Yoga is about so much more than the perfect downward dog. As well as a great form of exercise it’s also about the mind – calming and centring it – and your individual experience, on and off the mat.
8 ways to improve your yoga practice
Continually learning and improving is in the spirit of the practice, so whether you’re just starting out on your yoga journey or are an asana-holic, we’re sure you’ll love our tips for making the most of your session.
1. Be Present
Dinner plans, hoovering, that big meeting at work – forget all of it. You owe it to yourself to be present during the short time you carve out for yourself and your yoga practice each day.
2. Be Consistent
Like with anything, the more you unroll your yoga mat, the better you’ll get at your practice. Consistency is key to reaping the rewards of yoga too – daily sessions will help improve flexibility, circulation, and strength, and aid weight loss. Try dedicating 10 minutes of every day to your favourite yoga poses.
First thing’s first, buy a good mat. You’ll spend a lot of time on it, so it really does pay to get a good-quality one that’s comfortable, durable, big enough and in a colour that makes you smile. Next up: nice workout wear. Fit is important – you don’t want to have to keep adjusting your waistband or tugging on your vest every few minutes when you should be focusing on Warrior 1 – as is breathability, especially if you’re into hot yoga.
4. Check in with the Teacher
Many yogis enjoy the calm and serenity of a solo session and the ease with which you can practice at home, no fees required, but it’s also important to attend classes. An expert will be able to tell you immediately if you’re doing a pose wrong – and as such either risking injury or preventing yourself from having some great benefits – and guide you in your breathing. You don’t have to become a regular at the local studio, but it’s good to pop by every once in a while to super-charge your practice. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, no matter how silly you feel they might be, to really get the most out of your experience.
5. Use Props For Better Alignment
Using blocks or even a rolled-up towel is not cheating. Props aren’t for weaker or less-able yogis; props provide extra support and help create better alignment of the spine by lengthening the side body. You’ll also find you can hold a pose for longer with a well-positioned block.
6. Do What Feels Good
Yoga is about listening to and connecting with your body, not about painfully contorting your limbs to ‘complete’ poses. If your head doesn’t want to touch the mat, or you wobble when you try to balance on one leg, don’t worry and don’t be too hard on yourself. Instead, respect your body and focus on the movements that make you feel good. Breathe deeply and work up to the rest at your own pace. This is definitely one of those sports where the journey is more important than the destination.
7. Don't Lock Your Joints
It’s very natural to feel like you need to become more rigid to get into certain poses, or that it’s easier to stay in one for longer when you do so, but it’s not good for you. Try to make your poses more dynamic (and safer) by bending your knees and joints ever-so slightly.
8. Stay Hydrated
Stopping to take a sip can mess with your yogic flow and take you out of the zone, so make sure you’re fully hydrated before you start. Drink water and green tea throughout the day and your muscles will reward you.