10 Ways to Take Your Yoga Practice to the Next Level
Yoga is different than a gym work out. Aside from the ancient history, the mindfulness and attentiveness to our breath brings a whole new dimension to our yoga practice. Practicing yoga in a studio often brings us this feeling of coming to a different state of consciousness, and it can be hard to get that "freshly yogafied" feeling at home. Not to worry - here are a few tips to take your yoga practice to the next level.
1. Delight the Senses. All of them. Take a few minutes to set your stage, paying attention to lighting, scents, adding a cozy blanket, and soft music before you begin your practice. Even simply opening a window or light a candle can become part of your practice.
2. Keep a journal. Don't go crazy writing down everything, but if a pose speaks to you or a quote is read, it can be nice to have a place to quickly jot it down to refer to later. Or, wait until practice is over and write down a few words that describe your state of mind.
3. Set a routine - consider practicing at the same time each day, or the same day of the week, to etch your yoga into your routine.
4. Set an intention before you begin to practice and come back to it whenever your mind begins to wonder. Yogalastics are my creation and how I stay with my intention throughout my practice - and a mindfulness tool even when I step off my mat. Check out the Fall Collection here.
5. Know that the physical practices (asanas) are just one limb of yoga - consider reading up on the history of yoga, 8 limbs of yoga, and the yamas and the niyamas to gain a deeper understanding of the practice. You might even take a teacher training program (YTT) to further delve into yoga. Even if you never plan to teach, it's an excellent way toddle deeper into the world of yoga.
6. Have fun! Don't take yourself too seriously. If you fall out of a pose, come back into it. Once you've warmed up, begin to experiment and even begin to build your own flows. Yoga can be a wonderful way to express yourself creatively.
7. Go outside! Delight in nature, challenge yourself with tricky terrain, and connect with yoga in a new way by heading outdoors, to a backyard, beach or park, to connect with your body in a different way.
8. Pranayama and a focus on breath is truly the way to bring your yoga to the next level. Inhale deeply and exhale completely as you practice, connect your movement to breath. Consider "Ujjayi breathing" (ocean breath), where we constrict the back of our throat and make an ocean sound as we breath in and out through the nose. Attempt to maintain this breath throughout your entire practice.
9. Listen to your body. At the core of each posture, you want your body to be stable, and to be able to come back to your breath. Don't get caught up in how a posture is "supposed" to look, or what the person on your screen looks like. Don't think about "the full expression of the pose," (a common phrase that's no longer recommended to use!) - just come to your own edge for your own body and breathe into it.
10. Never skip savasana. You must take a restful position at the end of your class to fully reap the benefits of the postures. Finishing a yoga practice is also a great time for meditation, as the physical practice readies the mind to focus.
I hope you find these tips helpful in bringing your yoga practice to the next level! I would love to hear from you in the comments if any of these tips resonated with you.