Students can prepare for a yoga asana class by wearing comfortable clothing and not eating a heavy meal two hours before. They can prepare for meditation by engaging in a pranayama (breath work) practice first. Moving the body before sitting in meditation can help the body to remain still.
A good yoga teacher will say that whatever is practiced on the mat is just preparation for using yoga out in the world. Some poses prepare the body for other, more complex, postures. It’s not advisable to go directly into Pigeon Pose if one hasn’t prepared at least the hips and hamstrings and quadriceps.
Taking preparation a step further, I have used some of yoga’s tools and techniques when I know I’ll be entering a difficult situation or dealing with someone who is struggling emotionally, mentally, or physically. I can even reach for these strategies when I’m caught by surprise with current circumstances.
How can I do this? With practice. It begins on the mat in situations where a pose is physically challenging. After a while, as the science of yoga is shared by the instructor, the invitation is to pay attention to the thoughts in the mind about the pose, the body, the room, the teacher. After more practice and some understanding, which begins at the logical level, students practice off the mat. Sometimes the teachings last as long as it takes to leave the parking lot and merge into traffic, or deal with a challenging coworker or boss, or a relationship that isn’t positive.
If we prepared in the yoga studio on the mat for complex poses, perhaps ones where we’re not able to move into the full expression of the pose, and we feel inadequate compared to others in the class, or frustrated with ourselves, and then we pile on everything else that has gone “wrong” that day, it can make for a perfect place to practice if we’ve prepared.
We come back to the breath. We notice the thoughts, and then the thoughts about the thoughts. We apply a tool or technique because we’ve practiced it, we’ve prepared ourselves for just such a situation. We pay attention to the results. That preparation, and the practice, allow us to implement strategies to live a more peaceful life.