I thought it’d be helpful to clearly lay out a checklist of basic “moves” you can add to your Yoga Inventory. Pull these moves out before and after you sit and play. You’ll give your body a treat, which affects your mind, and can increase enjoyment of what you’re doing.
I intentionally didn’t include a ton of details, because perfection is not the point. Do your best; it should be pretty straightforward.
Bonus Points for Breath Attention:
Try to pay attention to your breathing as you move. You’ll get greater benefit if you link your inhales with one movement, exhales with the next. I wrote down where to do this. It helps you develop focus, and creates greater flow in the movement.
Short Routine to Balance Effects of Sitting:
1. Mountain + Fold.
Stand up tall, inhale and circle your arms out and up overhead. Exhale, drop your arms down again. Repeat 2x. Third time, step feet wider apart, lift arms overhead, then exhale to a wide-leg forward fold. Bend knees a little. Hang loose and easy to release back and hamstrings.
2. Backwards Shoulder Rolls
Inhale, lift shoulders up. Exhale, roll them back and down, moving shoulder blades together on back. So, circle shoulders backwards 5x.
3. Hip Circles
Place hands on hips, keep shoulder blade gently squeezing together on back. Back stays straight. Circle hips 3-5x to one direction (inhale forward and around; exhale back and around). Change directions, 3-5x. Allow knees to bend a little as you move. Linger where you need more of a stretch.
4. Chair/Stair Lunge for Hip Extension
Go to a staircase, low ledge, or chair. Put right foot up on the chair seat (a few stairs up, or on the ledge) and step left back so you create a lunge. Stay on ball of left foot. The point is to stretch your left front-of-hip area. Hold 3-5 breaths then switch feet/sides.
5. Hand/Wrist Massage and Shakes
Press and massage the thumb pads and palms (one hand takes care of the other, then switch). Shake your hands out loosely. Make several circles with your wrists individually in both directions. Then, interweave fingers and make several figure 8 motions with your wrists. When you massage, focus on your thumbs, because they’re used the most while gaming or texting. Relax hands as best as possible by deliberately releasing whatever tension you can.
6. Eye Ease and Quick Scan
Rub hands together vigorously to create heat, then place base of palms to cover eyes. Let fingers touch towards your hair. Thumbs rest near temples. Close eyes and take maybe 5-10 breaths to relax and rest your eyes. Super quick scan of the rest of your body and mind here in your dark, quiet zone.
This whole thing should take about 5-6 minutes. It doesn’t have to be perfect. You don’t necessarily have to do it all. Something is better than nothing. This list is not comprehensive, but it’s a start. It’s just one flow you can do to specifically and quickly target the effects of excess sitting. Each thing on the list will keep you a little more flexible and aware, so you can enjoy playing without negative consequences.
There are also super good things that happen when you sit and play games for a long time. I’ll get to those in another post. Most are intellectual and emotional benefits, so by doing these physical yoga exercises regularly, you’ll keep your physical self in working order. That way, you can better receive the benefits of mind and emotion from gaming.
I’m taking Y4G to another level with a concept I’m dubbing yoga “quest series”. Here’s what it is in writing; upcoming videos will actually show you what I mean.
Uh, actually, here's the basic outline. Read on if you want the DETAILS. They are good details to have, I swear.
1. Introducing Y4G Quest Series
2. What is it? A logical progression of short video quests organized as an easy-to-follow YouTube playlist. There is a particular intended benefit for each series of quests. They are meant to be done for a couple minutes during pause-screen breaks.
3. Notes about Quest Series that you can consider.
So, a standard yoga flow is usually designed to ease the body into movement, stretches, strength poses, balance, and relaxation. You won’t typically start with some complex one-legged pretzel-twist squawking-bird balancing pose. You also won’t typically start with a huge hip-opener before you’ve warmed up the whole hip region and established a good rhythmic deep breath.
