How To Take Your Yoga Practice To The Next Level
If you’ve been practising yoga for a while, either on your own at home or at a public studio you might have reached the point where you’re ready to step up. Maybe it’s to graduated from the level 1 or beginners’ class to a level 2 or intermediate, or maybe it’s just that you’re feeling like you’re ready to get something more from the practice.
There are lots of ways to enhance your practice, that DON’T involve forcing yourself into the splits, or risking injury from pushing yourself into harder postures.
Focus on finding ease
It might seem pretty simple, but this is harder than it sounds, especially in those trickier postures that you really want to nail! Start with the postures you feel pretty confident in; once you've found your sweet spot in terms of alignment, focus on softening through the breath and taking a moment to really find a place of stillness, both in body and mind. You might be surprised at how much more you notice about the experience of the practice!
Go to a workshop
Workshops are really helpful for diving deeper into one particular area you want to work on, for example balancing postures. Workshops will give you the opportunity to learn about how the body works and the muscles and activation required for certain postures in much more depth than you can in a public class. You can also ask all the questions you like to really help you to move forward!
Practice your Ujjayi Breath
You have probably heard of Ujjayi breath and maybe your teacher refers to it in your classes but do you actually use it within your practice? Using this breath within your practice increases the flow of oxygen in the blood, hence increasing your energy levels while allowing you to feel more present and connected to the flow of your movement. Maintaining a rhythm with your breath can do wonders for enhancing the experience of the practice!
Hit the books
If you've been practising yoga asanas (postures) for a while but haven't read or been told much behind the philosophy of yoga, the teachings and the history of the practice then I would highly recommend hitting the books to enhance your understanding of why we practice! Having this background knowledge will help you to work through frustrations you may come across on, or off, the mat and put your practice into perspective.
My favourites are:
Attend a retreat
Retreats aren't just for superstar yogis who dedicate their lives to practice - there are retreats out there to suit all levels, ages, experiences and budgets! Many people find retreats a perfect way to kick their practice up a notch as you will be practising a lot more than normal and for an extended period of time. You might also just find the immersive experience helps you to re-evaluate what you want from your practice. Find out more about my next retreat here.
Stay for longer
Holding postures longer than normal is a great way to change up the experience of postures you might find a bit boring or easy right now, like warrior 2. Try holding it for 10-15 breaths and notice where the mind and body start to take you!
Commit to poses that are a struggle
This one is particularly important if you practice at home, but can apply to a studio setting too, if you notice yourself giving up on the trickier postures before the teacher moves the class on. Try to set the intention to dedicate more attention to the trickier postures at the start of your practice, you'll be more likely to see results quicker!
For alignment tips on some of the harder postures in yoga, check out this free ebook.
Practice little and often
They key to advancing your yoga practice is little and often. 5-15 minutes of movement and breathing a day is far better than a 1-hour practice a week! If you have space, keep your yoga mat rolled out at home so you are encouraged to step on it and stretch out; maybe in front of the TV at night, or while you're waiting for the dinner to cook.
Journalling is a great way to track progress, not just in your physical practice, but in your mental practice also. You might not feel like your physical practice is developing, but you might not have noticed changes to how your mental health is improving. Journalling both your small wins in yoga, as well as how you feel each day will help you to see real progress! See my guide to starting a journalling practice here.
Mix it up
If you like to practice one particular style of yoga, try mixing it up with different styles and teachers. Every style of yoga has something different to offer, as does every teacher, so you might find something valuable in a change! If you usually practice Ashtanga, try a Yin class, or if you usually practice Hatha why not try a hot flow, or a Vinyasa class?
Take Private Classes
Making it to a studio once or twice a week likely isn’t going to progress your practice, & let’s face it, life is hectic and you might not even be making it to the studio that often! Trying to squeeze a yoga class into your busy day and rushing to a studio ends up creating more stress in your life. Private classes mean the yoga comes to you, you get tailored, hands-on instruction & you can dictate the pace you want to work at. If you’re practising at a very big studio you might never have had detailed feedback about your alignment, or maybe you don’t feel you can ask questions…all that goes away with a private class, so you can really take your practice up to the next level. For more info about private yoga classes with me in Brussels contact me today!
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