with water and leave the remaining quarter empty.
No straining - Never exert undue force while doing asanas. Beginners may find their muscles stiff at first, but after several weeks of regular practice they will be surprised to find that their muscles are more supple.
Age limitations - Asana may be practised by people of all age groups, male and female.
Contra-indications - People with fractured bones or who are suffering from chronic ailments and disease such as stomach ulcer, tuberculosis or hernia, and those recuperating from operations, should consult a yoga teacher or doctor before commencing asanas.
Termination of asana - If there is excessive pain in any part of the body the asana should be ceased immediately and, if necessary, medical advice should be sought. Do not stay in an asana if discomfort is felt.
Inverted asana - Do not practise any inverted asanas if there is gas or fermentation in the intestines, if the blood is excessively impure, during menstruation or in the later stage of pregnancy. This is important to ensure that toxins do not go to the brain and cause damage, and, in the case of menstruation, the blood does not enter the fallopian tubes.
Sunbathing - Never practise asanas after a long period of sunbathing as they body will be overheated.