Yoga is a gradual, mindful process of unfolding, coaxing, nudging your body and mind into the spaces you intend. While you move slowly with a logical sequence you put personal puzzle pieces together more easily, develop awareness, and sharpen your focus. You learn your body better by testing your edges intelligently, and gain more precise mastery over your incredible human system. This is the game.
SO, we can think of a mini progression of postures as a yoga quest series. I hope this is a fun and relatable way of framing some of this stuff.
It also should be more logical and easy to follow than doing videos I’ve posted at random.
I’ll craft a playlist of maybe 4-5 videos that are pretty short.
The first video will take a couple minutes to explain the intended benefit of a given series.
Some examples of benefits might be “stretching the hamstrings”, “strengthening the core”, “improving balance”, “focusing the mind”, or “relaxing”. It might also be a specific, more challenging pose I’m leading you up to by way of breaking it down into smaller steps.
The videos that follow in the playlist are ordered so you can keep it up on your phone or another device, play whatever game you’re playing for a while, and then do your pause-screen yoga in 3-5 short sessions. This will lead you towards the “goal” of the intended benefit. As a yogi, I should note that your experience will be whatever it is, but this is the plan.
When you’re done, you may be able to see a difference from when you started because it has been focused on one area, and the purpose of the quest was revealed to you.
Whether or not you make it through the first video or rocket all the way to the “end” of the quest series, that doesn’t even matter.
HERE is what MATTERS in YOGA:
Pay attention to the resistance you feel in your body and mind. This is your “edge” and it’s the place you need to work with. You might very well feel resistance in your body at the first exercise in the first video of the series.
So be it. Good, even. That means it’s easier to find the edge and work with your mind.
When you find that resistance, breathe deeply there so your body can get oxygen, and your muscles relax; keep breathing and paying attention until you actually notice the resistance clearing up.
If you don’t actually feel it (you can sense it, it’s not imaginary!), then don’t move on to the next video. Most people get pretty obsessed with showing off—whether to their own egos or someone else—and “achieving” this or that. We like to rush to the “end” and plough straight through signs that our body or mind need something different. This is how people get hurt and remain all uptight, even when they are apparently doing yoga.
Looks can be deceiving. You're the only one who knows what's going on in your mind, no matter how fancy you are or aren't on the outside. Don't worry too much about what your poses look like, or whether you can balance on your arms. The sitting posture offers the same opportunities as the complex postures, or more, if you're really paying attention. Just do something.
Wake up call: The yogi or person who does a lotus legs in headstand is not doing “better yoga” than someone who sticks with a basic forward fold. The indication of effective yoga is not in the PHYSICAL postures, but it is seen in the quality of your MIND. Are you focusing? Are you paying attention? Are you using your intellect to respond to the resistance you find? Are you working where you’re at? Answer a genuine YES to those questions and you’re doing good work.
Because it’s tough to tell from the outside if the person in a crazy pretzel arm balance is actually a robot of mechanical repetition, and that’s what lets her get there—not enlightenment or depth of practice. On the other hand, the person who can’t even touch his toes in a fold may be really connecting his mind with the body, moving smartly, and is aware of all that is going on. That’s where growth happens.
So don’t get hung up on the idea of completing the quest series. You can repeat the first or second level 5 times if that’s what is authentic and appropriate for your bod.
Because you’ll be interspersing yoga with gaming, and because you’ll be doing far more gaming than yoga, you may not get as quick or as much of a benefit from the series. If you do them straight through, like in a regular hour long yoga class, your body continually warms and opens. You’ll still get the effect, most likely, but your body will cool a bit again when you go back to playing. Just something to take into account!
Anything is better than nothing! You gotta just START and see where you’re at and what stuff feels like to you.
With yoga, all of the stuff you learn is transferrable. You study the body to study the mind. So, too, you apply this heightened sense of awareness to your GAMING experience. You become sharper, in general, and more relaxed so that you can enjoy things more readily.
Done and Done.
Look out for the first Quest Series within the month. It’ll be focused on stretching the hip flexors!
So, maybe by now you have embarked on your yoga journey.
