Yoga is more popular Worldwide than ever before. As a yoga teacher, many students ask me how they can deepen and expand their yoga practice. Most of my advice could be boiled down to 2 words: Don’t compare.
- Don’t Compare Your Asana To What You Think It Should Look Like
If your teacher uses Sanskrit names for poses, you may have noticed that nearly all the names end with the suffix -asana. Asana is the Sanskrit word meaning “seat” or “posture.” Suhkasana, for example, is “easy seat” or “easy sitting pose” in English and usually refers to sitting up straight, cross-legged.
When practicing asana, forget the Instagram yogis, smiling while performing advanced asanas and the Yoga Journal models with their perfect postures. These are great resources for understanding what you are working towards in your asana practice, but forcing your body into painful positions it is not ready for in an attempt to do exactly what you think the pose “should” look like does not benefit your body. This is particularly tempting to do if there is a mirror to look in, as there is in many yoga studios. If your favorite yoga studio has a mirror, avoid focusing on it. Perhaps, even set your mat up in an area where the mirror is not readily visible. What it feels like is more important that what it looks like.
2. Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
Comparing yourself to others is a recipe for disaster, whether at a yoga studio, comparing yourself to the extremely limber girl in the front row, or at home watching an instructional video wishing you were as flexible as the teacher. Comparison leads the ego to force the body to go further than it should, increasing the possibility of injury.
3. Don’t Compare Yourself to Yourself
Challenging yourself is one thing: We should all strive to challenge ourselves and deepen our practice. However, we are always changing. The pose that came easily last week might prove very difficult this week. Your right shoulder or wrist might be much tighter than the left, for example. It is common for the dominant limb to feel different.
Be gentle with yourself. Maybe you took a break from asana for awhile; maybe you had a baby; maybe you had acar accident or other injury. Even absent such trauma to the body, the body changes. Sometimes waking up involves creaking joints, stiff hamstrings, etc. Sometimes it doesn’t. This ebb and flow the body experiences impacts your yoga practice as well.
4. Steady and Comfortable
Patanjali literally wrote the book on Yoga. (You might have heard of “The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali”). The most important point he made about the physical postures is that they should be steady and comfortable. Watching people straining and holding their breath sometimes during class, steady and comfortable are not the words that come to mind. Your face and breath will let you know. Are you holding your breath? Is your jaw clenched? Is your brow wrinkled? You may need to come out of the posture a little or simply take a deep breath and surrender.
5. Take It With You When You Go
Asana, or postures, is what most Westerners know as yoga. However, asana represents only one of the eight limbs of yoga. A complete yoga practice is a mindset and a lifestyle. Anger is a natural human emotion, but not letting it control your life is essential to a happy existence. You can show your middle finger to the driver who just cut you off, or you can take a deep breath and remind yourself that you do not know their circumstances. They might be having a bad day and are distracted. They might be running late and are flustered. They are human just like you and sometimes make mistakes, too.
6. Clear Your Mind
The mental benefits of a proper, mindful yoga practice are huge. That is why it is so important to focus on more than just the physical asanas. A meditation practice is a great complement to your asanas. Meditation can be done with mala jewelry, used to count repetitions of mantras, or chants. Mala jewelry, generally bracelets or necklaces, are used like a rosary. They can be beautiful as well as spiritual. Silver Trendz has lots of beautiful malas to choose from to start your yoga and meditation practice. The stones the beads are made from are even believed to give the wearer special protection or other mental or physical benefits, depending on what type of stones are used. Click here to see how to incorporate healing stones into your yoga practice in a previous blog as well as the healing properties of mala jewelry.