Yoga practice is a continual evolution. While it takes just a few classes to learn some asanas, or postures, over years you can gradually improve your yoga practice. Here are some tips to help improve your evolving practice.
1. Start with gentle warm ups. Once your body is sufficiently warmed up, start with asanas. Move slowly, with fluid motion and without straining yourself. Initial muscle aches are a good sign, they mean that your body is changing. However, find your limits and the right balance between effort and ease. It is important to not overexert yourself and burn out on the activity. Allow your body to speak – if you listen it will tell you the difference between pain and a good stretch.
2. Have patience. It takes time to improve flexibility, build strength and to correct imbalances and misalignments.
3. Pay more importance to the correctness of asanas, rather than whether you can touch your toes. For example, it is important to bend less but correctly than to bend more but incorrectly.
4. Do asanas gracefully like a slow rhythmic, sequential dance.
5. When in a pose, make effort without struggling. Notice your breath as well as your facial expression as they will both change when you are pushing yourself beyond your limit.
6. When you have learned a few basic asanas properly, do their variations and continue to build on that education by learning more asanas. This will help improve the quality of your asanas and your overall practice.
Accepting imperfection is key
7. The more the merrier – Practice asanas with another yoga student and correct each other or practice in front of a mirror. While improving is important, don’t get stuck in a perfectionist mindset – though you want to be perfect, accepting imperfection is key.
8. Practice asanas with awareness, inwardness and with a feeling of honoring your body. This will bring an increased grace and beauty to your asanas regardless of your level of flexibility. Pay attention to what you are doing with your body and mind and what you are feeling in your body and mind.
9. Coordinate your asanas with your breath – this will increase your awareness and improve your yoga practice. Breathe slowly and deeply with your abdomen, when inhaling, let the abdomen effortlessly push out; when exhaling, let it return gently. Let your awareness and your breathing become a habit and let the breath heal you.
10. Do as much as your body allows you to do. Make a gentle effort to go slightly beyond your limits but do not force yourself into a position. Don’t compare yourself with others and stay with your own experience.
11. You may be learning certain things that may be very new to you. Keeping an open mind during the classes or self-practice will broaden and enhance your experience.
12. Relax for some time after you finish your asanas.
Observing students for many years, I’ve compiled a list of 14 tips for beginning yoga practice. Learn more here: 14 Tips to Start Your Yoga Practice. Happy Practicing!
Interested in learning more about programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here.