Whether you've tried some Y4G videos, read blog posts, or have previous experience with yoga, it's easy to find yourself at a point of "okay, now what?". Well, there, there. We're here now to address this important question and help you level up your practice, Y4G style!
Here are the main points for expanding your practice into something regular and important:
1. Check in with yourself every day, and just START the process.
2. Tie yoga in with something you love (Gaming for many of us, but could be something else).
3. Create a quality "yoga space" that invites you to actually want to practice.
4. Develop your yoga inventory.
Now, some more words that are related:
Forming habits can be tough sometimes, especially because we live in a culture of instant pleasures, the Internet, video games, smartphones, etc. You may have a real desire to incorporate yoga and movement into your life habitually, yet you find you're far more attracted to do these other things. For many of us, it's almost addictive or mindless, and we don't have much control over it, really. So, you may be on board with the fact that yoga builds strength and flexibility, eases mental and physical tension, teaches you to focus, and allows you to stay balanced. Yes, and you still don't seem to have the motivation to do it regularly!
This is totally normal. We definitely get it. There's honestly no magic trick (bummer), but a little bit of magic happens if you do a small practice with a solid rhythm--5 minutes every day, for example, or 10 minutes before bed--you give yourself the chance to observe how yoga benefits you, first hand. You create a groove for yourself, and you also are able to see for yourself WHY the practice can make a difference. From there, feeling that difference, you start to CHOOSE yoga intentionally and are more able to spare a few minutes to stretch. You start to actually take those Pause Screen Yoga breaks, even though the game you're playing may be super entertaining. You do it now because you've realized that it matters.
If you do your yoga practice (or anything else) one time here and there, you'll feel momentary benefit, but won't really be able to progress to deeper levels. It's like a game. If you play for an hour then don't continue for another couple weeks, you forget what was happening in the plot, and it takes forever to complete the game. The value of consistency is that you actually get good at things, or you finish them! The real trick is choosing a manageable amount of time and linking it up with something you already love and do consistently.
For many of us, it's GAMING.
We do want to note, of course, that it is completely possible and okay that not everyone will embrace yoga quite to the extent of wanting to do it every day, or even more than a couple times a week. You don’t need to go that far to experience some benefit. Anything is a start that you can work with.
So now, let's revisit each of the points in the main ideas list.
1. Check in with yourself every day, and just START the process.
This is probably one of the most powerful tools to develop a robust yoga routine. If you can commit to taking just a few minutes of time to stretch, breathe deeply, and check in with yourself physically and mentally, there is a good chance you will want to continue practicing, or at least get a sense of what you need from your practice and activities every day. You can also pick a pose or short series that you want to do at least once a day. By being repetitive and simple, you'll get a sense of how your body and mind change from day to day. Maybe sometimes you do more yoga as a result of this, but maybe other times it inspires you to finally write that work/future goal related e-mail you’ve been putting off, or it inspires you to do some other form of exercise that you like. That’s still a win/win.
Setting aside a few minutes to check in, breathe, and stretch is a good way to deal with naturally fluctuating patterns of motivation that can happen when you’re busy and have a million things to do (and there are also games to play and things to read and watch online, yeah?)
2. Tie yoga in with something you love (Gaming, but could be something else).
This is part of the idea behind Y4G, and there are a number of ways you can structure/design your yoga time so it melds well with gaming. We at Y4G have made some suggestions along those lines previously, such as playing a short Y4G video before and after gaming sessions to “pre-game” and “wind down” from them, or to select and use appropriate videogame music while trying some postures. Another approach is to use videogame references to inspire your practice. Have a videogame quote that really inspires you? Make it the basis of a yoga session, and really think about it and how it impacts your daily life. Remember that yoga is more than just physical poses; there are some ideas in games that may be worth thinking about while on the mat. Did playing through a certain part of a game have a big impact on you? Consider having a save file at that point and playing a bit as your “cue” to do yoga after. This will not only help you do yoga more regularly, but it will cause you to reflect on the games you love, and help you gain a deeper appreciation of them as well. Your other interests will help motivate you to do yoga, and yoga will help bring a new awareness to those interests, and your daily life.
