Am I doing this right? Is this what the teacher is doing? Is this pain or is it just discomfort? Should I be modifying this pose?
Are any of these questions that you have asked yourself during a yoga class? It’s easy to nitpick and lose self-awareness during a yoga class. Yoga is so main stream now that it’s almost its own industry with mats, clothing, props, instructors, and students. Yoga is offered in so many different locations and styles: gyms, studios, beach yoga, dance yoga, aerial yoga. It’s become the most versatile workout. It can be hard to remember at times that the true goal of yoga as it was originally taught in India is spiritual liberation. Yoga is about balance- remember balance. Yoga is the yin and the yang. Balance of grounding yourself toward the earth but stretching up towards the sky.
So what are some common mistakes that are holding us back during our yoga practice?
- Don’t forget to breathe. A fundamental tool in yoga is using your breath to guide your practice. Not only does it keep you centered and balanced, but it is actually oxygenating and fueling your muscles. As long as you can practice poses with a natural easy breath, you are probably not overexerting yourself. A good rule of thumb is to inhale as you reach up and exhale as you move more deeply into the stretch, bend or twist.
- Remember that yoga is more than just a form of exercise. Yoga is truly about self-awareness, with an incredible health benefit. The poses are vehicles for self-discovery and guidance. The word yoga itself means "union”- the soul with the Universal Consciousness. It is an unfolding of the infinite potentials of the human mind and soul.
- Trust your instincts and don’t be afraid to modify. If your poses feel strained and stressful, pull back and modify. Acknowledge what your body is telling you and be sure to differentiate between a genuine stretch, discomfort, or pain. The beauty of yoga is the stretch and release – at your own level. Bolsters, blocks, and straps are extremely helpful tools to help you in your practice.
- Use your core. Most flexibility comes from a strong core. When your core is not strong other joints and muscles are compensating for the parts of your body that should be doing the hard work. A strong core is your power house and is the key to a peaceful, injury free practice.
- Don’t skip the meditation. Savasana can sometimes be a challenge. The art of relaxation is harder than it looks. It’s difficult to get our minds to calm down and clear it of activity, even just for 3-5 minutes. This practice is essential for the body. It allows you time to reenergize and recoup. Savasana is to relax with attention - to remain conscious and alert while still being at ease. Focus on relaxing one body part at a time and relieving the tension in your muscles.