So far, we have discussed topics such as:
- The incredible benefits that yoga has to offer
- How to begin your yoga journey without the intimidation
- How to incorporate yoga into your busy schedule
In this post, we will explore different ways to make the most out of your yoga practice by:
- Making sure that your progress is unique to you and not compared to the journeys of others
- Listening to your body and get the most out of your practice
- Deciding how you perceive your regular yoga practice
- Learning to set your intentions
Do Not Compare Your Yoga Journey to Anyone Else’s.
Whether you have been practicing for decades or have just started to hit the mat, your yoga journey is yours and yours alone and should not be compared to the journey of others. There are many factors that contribute to the difference in each person’s progress and abilities such as: how long they have been practicing, how often they practice, level of flexibility and strength etc. It can be discouraging to see people seemingly effortlessly standing on their heads or hands while you struggle to maneuver your body into less intricate poses. Do not get down on yourself just because you aren’t at the same level of others or even meeting your own expectations for that matter.
It is easy to become inspired by all the yogis that we see on social media. They have a way of making things look so effortless that we aspire to master their difficult poses as quickly as possible. While it is always great to have goals, be gentle with your self-expectations. Remind yourself that this is a journey, not a race. Focus on connecting with your body and learning from the experience as you go. Notice the small improvements that you make each day in regard to improving your strength and flexibility. Celebrate each little progression by practicing gratitude and being proud of your accomplishments! Always be sure that you are accepting of where you are at in your physical journey. It is okay to strive for improvement, but never forget to give yourself credit where it is due. If you are practicing consistently, you should be proud of yourself!
Listen to Your Body.
Push yourself but know your limits. You want to challenge yourself and your body in order to advance and increase your overall strength and flexibility. However, it is vital to listen to your body and not overexert yourself. Poses can be modified to different levels of intensity. Using props such as blocks, and belts can help train your body so that you can ease into tougher poses. It is all about improving flexibility and gaining strength as you go, so there is no shame in modifying poses or using props to get you closer to reaching your goals.
Be sure you are aware of the difference between a good stretch and a strain. Know that it may take time and practice to accomplish challenging poses. Always be patient and kind to yourself in your journey. Practice makes progress so remind yourself that each time you work on your poses, you are bringing yourself closer to where you want to be. Remember that there are always benefits of practicing yoga aside from gaining strength and flexibility. Sometimes, even just the calming mental benefits of yoga should be the main focus.
Perhaps the most important tip is to practice conscious, mindful breathing. I am a huge advocate for Mindful Breathing (just ask any of my coaching clients). By focusing our awareness on our breathing patterns and consciously taking control of each breath, we provide our bodies and our minds with incredible benefits such as:
- Relaxation of the Body and Mind
- Boosting the Immune System
- Improving Focus
- Relieving Tension
- Pain Relief
- Allows You to Let Go of Negative Emotions
- Releases Toxins
The payoff of consciously breathing is extraordinary yet often overlooked. Doing so helps to create a deeper connection mind, body and soul while allowing us to live fully in the present moment. We should ALWAYS be aware of our breathing pattern, not just during our yoga practice. Shoot for slow, productive, deep breaths.
Decide How You Perceive the Practice of Yoga.
The way that you perceive your yoga practice will make all the difference in the progression of your journey. Sometimes it can be difficult to find the motivation needed to practice. Although there may be days that you will struggle with finding your drive, you will likely never regret taking the time to hit the mat. Always remind yourself of the amazing benefits that yoga has to offer and allow this information to persuade you to practice. If you are short on time, choose a few poses that have the greatest benefit for you. For example, if you want to focus on increasing flexibility, practice poses that challenge you to do so. If you’d like to focus on gaining strength, take a few minutes to enter poses that are physically challenging to you such as chaturanga or “plank pose”. Or you can choose a couple of poses that will benefit your specific needs. If you are experiencing back pain, focus on poses that target back pain relief.
Take the time to reflect on your personal perspective of practicing yoga. It may be helpful to ask yourself some questions in order to assess your feelings such as:
Why did I decide to begin practicing yoga in the first place?
Perhaps you have decided that it is vital for your overall well-being and health routine. You love yourself (or are working on your self-love) and understand that practicing yoga is beneficial for your physical and mental health. Remind yourself of the incredible benefits of yoga and why you made the decision to practice!
Is Taking the time to practice fun and relaxing or do you see it as a tedious chore?
Remind yourself of self-love and how important it is to make the time to do things that are good for your mind, body and soul. Don’t think of your practice as a chore, think of it is your time to connect with yourself and to generate calm, peaceful feelings.
Set Your Intentions.
Set an intention or mantra for your practice. Doing so will help you while you are on the mat and long after. Each time you practice, set your specific intention to give your practice a greater meaning. Some examples of intentions may be:
- I am at peace
- I am strong
- I am grateful
- I am aware and conscious
- I am one with the universe
- I am love
- I am balanced and calm
Listen to your heart and intuition in order to choose an intention that resonates with you.