You can also make up a "cue" to do yoga every time you die in a game, or after every battle, for example.
Or, you can assign a cue from your real world environment, such as do a couple poses every time you come back from the bathroom, or every time you get a text message, etc. It could really be anything.
3. Create a quality "yoga space" --a place that makes you want to be there.
Although we can’t always choose where we do yoga or when we have time to do yoga, having a certain action to perform or decorative touch to add to your setting will help set the tone and get you ready to practice. The suggestion mentioned before about using a cutscene or part of a game to play as a “cue” to do yoga falls into this category. Creating your yoga space can even be something as simple as playing some music or going a short distance to a part of your living space that you don’t already use for other purposes. Your space is like your "zone", a physical location with attributes that help you relax, and ALSO a frame of mind or ritual, so that you can mentally "get in the zone" of yoga. That is your space.
4. Develop your yoga inventory.
Y4G has some great resources, but one reason many people have trouble shortly after beginning is because they feel they don’t know enough to practice on their own. Take what you know from videos, and trust it's enough to begin.
But, if you're ambitious, you can combat this issue by simply doing research! Wow!
There are good resources all around you. There are many styles of yoga, and after doing some basic sequences, finding out about those different styles may be a good start. Attending at least one class, or speaking with experts may also be helpful, but there are plenty of good online resources as well, especially in terms of connecting with others. Just make sure you learn enough to be comfortable doing at least a basic practice on your own, and do the poses and sequences you are comfortable with. And, as always with the internet, be aware of the bias of the sources you read, and where the information is coming from.
Your inventory can also include things like the right yoga mats, props, and the right app or podcast. These are tools to keep yoga safe, comfortable, interesting, and to make it easy for you to come back to doing it.
That covers the general areas for expanding your practice. We hope this was helpful! Remember to keep your intention in mind when doing yoga, and to give yourself credit when you are on track with your practice.
Hilary and Danielle
Hello again! It’s Hilary, here with some supplementary information to Y4G videos about modifying your gaming space to accommodate more movement, change of position, and standing.
**Disclaimer: I am not a medical provider, and this should in no way replace medical advice or attention. If you are really hurting, please do consult your provider and they should be able to help with these issues, and make referrals as needed**
If you’re going to be standing for a long period of time, remember to make sure your feet are properly supported (I’ve heard some people like standing on yoga mats for this), and that you are standing in a solid and well supported position, like Danielle demonstrated in her standing video.
The way you stand/modify your sitting routine while gaming will depend a lot on what sorts of games you play, and whether you use a PC or console system. The important thing is to find a setup that works for you so you are not in one position all the time. A previous blog post went into detail about different positions and the potential issues that arise for sitting for too long. A lot of the advice and experiences below were probably inspired by the research cited in that blog entry.
While gaming at the PC, it may be difficult to stand for any length of time without a standing desk with
monitors and controls at the proper height. There is an article on Kotaku detailing the author’s experience transitioning to a standing desk, and specifically getting used to PC gaming while standing.
The take away conclusions: Do a trial run before investing in an expensive standing desk/new setup. Standing does also make it easier to move away from gaming to other activities and come back, with less time and effort required to leave or come back to your station. And, interestingly, standing while playing a first person view game may feel more immersive and give you a new experience.
It may be difficult to spend the majority of your time standing, and that is okay too!
If that is the case for you, suggestions are as follows:
These suggestions are coming from another interesting article from someone who got a standing desk, and realized that standing all the time was not going to work:
Also, make your chair/couch/sitting implement an integral part of your gaming set up. Make sure it’s at the right height so you’re not craning your neck to game, so that your legs are comfortable, and your back is fully supported. Here’s an article about that:
Personally, this is what I have done:
So, this is a more realistic set-up compared to the emperor chairs or hamster wheel standing desks for most of us. Teddie is still getting used to the balance ball chair, and he’s currently playing Eternal Sonata because it is clearly an accurate representation of human composers for him to learn from. :P
That’s the basics! Of course, it never hurts to decorate your gaming area and make it a pretty/interesting place to be, as well.
