“When we recognize the virtues, the talent, the beauty of Mother Earth, something is born in us, some kind of connection—love is born. We want to be connected. That is the meaning of love, to be at one… You would do anything for the benefit of the Earth, and the Earth will do anything for your well-being.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
Yoga is about connection. To practice yoga means to embark on a journey of connecting deeper with oneself and one’s environment—including all the people, plants, animals, objects, and events within that environment that are experienced through the five senses.
Connection is cultivated by accepting all that is, exactly as it is. To experience real growth, you can’t just accept the good and ignore the bad.
So if you want to really harness the power of your practice to connect deeper to your true self, to others, and to all of reality, then you have to be willing to get a little uncomfortable.
Here are just a few very helpful tips you can take with you to move deeper into your yoga practice.
Let Go of Expectations
There’s nothing wrong with having goals or expectations for yourself and for your practice, but attaching yourself to those goals/expectations has a tendency to draw you away from reality and into your mind where your mental checklist of goals resides. This is troublesome if you want to learn from your weaknesses and struggles rather than simply focus on what’s going right.
Here are just some goals or expectations to recognize in yourself and consciously decide to detach from:
- Expecting to always be able to perform a certain pose or sequence because you’ve done it previously or because you’ve been practicing for a long time
- Expecting to grow noticeably stronger or more flexible in a certain amount of time
- Expecting each yoga session to get easier
- Expecting to feel good every time you step on and/or off the mat
- Expecting to feel laser focused and unfazed by emotions during your practice
Get Back to Basics
Don’t assume that you should only stick to intermediate or advanced poses and sequences just because you’ve been practicing for years already or are already very fit/flexible.
Even the most experienced and fittest yogis have to check their egos from time to time, and challenging yourself to step onto your mat from a beginner’s perspective is a great way to strengthen your connection to the practice. Consider taking beginner level 1 classes that focus on the basics of proper alignment and breath integration to remind yourself of what it means to create a strong foundation in every pose.
Make Meditation a Priority
Yoga is a form of meditation integrated with movement, but you can enhance the meditative effect of yoga by starting and ending every session on your mat with a few minutes of seated meditation.
Before you get up to stand in mountain pose/push back into downward dog or end in savasana, take a seat in lotus, half lotus, easy pose or any comfortable seated pose of your choice so you can close your eyes and focus on your breath. Doing so will help calm your thoughts and heighten your awareness of what’s going on inside you in the present moment.
Keep a Journal for Your Practice
Once you’ve completed your long and restful savasana, grab your journal to write about or make notes about what you just experienced.
Maybe your mind seemed restless, or you felt more fatigued that usual in Warrior II, or a certain hip opener triggered some unwanted emotions. Documenting experiences like these and reading over them later contributes to the process of self-study, allowing you to draw meaning from them and learn from them in ways that deepen your connection to yourself as well as to your practice.