After you've had a few yoga classes under your capris, it's easy to get so caught up in the actual postures that you forget about other important details that can deepen your practice. While the physical aspect of yoga is important, not being aware of the mistakes you're making on your mat may hold you back from the emotional and spiritual benefits. During your next yoga class, focus on these three aspects of your practice and see how it helps deepens your awareness and sense of relaxation.
Scan the Body For Tense Muscles
When you're in a pose that challenges your sense of balance like Tree, or postures that challenge your strength like Forearm Stand, you can be so focused on holding the pose that you tense up every muscle in your body. Not only does this make for a stressful yoga practice, you could also injure yourself by overworking muscles that should be relaxed. In your next class, be aware of tension you're holding in common areas like your shoulders, face, or toes. Constantly scan your body each time you move into a new posture to ensure you're holding the pose with as little muscular effort as needed.
Continue reading to find out other ways to deepen your yoga practice.
Holding Your Breath
While there are certain types of pranayama (breathing exercises) that require you to hold your breath, during a regular yoga practice, your focus should be on creating deep inhales and exhalations. You may find that during challenging poses, you hold your breath, which disrupts the body-breath connection. Not to mention, it can also cause you to be lightheaded or give you a headache. When presented with a difficult pose in your next class, focus on keeping your breath smooth and strong. If you end up falling out of the pose, keep breathing, and get right back into it. Soon your consistent breath will actually help you hold postures.
The goal of a yoga practice is to link your breath with your body's movements, to create a fluid dance. When your body makes extra movements, it's distracting and makes your practice feel clunky and disconnected. To encourage a graceful, gazelle-like sensation, try to anticipate where your body will need to be in the next pose to decrease unnecessary fidgeting. When going from Down Dog to Warrior 1, as you inhale, try to step your right foot all the way between your hands and raise your torso up in one swooping movement so you can exhale directly into Warrior 1 without the need to widen your stance. It will take practice and awareness to learn how to cut down on these extra movements, but once you do, your practice will shift to a new, deeper level.