Have any additional stories or suggestions? Want to share how you’ve decked out your gaming space?
Let us know!
Now for experimentation: locate, listen, and collect video game music (or music from anywhere, really) that helps to energize, relax, and/or clear your mind and body. You’ll probably have an instinctive idea of what to pick, but to provide a starting point, here are some tips for your finding your collection:
1) Many games have their soundtracks readily available, but even more useful for yoga, many games now have arrange albums or instrumental collections that may have yoga friendly renditions of the music.
2) There are some Final Fantasy albums that provide a great basis for a relaxing game music collection, and those are the Potion: Relaxing with Final Fantasy albums.
3) TPR has done a few albums with “melancholy” versions of Final Fantasy music. These also work well as the basis for a collection.
4) Don’t be afraid to make playlists and combine your favorite relaxing songs with your game music. I have some viola meditations that work really well with VGM that I use all the time, for example.
Some of Hilary's Favorite VGM for Yoga (Scroll way down for Danielle's)
Most of it falls under the “calming/quiet video game music” umbrella. You’ll be able to see a bit of a forest theme going.
Itory Village (Illusion of Gaia)
The Dark Space
In the Earthen Womb
Overclocked Remix, Rachel's Gift
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RInpt9x8rLI (an all-time favorite)
OC Remix of Soul Blazer Tears for a Moonlit Knight
The Pure Land (Secret of Mana)
Main/Opening Theme (Secret of Mana)
Really, I recommend anything from Secret of Mana that is not battle music.
Rydia’s Theme (Final Fantasy IV)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hIs6F-E8P3o (This is the DS version.)
Overworld Map Theme (Final Fantasy IV)
Cry in Sorrow
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-nnPeL_xc3A (if you want something otherworldly)
Celes’s Theme (Final Fantasy VI)
Another World of Beasts
Remixes of Cyan’s Theme
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Gr062tWn1o (Lots of good stuff here.)
Secret of the Forest (Chrono Trigger)
Corridors of Time
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dJtwEpQe6w0 (Lots of material on this soundtrack, too.)
Lenna’s Theme (Final Fantasy V)
Home Sweet Home instrumental
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wPCnjb_3MzA or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RDBxRuv4p74
New World https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cg5jEDNp3zI
Flowers Blooming in the Church (Final Fantasy VII)
There’s also a great remix of Tifa’s theme that is a bit jazzy called
Short Skirts: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3lIkDVVI2vs
Shingo Forest music (Star Ocean: The Second Story)
Versions of Rena's Theme on Overclocked Remix
her original music
Arlia Village music
And Cuddle. I almost forgot about Cuddle, which would be sad:
OC Remix called Yggdrasil Speaks to Me (Valkyrie Profile)
Requiem of a Predicament (Valkyrie Profile)
Echoes of the Spiral/Ruined Sparkling City (Legend of Mana)
Lumina music (Legend of Mana)
Over the Hill (Final Fantasy IX)
A Place to Call Home
"Lady of the Lake” remix (Zelda: Twilight Princess)
Water of Life (FF Crystal Chronicles)
Macalania Forest (Final Fantasy X)
Movement in Green (Final Fantasy X)
Divine View (Valkyrie Profile: Silmeria)
Overture to the Destiny
Star Shape (Shadow Hearts)
Old Smudged Map (Shadow Hearts 2)
Town of Twilight
Atelier Ayesha (Recollection Hill)
Epitaph for Boletaria remix (Demon's Souls)
The Sanctuary of Zi'Tah (FFXIV)
And bonus, in case you can’t go without the battle music…here’s the piano version of Let the Battle Begin! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7pwqJCP54k (YAY TIFA).
Some of Danielle's Favorite VGM for Yoga (That Hilary didn't already list!)
Mine isn't in any sort of organized era form... Sorry, fwriends.
