You've heard how beneficial yoga can be for our body, spirits and minds.... but sometimes you're left wondering if you're really doing it right. Am I really "getting" it? Am I making the most out of my practise? Am I missing something?
Here are the top five ways to get the most 'bang for your buck', and how to get the most out of your yoga practise whether at home or in the studio.
1. FOCUS ON YOUR PRACTISE... and leave THAT phone at home!:
Move your attention away from outward distractions like what you can see through the studio window, or your friend beside you. Imagine you are alone with four invisible walls surrounding your mat. Don't bring anything into the yoga room, like a cell phone or watch, that will potentially pull your attention away from your practise. Don't waste the time and energy you've spent getting onto your yoga mat, only to be somewhere else mentally. Trust me, I know, it's easier said than done... continue to practise bringing your focus inward. Maybe try closing your eyes more and always make a point to bring your mind back to your breath. You've taken the time to come to yoga class and it's such a short amount of time in your whole day, so don't waste the moment.
2. DON'T GET CAUGHT UP IN HOW A POSE SHOULD LOOK AND WHETHER YOU ARE DOING IT BEST:
Fact: there will always be someone that can do a better dancer's pose than you. Fact. It's okay. Believe it or not, whether you can go into the full extension of a pose or not, really doesn't matter. Too many yogi's get caught up in their ability to strike a pose beautifully and perfectly and feel inadequate when they can't. Don't be one of these yogi's. Perfecting a pose in and of itself, is not the ultimate reason for practising asanas. Our goal is to feel the energetic effect each pose has to offer and to experiment with new challenges. Gently push yourself into an asana until you reach your edge. For practised yogi's this place of resistance will naturally be found deeper into a pose than beginners. Where ever you are along the spectrum, does not matter. What matters is honouring where you are at, and honouring your journey. Let go of glorifying and craving any end result, which does nothing more than feeds the ego. Where you are at, is perfection.
3. BREATHE BREATHE BREATHE:
It's all about the breath people! I had a yoga instructor once tell me, "No matter where you are or what you are doing, if your attention is on your breathe, you are practising yoga!" This really stuck with me. Even if you need to take a break and come into child's pose to rest, so long as you are staying present and aware of the quality of your breathe you are doing the only thing that truly matters. In each class try to foster a deeper awareness of how you breathe, and try to coordinate each movement with an inhale and exhale. Bringing awareness to the breathe is the easiest way to connect your mind and body. It is our ever-available tool for moving away from distracting thoughts and restless minds and the gateway to the present moment and inner peace. Distracting thoughts, feelings, and emotions are bound to come up. Use your breath as your anchor and pull your attention back to your practise.
4. Leave all expectations at the door:
Don't come to class with the expectation the teacher will lead you into enlightenment, or offer up the secrets to life. Don't expect you won't have a distracting yogi beside you, and also don't expect your body to do all the things it let you do last class. Unexpected things happen all the time that are out of our control, and our bodies change from one day to the next. Instead of craving and expecting a specific experience out of your yoga practise, let it go and let it be. It is, what it is, in this moment in time, and practising this grace will help us be less reactive on and off our mats.
5. SHOWING UP:
This is by far the hardest, but most important part. Showing up and fostering a regular practise, is what leads to a deep, beneficial and meaningful practise. Getting to class or dedicating a space and time at home takes commitment... And I get it, we are all busy. It sometimes feels the last thing we have time for is to lie around on our mats when there's so much to be done! ...But there is an old zen saying: 'you should practise meditation for 15 minutes daily, and if you are too busy, make it an hour' It is much more beneficial to practise yoga regularly even for thirty minutes a week and taking child's pose the entire time, than just thinking about practising and showing up once in a blue moon. A commitment to your practise is a commitment to taking care of yourself... the most important thing in the world!