It didn’t take long for me to fall for yoga.
Although it wasn’t love at first asana, by the third or fourth class I knew I could see a future.
Our relationship has only been six months, but yoga has shown me what other workouts never could.
I feel stronger, more self-aware and—for once—committed. I know that with yoga, there is only room for me to grow.
Yoga and I still have so much more to learn about each other. But I am confident that I’ve picked up some key tips for others who want to turn their “casual dates” with yoga into something long-term.
If you’re ready to get serious with yoga, here’s how:
Your yoga teacher may remind you to breathe at least five times during class, but it’s still easy to forget when you’re worried about doing poses correctly. Make remembering your breath part of the intention you set before every class. Breathe loudly, and even through your mouth, so you can hear yourself and be reminded.
Focus more on keeping your breathing consistent than syncing it to your teacher’s inhale/exhale instructions, because if you fall behind, you’ll be more likely to hold your breath trying to catch up. Your breath really is a tool to connect more deeply with yoga—use it!
2. Take Your Time
Don’t rush your poses. Forcing something to happen too soon is how you get hurt. Make sure you’re set up correctly and a pose feels right before you take it a step further. If you fall behind the class, keep going at your own pace, or rest in a comfortable pose until you can rejoin the group. Yoga is your practice, so you shouldn’t feel pressured to keep up with others around you. Performing poses correctly is always better than doing them quickly.
3. Have Patience.
This goes hand-in-hand with taking your time. Learn to accept when a pose just isn’t working for you, and move on. Realize that difficult poses take most yoginis months—even years—to master. Dedicate yourself to practicing in the present, and accept everything your body is able to do. Progress will come if you’re willing to wait a little. But, in order to progress, you have to…
Yoga provides a wonderful opportunity to grow spiritually and physically every time you practice—if you are consistent. If you want to do an inversion but you never practice up against a wall, you won’t be handstanding anytime soon. As with any skill, you have to put the work in to become better at yoga.
Some poses really suck. Like a lot. Like “How can anyone do this?” hard. Pay attention to the poses your body resists and the muscle areas that feel tight. When you home in one your problem areas, you can start to incorporate the right stretches to improve them.
Conversely, notice the poses you complete with ease. You can use this flexibility and strength to your advantage when tackling harder poses. And when there’s a frustrating pose you can’t seem to get, it will be easier for you to recall all those that you did master.
Notice also the thoughts that arise at the beginning and end of your practice so you can investigate them further, should you choose.
6. Find Your Rhythm.
No two yogis are alike! You may be totally bored in a regular Vinyasa class, but in the zone when your flow is set to hip hop. Performing a yoga pose balanced on a partner’s back may be too close for comfort, but flying into a pose on aerial silks might set you free! A regular class may not test your limits, but a hot yoga class could be the extra push you need. Experiment with different styles of yoga to discover what works best for you. Once you get in the groove, you’ll be unstoppable.
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Asst. Ed.: Kathleen O’Hagan/Ed: Bryonie Wise
Photo: Emma Freeman Portaits