Everyone is doing yoga these days, or has at least tried. The practice is so mainstream, it almost seems dispensable and easy to cast off as a done-and-did activity without much thought into what you are putting into it. The thing is, as satisfied you may feel about the idea of having done yoga on any given day, that satisfaction may be overrated. Before you namaste again, see what 5 ways your yoga poses may be suffering.
Not to say you aren't doing anything right in class, but there are most certainly easy ways to do yoga poses in a sub-par manner that, as subtle as they may be, make a huge difference in terms of how much your body and mind benefit. The following 5 wrongdoings shed some light on how to do yoga in a manner that challenges, perfects and enhances your practice.
1. Stop Holding Your Breath
One of the greatest benefits of yoga is that it trains you to breathe properly. When you challenge yourself, you breathe out, allowing your body to fall into your poses gracefully. If you are holding your breath, you are straining your body and not allowing oxygen to flow properly to your cells. Plus, yoga poses are far more comfortable when you breathe properly, rather than hold it all in.
2. Skip Eating Right Before Class
To reap the most benefits from yoga, it should be practiced on an empty stomach. If your body is too busy conjuring energy to digest food, it won't be able to focus on the practice at hand.
3. Are You Comparing Yourself?
We all fall victim to this one. For every newbie in the class, there always seems to be a self-proclaimed yogini who can stretch, twist and downward dog those yoga poses better than the rest. Instead of letting self-deprecating or competitive thoughts enter your mind during what should otherwise be a soulful experience, shed the inclination to compare. Focus only on doing the moves to the best of your ability and not letting yourself indulge in self-consciousness. If you stay present and concentrated, you'll find it easier to glance frantically left and right.
4. Are You Lazy?
I've definitely committed this before, because I'm tired, don't want to be there or simply am trying to get away with doing the bare minimum. But why pay for a class you aren't even going to try to take advantage of fully? Yoga won't make you break a sweat like running will, but it is still a physical activity that requires engagement, control and commitment. Each move, however subtle and meaningless it may seem, is part of a holistic set of moves that enhance your balance, posture and flexibility. Take it seriously and the class will be over before you know it. Just don't waste the precious time you have. Otherwise, the I-did-yoga-today reassurance means little.
5. Are You in The Right Place?
Contrary to popular belief, being in the front of the class, closer to the instructor, is not the best seat in house. Instead, position your mat towards the center or back of the class so you don't have to constantly look up, left or right to see if you are doing the pose correctly. In the back of the class, you have a bird's eye view on the pose as it's being performed by others and can get an idea of what to do, simply from peripheral vision. Meanwhile, you can focus on your movements without bouts of confusion.
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Image: Tiffany Assman