You’ve been practicing yoga for a while now and feel that you’ve gotten pretty good at it, too.
You’ve even achieved some of your initials goals: you got in shape for that marathon, you have better balance, and your flexibility has increased ten-fold. So what now? You love the practice, but you feel you’ve hit a plateau. You’re looking for a way, now, to improve your practice, but you’re not exactly sure on how to do that. Here are a few tips…
This may be a no-brainer, but you can get more out of your practice if you simply practice more. If you’re currently attending classes two times per week, you know how great you feel, but what would happen if you try stepping it up to four or five times per week?
That overall euphoric feeling can be present with you longer if you add a few more practices to your schedule.
A Little Help from a Friend
There’s something special about going to a yoga class and practicing among your yoga peers. There’s a sense of community and pride when you come together with like-minded yogis to experience this wonderful ritual.
But have you ever thought of splurging on a private yoga lesson? Maybe there are a few poses that you’d like to do better or you have some questions about some postures. Sometimes in a yoga class, it can be a challenge for the instructor to give each student personal attention (especially if it is a large class).
Wouldn’t it be nice to get a little one-on-one to improve your practice? Ask your favorite yoga teacher if they offer private lessons. If they do, schedule a session and provide them your intention: you’d like to improve your balance, you want to attempt a handstand, you want to know if you’re doing Dolphin Pose correctly, or you have a sore back want to know of some specific poses that would help heal the pain.
There are many reasons why you might hire a highly skilled yoga instructor to give you some tips toward a better yoga practice.
Back To The Basics
One thing that can happen when you’ve been practicing for a long time is that you might get a little complacent with your practice.
You kinda know what to expect when you go to class and you even have memorized some of the sequences your instructor teaches. In a way, you’ve fallen into a “yoga rut.”
How can you get out of that predictable routine? How about going to an Introduction to Yoga Class? That may sound a little crazy since you already practice yoga and you’re pretty good at it. But in our complacency, we sometimes forget the basics: breath, alignment, presence, and listening.
Going to an intro class may open your eyes (and ears) to things you’ve tucked away in your yoga brain. An introductory class will teach you proper breathing methods in yoga, will break down pose sequencing so that you flow with ease from pose to pose, and they will remind you of the importance of staying present and in the moment while practicing yoga. This can bring new life to your routine and actually improve the quality of your practice.
Try Something New
And since you’re taking an Intro To Yoga Class, why not try other varieties and style of yoga? Hey, even head across town to that OTHER yoga studio. It doesn’t hurt to try something new. You’ve been doing the same old thing for a while now. If you’re looking to shake things up and improve your personal practice, attending another type of class can aid in your favor.
What will this do? It takes you out of your comfort zone and encourages you to pay attention to a new set of poses, listen to different ways teachers offer instruction, and broadens your perspective of the yoga world.
If you’re practicing Power Vinyasa Yoga, for example, why not try a variation of vinyasa by attending a Forrest Yoga Class or an Ashtanga Vinyasa Class.
Forrest Yoga, by the way, is a style of power yoga created by Ana Forrest. She offered a practice that can be physically challenging, but also is geared toward deep transformation both on and off the mat. You’ll also learn some very effective ways to strengthen your core and find delight in mastering strength-building arm-balancing postures. Take a look around; you may find a certified Forrest Yoga instructor in your area.
Yin & Yang
Along the same lines, maybe it’s time to find more balance in your life. You’ve been doing a lot of hot yoga and fast flowing yoga classes.
Perhaps it’s time to switch it up and try something that isn’t so taxing on the body.
Many styles of yoga out there have Yang Energy. That’s to say, muscle engagement, strength, and movement are an essential part in some styles of yoga. Yang is masculine energy.
There are also practices that emphasize feminine energy: Yin Energy. (Hey, guys! It’s time to get in touch with your feminine side!) Practices like Yin Yoga and Restorative Yoga can be beneficial to the practitioner.
- If you’re an active person and looking for something that is going to assist in the release of bound-up connective tissues, the use of props to support the body, and moving into yoga poses to trigger deep and thorough changes, then Yin Yoga is for you.
- If you’re simply searching for a practice that encourages full release and relaxation of the body and mind, a practice that truly emphasizes restoration, then a Restorative Yoga class is right up your alley.
An “AH-HA” Moment
A very good way to improve your yoga practice is to actually learn more about it. This may require picking up some books and other resources that outline the history and philosophy of yoga. You will be amazed at what you discover. You’ll find that there is MUCH more than just bending and twisting in yoga.