Calm Before the Storm (FFX)
Besaid Island (FFX)
Fez OST (the whole thing)
Minecraft Alpha Album
(all of it, but especially Minecraft/Calm 1, Sweden, and Subwoofer Lullaby; also much of Beta Album)
Faron Woods (Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess)
Vigil (extended) (thanks, Joey) (Mass Effect)
Snowcloak Theme (thanks again, Joey) (FFXIV)
Forest Haven (Windwaker)
Shiek’s Song (Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time)
Buzz Buzz’s Prophecy (Earthbound)
Braid OST (a lot of it)
Dream of the Shore Near Another World (Chrono Cross)
Eternity: Memory of Lightwaves (FFX-2)
A New World (Intimate Music from Final Fantasy): Troia, Town, and New World
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HzltOjqS-x8&list=PLpwxfwK9RQdkQzPlYgyv9AwbpqzXJX9J6 (New World)
Balamb Garden (FFVIII)
Blue Fields (FFVIII)
Music from Shenmue OST (sift a little)
You’re Not Alone! (FFIX)
Aquatic Ambience (Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze)
Serenade of Water Piano Version (Zelda: Ocarina of Time)
Are there any games with musical tracks that make you want to just pause the game and chill for a while?
Music is powerful.
Whether you notice it or not, music can significantly affect your mood, energy, and the feeling of your environment. If you choose to employ it, music becomes a tool to positively affect your mind and body.
As gamers, we’re fortunate to have a library of absolutely fantastic music to draw from, much of which works well with a mindful movement practice. You can take your yoga experience to the next level by stringing together a playlist of video game music that suits your specific tastes, or comes from games you've played. Maybe you’re not even doing actual yoga postures when you listen to the music, but you can use it to energize or relax when needed.
How do you know which songs work for yoga?
It’s pretty easy to figure out what works: all you have to do is pick songs that interest you, find them on YouTube, your own music library, or from the source of the actual video game. Then listen to them (obviously), and pay attention to how you respond (physically, mentally, emotionally). The "paying attention" part and picking up on the subtleties of your reaction can possibly be a challenge, but don't over-think it.
Questions to consider while you assess a song:
How do you feel overall? Do you notice a change in your breath or heart rate? Do you start bobbing your head? Do you start full-out head banging? Do you want to sing? Do you “zone out” and want to let your mind wander? Do you “zone IN” and feel more focused? Do you relax? Does the song trigger strong emotions? Do you want to move around or do you want to lie down and let go? Do you start thinking about what it was like playing the game the song comes from? Or, are you able to separate from the game’s storyline to experience the music in and of itself?
Okay, that was a lot of questions. But it’s all part of a strong yoga practice: paying attention to your present-moment experience. It’s looking at reality itself rather than wearing lenses of expectations and associations with a song. For example, you might WANT to use a certain song for yoga because you love it and think the game it comes from is the GREATEST EVER. You might assume it’d be perfect to help you relax. But if you're paying attention to reality, the song might stimulate you too much or carry too many associations. So you respect that, save the song for non-yoga times, and find alternate tracks that help your mind settle.
The music you choose should be audible and relaxing, but not too prominent that you end up focusing on the sweet jams more than you do on your breath and body.
Creating Yoga Worlds with Game Music
RPGs and adventure games have fun and epic tunes that shape fantastic worlds. The music enhances the way you feel walking through different zones and levels. Think of Dragon Roost Island in Windwaker, Mumbo’s Mountain in Banjo Kazooie, the themes in Onett, Twoson, Threed, and Fourside in Earthbound, and Lavender Town in Pokemon, for example; they are crafted by skillful composers to bring a specific feelings to the worlds we love.
Even if RPGs or adventure games aren’t your cup of tea, it’s hard to picture a fighting game without music to pump you up, or a horror game without some form of music to create an atmosphere.
Having particular music in the background of a world is kind of like the movies. Imagine how it’d feel to have a personal soundtrack to your own life-- specific tracks for major events or places to enhance your experience or bring something more to life.
