Yoga is more popular worldwide than ever before and as a yoga teacher, many students ask me how they can deepen and expand their yoga practice. Most of my advice could be boiled down to these 6 tips
1. Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
Comparing yourself to others is a recipe for disaster, whether at a yoga studio, comparing yourself to the extremely limber girl in the front row, or at home watching an instructional video wishing you were as flexible as the teacher. Comparison leads the ego to force the body to go further than it should, increasing the possibility of injury. It is particularly tempting to keep checking your pose in the mirror, but avoiding them is the best thing to do and you could do so by setting up your mat in an area where the mirror is not readily visible.
2. Know the Meaning Your Asanas
If your teacher uses Sanskrit names for poses, you may have noticed that nearly all the names end with the suffix -asana. Asana is the Sanskrit word meaning “seat” or “posture.” Suhkasana, for example, is “easy seat” or “easy sitting pose” in English and usually refers to sitting up straight, cross-legged. When practicing asana, forget the Instagram yogis, smiling while performing advanced asanas and the Yoga Journal models with their perfect postures, instead focus on learning what they mean the correct way of doing them. There are great resources today in books and online, for understanding the purpose of what you are working towards in your asana practice and you should utilize them to your benefit.
3. Be Ready to Change
Challenging yourself is one thing: We should all strive to challenge ourselves and deepen our practice. However, as we deepen our Yoga practice, we are always changing. The pose that came easily last week might prove very difficult this week. Your right shoulder or wrist might be much tighter than the left, or some part of your body might not be that malleable as you initially assumed. Be gentle with yourself. Sometimes waking up involves creaking joints, stiff hamstrings, and sometimes you wake up refreshed like no other time in your life. This ebb and flow of body experiences impacts your yoga practice and the change might come slowly but it will be there for sure.
4. Steady and Comfortable
Patanjali, renounced as the father of Yoga, also authored a book - “The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali”. This is an important book for anyone who is serious about deepening their yoga practice and is available in many translations and I would refer to this version on Amazon. Unsurprisingly The most important point made is about the physical postures and how they should be steady and comfortable. Your body and especially your breath will let you know how you're doing and when to slow down and take pause. Are you holding your breath? Is your jaw clenched? Is your brow wrinkled? You may need to come out of the posture a little or simply take a deep breath and surrender.
5. Clear Your Mind
The mental benefits of a mindful yoga practice are immense. That is why it is so important to focus on more than merely the physical aspect of it. A meditation routine is a great complement to your yoga practice and can be done with Mala Beads, used to count repetitions of mantras, or chants. A complete yoga practice is a mindset and a lifestyle and it is important to take your mindfulness where you go. Keeping control on your emotions, respecting the person on other side of an argument and calming yourself when you feel situations not quite going your way, are all important for keeping your balance and mindful calmness intact