Yoga has a rich ancient history: it started with the spoken word, rituals, and ceremonies. This led to written testaments about enlightenment and learning how to reach this point of bliss. The modernization of yoga brought us to the moving practice that we are familiar with today.
But if you dig deep into the philosophy, you’ll come across Hindu mythology, The Yoga Sutras, Chakras, The Yamas and Niyamas, and the list goes on. As you enrich your mind with these deeper teachings, you’ll certainly have many eye-popping “ah-ha” moments that will bring more meaning to your personal practice.
Get Up And Teach
Along the same lines as learning more about the history of yoga, you may entertain the notion of enrolling in a yoga teacher training certification program.
A typical training is 200 hours in which you learn more about the philosophical nature of yoga. In addition to that, you actually learn how to TEACH yoga!
You’ll walk away with a certificate (maybe not wearing a cap and gown) and with a greater knowledge of yoga under your belt. Alas, you may never teach a single yoga class, but at least you will have a new understanding of Pranayama, Meditation, Viniyoga, and a host more about the elements of the yoga practice.
Eat Like A Yogi
There is a misconception that all yogis are vegetarians or vegans. That isn’t necessarily true, but having a regular yoga practice may influence the way you eat.
If in the past you were a fast-food-junkie, but later became enlightened with a yoga regimen, you eventually started to feel much better about yourself as a whole being.
Because you are now feeling better on the outside, there’s no reason why you can’t feel better on the inside. Your self-esteem and self-worth will increase with your yoga practice. As a result, you want to treat it well with good nutrition. You may automatically erase French fries and pizza from your eating habits and foster in açaí bowls and almond butter.
Taking a conscious approach to your nutritional intake can also improve your practice. When you properly nourish the body and mind, you’ll find that it effects how you feel and improve on the yoga mat.
Pay More Attention
Practicing yoga certainly makes you more aware of what’s on inside and outside of you. Make an effort to live your yoga off the mat as you do on the mat. (Does that make sense?) When you’re in the studio on your rectangular piece of rubber under your feet, you practice patience, presence, and deeper awareness.
It would behoove you to carry that into your everyday life – don’t leave those lessons on your mat. Pay close attention to how you behave when you’re away from the studio: are you more patient with your kids, are you more present in those board meetings, can you practice a deeper awareness and mindfulness while you carry out your household chores?
Remember, yoga is a lifestyle: you practice it in the studio on your mat, but you live it outside in the real world.
Did I Just Pull Something?
It’s important to treat yourself well and not overdo it when you’re going to a hot yoga class five days a week.
The practice of yoga is also about finding balance, treating yourself with integrity, and staying in the moment.
- If you’re feeling a little tired or a bit dehydrated, you know to move a little slower and to drink plenty of water before hitting that hot steamy yoga class.
- If you tweaked your knee while jogging the other day, you know to bend with ease when you’re practicing the Ashtanga Primary Series.
Overall, be kind to yourself. There’s no need to push or force yourself even when you’re in a challenging class. The intention is to feel good; you don’t want to leave a yoga session in more pain than when you arrived. You are there to heal. That might mean backing off a bit to gain the results you’re desiring.
Why Am I Here?
Along the same principles as the above tip, be very intentional when you go to your classes.
A good yoga instructor will set an intention and have a specific goal for their class, but you can do the same for yourself. Walk onto your yoga mat with an intention for your personal practice. Although you may be practicing the same series of poses, those poses can have a different or deeper meaning each time you practice them.
One day you may need more strength and drive to get through the day. On another day, you may need to find some inner peace and patience. You can achieve all of these things when you practice; just set your mind to it.
And finally, and this may seem very basic: improve your personal yoga practice by being more aware of your breath.
Breathing is the foundation and resource for your yoga practice.
It allows you to be in stillness when you need to be calmly meditating and it also gives you strength when you engage your abdominal lock and moving through dynamic poses. Yoga re-teaches you how to breathe. In our lives before yoga, we didn’t pay much attention to the breath. It was just something that happened automatically, right? But yoga helped you to build a new relationship with your breath.
It now brings you to place of greater awareness: it’s helped in your stress relief, it’s taken you deep into your body for physical and emotional healing, and it’s been your guide throughout your yoga journey.
Allow your breath to carry you into a full and rich yoga future.
The yoganum family