Whether you’re a beginner or advanced yogi who practices as little as once a week or as often as every day, there is such a thing as taking yoga too seriously. The tricky part about it is that it’s easy for it to go unnoticed.

If you think you might be taking your practice just a little too seriously, consider asking yourself the following questions:

  • Does your practice feel more like a chore than an enjoyable part of your journey?
  • Do you feel guilty or ashamed for not performing perfectly?
  • Do you worry about the way you look when you practice?
  • Do you compare yourself to other yogis?
  • Do you push yourself through unnecessary physical pain?

If you answered yes to any of the above, you could be taking yoga way too seriously. While yoga certainly isn’t always sunshine and rainbows, you have to be mindful of any feelings of resistance or desires for control.

Here are a few things you can do to stop taking yoga so seriously and get reacquainted with your playful sense of curiosity for a much more fun and carefree practice.

Practice Somewhere New and Unusual

If you’ve been practicing in your living room for months or are known to take that one spot in the corner of every class you attend, consider switching up your environment to something a little more unusual. If you have a backyard deck or patio, try practicing there. If you take classes, try moving closer to the front. Anything out of the norm can be enough to help you loosen up a bit.

Wear Loose-Fitting Clothing for a Change

Typical yoga apparel is made to be stretchy and comfortable, but often fitted as well. If you’ve always practiced in fitted yoga pants and top, try mixing your outfit up by practicing in baggy pants or shorts and an oversized T-shirt or tank top. As long as they don’t hinder your movement and flexibility in any way, practicing in looser-fitting clothing can be quite freeing.

Listen to Music While You Practice

Many yoga teachers already make music a part of their classes, but if you practice at home, you have the opportunity to pick something that will motivate you to really let loose and move freely. Try some ambient or “chill out” music to help keep you relaxed and focused on exploring your mind and body as you move through your practice.

Go Slower and Get Creative With Movement

Going slower means you can let go of unnecessary tension and become more aware of all the muscles and body parts that are connected to one another as you move. Instead of trying to rush through each pose, get creative and experiment with your movement. For example, rotate your body in circles while in cat-cow pose or by making large windmill motions with your arms when transitioning from reverse warrior to plank pose.

Focus on How the Body Feels Rather Than Making It Perfect

Proper form and alignment are certainly important, but it’s far too easy to cross over to a mindset of forced stretches and holds. If it feels bad, pushing yourself through it isn’t necessarily going to make it better. Always let your body be your guide. The more you listen to your body, the better you’ll get at knowing how far to go, which is the best way to make progress over time.

Image (edited) via Cohen Van der Velde