Want a better yoga experience? Drop your expectations. If you could approach your yoga practice without any expectations at all, that would be perfect. However, that’s impossible for most of us. Do the best you can: breathe, relax, and be present. Your life will change.
These eleven tips will help.
1. Take a Yoga Class, and Get There Early.
Want to learn yoga? Take a yoga class. Yes, you can learn from videos and books, but you’ll feel much more confident, and will get more out of your practice, if you take a class. Your yoga teacher can help you to understand your body’s responses to the asanas (postures).
Talk to your teacher before you sign up for a class, and don’t be insulted if your teacher suggests a beginners’ class. Most importantly, get to class early. You can get a good position, and can stretch and warm up before the class begins.
2. Respect Yourself and Your Own Experiences in Your Yoga Practice.
Yoga isn’t just a series of exercises, nor is it a competitive sport. Yoga is union:
Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit root yuj, meaning “to yoke” or “to unite”. We practice yoga to unite the body, breath, mind, and heart… The Yoga Sutras say, “Yoga is the ability to direct the mind without distraction or interruption.” Another interpretation is that yoga means to be in harmony with a higher power, the universe, or your highest self. – Bend and Bloom Yoga
Most importantly, yoga is experiential — no one can tell you what to experience. Your experiences are your own, and you won’t be able to put them into words. Indeed, you’ll realize that words aren’t necessary.
3. Go Within: Accept and Listen to What Your Body’s Telling You.
We assume that our mind is separate from our body. However, neuroscientist Candace Pert, in her ground-breaking book Molecules of Emotion, suggested that your mind lives in every cell of your body.
Yoga will show you that this is true. Yoga makes you comfortable in your body. You’ll be more relaxed, more confident, and your life will improve. Indeed, after practicing yoga for a while, your life may change in ways you don’t expect.
You’ll discover who you are. All you have to do is listen to your body as you do yoga.
4. Be Present: Turn Off Your Phone, and Inhabit Your Body.
To truly listen to your body, you need to be present. Be aware of your body. Turn off your phone. Relax into each asana, and stop struggling. Breathe.
5. Accept Joy: Smile, Within and Without.
Smile. Your mind and body are united. When you smile, you’ll become joyful. Try it. Smile as you do your yoga practice. You’ll learn to trust the joy you feel. Your friends will notice that you’re happier. Who knew that a smile could make such a difference?
6. Your Breath Is Everything: Breathe Into the Tightness in Your Body.
Your breath is your life. You can’t live for more than a few minutes without breathing. As you relax, and your body releases tension and toxins, you’ll be able to breathe more deeply.
Use your breath. Direct your breath into the tight areas in your body. As your body becomes more flexible, so will your mind.
7. You’re You: No Judgments or Comparisons.
You’ll find yourself making comparisons between your own body and those of the other people in your yoga class. You’ll want to be as calm and serene as one person, and as flexible as another. You may feel superior — or envious.
Whenever you feel yourself drifting into a day dream about other students in your class, or about what you have or don’t have in your life, gently bring yourself back to your breath, and breathe into your body.
8. Do Your Homework: Practice Gentle Yoga Stretches at Home — And in the Office.
You may take a yoga class once or twice a week. You’ll benefit most if you also do some yoga stretches at home. Speak to your teacher. Ask them what asanas they recommend for your home practice. Perhaps they’ll ask you to do a round or two of Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutations) each day.
Surya Namaskar is a popular dynamic sequence of asanas, which is reputedly over 2,500 years old. It includes eight basic postures. You can do the entire sequence dynamically, as a flow of postures, or you can take a minute or two with each posture, if you have more time.
Do some stretches in the office too. Several minutes of yoga will both energize you, and relax you.
9. Invest in Yoga and Meditation Accessories: They Help.
Mats, belts, cushions, blocks — which yoga and meditation accessories do you need? You’re unlikely to need any as a new student. Be guided by your teacher. Before you use items like a belt, or blocks, ask your teacher which postures you should use them in.
As your practice deepens, and you’re more familiar with your body, you’ll understand how and when to use accessories.
10. Accept Your Emotions: Smile, or Cry. No One Will Judge You.
Emotional breakthroughs are common in yoga. Yoga releases emotions that are buried in your body. The first time another student bursts into tears during practice, you’ll be startled. If you’re the person who’s emotional, you may feel as if there’s something wrong with you. There’s nothing wrong. Accept whatever happens.
11. Have Fun: Wear Comfortable Yoga Clothes, and Relax.
You’ll quickly come to look on yoga class, and your daily practice of yoga at home and in the office, as the best part of your day. Expectations will arise. Forget them, and just relax into the postures. Yoga does its magic subtly and powerfully. All you need to do is enjoy it. Wear comfortable clothes, and if you’re practicing in your office, close the door and take off your shoes.
Use these tips for a better yoga experience. Yoga will subtly transform every area of your life, unlocking the person you are as it unites your body, mind and spirit.
Featured photo credit: Rance Costa via Photopin