“You cannot do yoga. Yoga is your natural state. What you can do are yoga exercises, which may reveal to you where you are resisting your natural state.” —Sharon Gannon
Yoga is really a way of life rather than a form of physical exercise on a mat. But even the most experienced yogis fall into ruts where they begin to see their practice as something that has to get done sometime over the course the day, something that has to be perfected, and something is merely used as a means to an end (such as toned muscles, lower body weight, greater flexibility, etc.).
If this sounds like you, renewing your love for your practice is as simple as making a few changes.
1. Focus on Exploration Rather Than Perfection
It’s very easy to get lost in the beauty of each pose or sequence when you see them being performed by the pros. The rush of inspiration can be so great that you may find yourself wanting to bypass the slow and patient learning process as fast as possible so you can master your practice just like your teachers and other advanced yogis.
Focusing on trying to perform each pose perfectly, however, can set you back more than move you forward. Not only is it psychologically uncomfortable, but physically uncomfortable too—which could lead to injury.
Slow down. Use props. Listen to your body. Get curious about what your body is able to do in this very moment. You’ll be so much happier when you do.
2. Don’t Take Your Goals Too Seriously
Maybe you have a goal to master supported headstand within a month. Maybe you want to be able to hold crow pose for an entire minute. Or maybe you just want to commit to practicing 4 to 5 days every week.
It’s great to have goals, but it isn’t so great when you let those goals dictate your sole reason for practicing. So what if it takes you eight months or more to master headstand? As long as you practice regularly, you’re basically guaranteed to get there eventually.
And getting on your mat 4 to 5 days a week? If feel like you need a rest, take it. Your body doesn’t know what 4 to 5 times a week even means—it only knows what it feels in this very moment.
3. Change Up Your Yoga Style and Environment Regularly
You may have a favorite yoga DVD, YouTube video, studio class, or place to roll out your mat that you’ve attached yourself to in your practice. And while it’s great to stick to doing what you enjoy, it can easily put you in a state where you never get out of your comfort zone so you can grow.
Learn how to integrate what you already love about yoga with novel experiences. Sign up for a new class, take your mat outdoors, or try a 30-day hatha practice if you’re used to doing a vinyasa flow.
4. Be Mindful of the Subtle Ways Your Ego Sneaks Up on You
Teachers often remind their students to leave their egos behind as soon as they step onto their mats, but this is truly easier said than done. Here are just a few common ways your ego can overtake you in your practice without you even realizing it:
- Comparing yourself to other yogis
- Trying to push through pain and discomfort
- Using your inner voice to criticize yourself for failing to perform the way you wanted
- Taking photos of your practice just to share on social media
Be mindful of these pitfalls. The more mindful you are, the more likely you’ll be able to start gaining greater control over them.
5. Put a Smile on Your Face
Smiling has been proven to boost happiness on its own, so why not do it while you practice? Whether you’re holding Warrior II or flowing through your vinyasa, you can always use your facial muscles to smile.
Your smiling will also help to support your efforts to avoid taking your practice too seriously and to stop focusing so much on being perfect. Try it, and notice how much better you feel!
Image (edited) via Hamza Butt