So in the same way you’ve experienced the benefits of game play in a good game soundtrack, you can actually use those songs in a personal soundtrack for your real life yoga practice, and experience those benefits as you move through postures. You are the character, now, as well as the designer of the game. You’re in your personal “yoga world” and are choosing the ambiance you think will best enhance game play (i.e., moving through postures). VGM can often work really well because much of it is purposefully designed to create an atmosphere in a game. We can't really say the same about other forms of music.
So, to sum it up, by being aware of how music affects you, you take control of shaping your yoga practice zone, pumping yourself up, or cooling back down.
In addition to your music choices, aspects of a good yoga world include: cleanliness, clutter-free, distraction-free, fresh air, and soft lighting. Just as an FYI. It's okay if you can't set up all of these things. Do what you can, and do what feels good to you.
NOTE: even though we just spent time telling you how music is great and can help your practice, we want to note that it’s possible that you actually find you prefer NO MUSIC during yoga. It’s definitely not a requirement.
There's a range. Some yogis believe it is too distracting and makes it more challenging to pay attention to breathing or stay mindful of movement when beats and melodies in their ears. Others choose minimal and ambient “relaxing” music, sitar drones, without lyrics. And then there are still others who are open to any kind of music, so long as it helps them into “the zone” and aids in their movement.
Stay open and accept your own needs.
So now, within our large library of quirky, relaxing, motivating, epic game music that we can choose from, think about options for your playlist. We encourage everyone to try different ways of incorporating music (or not) for your personal practice. Try to think of it as an exercise to buff your practice, so you get the biggest benefit (stat increase?) from it.
In part two of this blog, we each offer you some of our personal VGM favorites as launch pads to get started. Happy hunting and enjoy your practice.
I’ll be providing useful tools, information, and hopefully little inspiration for all the gamers out there on the quest to incorporate yoga into their lives. I’ll be doing this from the perspective of an enthusiastic gamer who has tried quite a few types of yoga over a number of years. I will try my best to provide only the most useful content, and, at the very least, I will not communicate in jarring beeps and bloops and HEY LISTENs. I am eager to get started and share, so listen to me for a while, and my most sincere wishes that we will provide something useful for your journey.
First, let’s talk about attitude:
If you come to your mat expecting YOGA FLAMES...
…you will be more than a little disappointed.
So, let’s get this out of the way right now, examine our expectations (as best as possible), and maybe not aspire to breathe fire, extend limbs, or levitate (use your yogic mind’s eye, because he’s totally levitating in the last picture). Sorry, Dhalsim, you’re cool, but there are reasons you are problematic for our purposes, and not the best role model.
Yoga is a GRADUAL process, and it is very important to keep that in mind at all times. There are some immediate effects—you’ll usually leave class feeling relaxed and limber—but many of the benefits take time and require some development. The idea is that you do it regularly, and gain strength and flexibility over time.
Try to view it the way you would a Zelda game in its entirety, for example. Link never starts out as the amazing Hero of Time with an arsenal of legendary items and the Master Sword at his disposal. He moves his butt through several incrementally more difficult dungeons and collects relevant, useful items and information along the way, and improves as he goes. Yoga is much more like that.
One of the more nuanced and intriguing points about yoga, at least to me, is that you build a lot of this structure for gradual improvement yourself. You have your teachers and references, but it is largely up to you to connect with your own mind and body, carefully assess your present state, and decide what aspects of yoga are most beneficial for you and where your limits are. A great teacher will work with you on this, as Yoga for Gamers hopes to do! The best advice on the subject that I have heard is that, when doing yoga, you want to find and test your limits, but not push far beyond them.
Just like in a game, when you face a challenge that is way beyond the skills you’ve developed in the game so far, or as a gamer in general, things are no longer fun. In yoga, in games, in life: you want to find that sweet spot where you experience a sense of flow and engagement due to a balance between challenge and ease. From there, you gradually increase the challenge so you’re always in that state and you produce sustainable growth from tools and skills you understand.
