A physical yoga practice provides many health benefits. Apart from the obvious ones of increasing strength, flexibility and balance, it improves posture, helps reduce anxiety, aids sleep, improves lung function and may reduce tension. Just to name a few. But in order to reap the rewards, there are a few things that may help. So here are some tips on how to make your yoga practice more beneficial.
Showing up for a yoga session is step one. But then comes the more difficult task, which is taking part. Here are some things to incorporate into your practice to make it even more beneficial. Remember, practice makes perfect, so certain things might not happen right away.
Remember your breath
Yoga instructors tend to remind you quite a few times during practice to breathe. Why is that exactly? Well not only do some people forget to breathe during intense postures, but it is also a way to bring your mind back to your body. The breath is life force, prana. Conscious breathing has many benefits to your health and connects us to the subtle energies within. It is also a great way to let go of the mind and practice living in the present moment.
Have an open mind
Allowing for whatever happens during your practice to just be. If an alarm goes off, if there is a noise outside, if you are unable to get into a pose, if your mind is constantly thinking. Breathe, let go and accept that it is what it is, without judgement. Every day is different, just like every practice is never the same.
Bringing awareness inwards might be a bit difficult especially if we have many things going on. But that is what a yoga practice is for. To break away from everything and practice active meditation, mindfulness. During your poses, if your mind trails off, yes bringing it back to the breath is important. But also try doing a body scan once in a while.
Let’s say you are in Warrior 3. When you are focusing on your drishti, your gaze, you are actually bringing your awareness internally. So feel the three corners of your foot as it is grounding you to the floor. Feel your calf and glute engaged holding your raised leg up. Your raised leg is fully active and muscles are engaged from your toe/heel, all along the length of your back to your fingertips. Facial muscles relaxed. Feel that long length of energy from the tips of your fingers to the back of your raised heel/toe. Feel how wonderful that feels. How does it feel to breathe in this posture? That right there is body awareness. While thinking of this internal scan and how your body is in that posture, you brought the present moment into your practice.
Attitude of gratitude
Remember to be kind to yourself and grateful for all the postures your body is able to engage. Being grateful for the fact that you are capable of breathing with ease. Bringing gratitude into your practice is a way to vibrate on high frequency, which affects others as well. It allows you to be content without judgement and negative self-talk.
Listen to your body
Your body speaks to you so listen. Challenge yourself in poses but don’t over do it. If you are in a posture and have found your ease then fully let go, but if a feeling or instinct comes up, listen. Certain poses might bring up some things from the past or even answer a question you have been asking. But do not dwell in it. Recognize it and let it go. Analyze what just happened after your practice.
You can learn from every practice, from every experience. Whether it is something new your instructor has told you or an idea you would like to learn more about. After practice, research and go further into concepts spoken about or ask. Learning will only benefit you in the long run.
Pay attention to your yourself, your thoughts, your practice. You are dedicating this time to yourself, to zen out and rejuvenate, so focus only on yourself.
Incorporating a few of these tips will help make your practice more beneficial. It might not be easy, but with time and practice it will get easier. So I wish you all the best in your practice and may it bring you flourish with the rewards that it brings.
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