There’s a lot of conjecture when it comes to talking about the “right” way to do yoga. Thousands of variations on the practice exist, but here are some of the most common missteps that could be hindering your yoga progress.
Reconnect that mind, body and spirit when you come to yoga. Your brain is probably too busy the rest of the time anyway – time to let it calm down. Feel the poses, don’t let your brain get too technical about them.
A lot of people get put off trying their first yoga class because they are scared of making a mistake or of being embarrassingly stiff. Let go of that right now. First of all, we all started out in exactly the same position. Secondly, and most importantly, yoga is all about turning inward and reconnecting different aspects of your deepest self. It’s certainly not about being judgemental about how other people are executing their poses. Frankly, no-one but the teacher really cares about what you are doing anyway. If your fellow yogis are paying more attention to you than themselves, then that’s their choice and should not affect you. Take the time to experience how you feel – it’s much more valuable than speculating on how others perceive you.
It’s fair enough to avoid a pose if you have a serious injury, but usually the poses that are the most difficult are the ones we need the most. Don’t distract the mind by groaning or taking another child’s pose when you’re asked to do something you find challenging. Instead, work through the poses and you’ll see how it’s an excellent way to gain new perspective and eventually lead to a transformation on your yogic journey.
In a similar vein, if you are in a pose that feels very intense, don’t pretend the pain isn’t happening. In life as well as in yoga class, we often foster a sense of numbness to get through pain. We don’t necessarily gain from pain. Instead, be present and really feel the quality of that twinge or ache. Is it a sharp feeling, or more of a dull throb? Identifying the type of sensation helps you differentiate between discomfort that’s required to make the body stronger or pain that’ll lead to or a result of injury. You’ll become a more mindful practitioner by connecting with your true feelings.
Fake it until you make it. We all have yoga poses that we despise. But resenting those postures will not help us get any better. Next time you’re doing a pose you don’t like, pretend you love it. You’ll be surprised at how much easier it feels! It sounds fairly ridiculous, but if you go in wholeheartedly it really works! A personal strategy is to smile through it. The mind is incapable of resentment or anger when you’re smiling. Trick yourself into liking a posture and eventually you’ll fall in love with it. Know that it does take time, so be patient and give yourself a chance every time you step on the mat.
A wise yoga teacher once said, ‘you should leave an asana as if you are leaving a lover’. You want to linger, you want to stay as long as possible, because it gives you life and happiness. Flopping out of a posture or exiting before the teacher’s cue is a message that there was no value in the pose, when that is not the case.
Usually after a tricky posture like firefly or crow pose, it is common for a huge collective sigh to go up in the room once everyone has settled back to the mat. What you should be doing is trying to relax in the pose, not just when you are out of it. This way, you are telling your body that it’s okay to have a straight spine, it’s okay to have an open heart, and it’s okay to have a strong belly and relaxed shoulders. Learning how to relax in tricky postures helps us to relax in real life situations. What we learn on the mat, we transfer to our daily life.
Be playful about it! Your life’s worth does not lessen if you smash your chin as you fall out of peacock pose. You may as well laugh at yourself and move on – the alternative is depressing and plain silly. Learning to smile and let things slide off you like water off a duck’s back is one of the most valuable lessons that yoga can bring.
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