Of course, you don’t see this process with Dhalsim here, because he is in a fighting game, and he has his set range of moves and is using them in a competition. Please keep in mind that yoga is most definitely NOT a competition or combat. You should never berate yourself or push yourself beyond your limits, as that is a good way to cause serious harm. There is a time and place for competition in life, and life will throw conflict at you, but that is not what the yoga mat is for. If done right, though, yoga can help you approach those situations with poise, objectivity, presence of mind, and a cool head. Cultivating a yoga attitude will have benefits that extend to the other areas in your life, as well.
There are a variety of tools and methods to help you get started, but I wanted to begin with this vital pre-practice information before we go into that.
So maybe you haven’t moved from your seat in a while. Let’s face it: modern environments are not set up for dynamic movement, body expression, manual work, walking, etc. It’s hard to beat inertia when your life is full of chairs, couches, cars, and desks. There really are not many opportunities for physical movement incorporated naturally or by design in our lives these days.
You may not be aware but believe it or not, all of these abundant sitting places are magnets, and your butt is very attracted to them. It’s a hot romance, for a time... But when you fall too hard for the wrong person (or object), "love" can hurt and become more of an addiction. So when your butt and these chairs and couches see each other too much, you may find yourself getting stiff, and you feel kind of foggy and pent up.
But you don’t have to be ruled by couches, chairs, and cars. Modern living doesn't mean you have to give in to atrophy and sluggishness. You are not going to settle for some lazy, needy relationship! You don't have to completely stop seeing the couch, but you need to stay in touch with your own individual life and body so you don't lose yourself in the cushions. I’m going to bet that you are a creative, courageous player and want to keep your body mobile for a lifetime of adventure; to do so, it just takes some training and conscious effort to get your juices flowing again. You have build consciousness of your personal body and mind stats.
Yoga trains you to pay attention to your "character profile" and act appropriately on what you find when check in. Rather than being passive and letting your environment or unhealthy thought patterns sap your bars of health, yoga turns you into a skilled warrior who rises to face challenges. You learn to sharpen your mind and senses and keep yourself in top condition, so your Game goes on. First of all, you actually notice that, say, your “flexibility bar” is getting too low or your energy level begins to flash in the red zone; secondly, you begin to equip yourself with skills that can restore your health. And thirdly: you actually use your skills to effect desired changes! You know which "items" to collect, breath elixirs to drink, and physical postures to apply to get back in the green... rather than letting yourself hit empty and faint.
Paying attention to yourself and responding in smart, strategic ways to maintain physical and mental balance is the "game" of yoga.
One simple way yoga helps you replenish your flexibility bar is by resetting tight, weak muscles. It’s a benefit of repetitive, dynamic stretching, such as what you find in my YouTube video, Sun Salutation A. The repetition of movements and postures is intentional, to give your body time to get used to things and warm up. Each time you go through the same set of postures, your body is a little more open, stronger, and engaged. You are able to stop trying so hard to figure out what to do next. You learn the sequence in both mind and body, entering a flowing meditation at a certain level. In this sense, it lowers your stress bar to safe levels, too.
Doing yoga in the morning, in particular, is a great time to restore your health and magic or psychic abilities. Sleeping begins the process, of course, but dynamic stretching in yoga energizes and lengthens your muscles after being still for 8 hours. Now you've turned your system on and are better prepared for the day, open in mind and body.
Start your days off with full health and a strong set of stats. Do this by avoiding the couch and hitting the mat more often.
Check this out. It's not supposed to be scare tactics. I just want to provide people with resources and some of the science of what's going on, and why this yoga work is important. We can and will do both: game hard and take care of our bodies. The simple yoga postures and flows that we will be doing can help you become more mindful of your posture so that you minimize excess pressure on your spine, and they will also help correct any damage already done. This is our quest, and we have to look it straight in the eye, fearlessly, and take the necessary action steps to reach our goal.
Danielle enjoys yoga, writing, games, cartoons, and music. She relates a lot to Avatar Korra and is training hard as a yogi to learn element bending. She's also interested in exploring the element of PLAY found in both yoga and video games. Danielle is the one you see in the videos and the creator of Y4G.