Yoga is far more than just physical movement. Although it provides some of the benefits of exercise, the primary purpose of your practice is to put you in touch with your true nature—your very existence of being.
When you are simply being, you are at peace, no matter what your current circumstances may be in that very moment. Being is very different than doing, because doing something typically involves engaging the mind, and the mind is what takes you away from that peaceful state of being.
Having said that, there’s nothing wrong with doing. After all, you’re wired to solve problems and achieve goals—and doing is what helps you grow.
Being, however, reconnects you to your spiritual nature. You need both doing and being to serve your personal growth.
To cultivate more inner peace, however, being must be prioritized over doing. Here are some of the things you can incorporate into your practice to promote a greater sense of peaceful being.
1. Tweak Your Yoga Environment
Your environment sets the foundation for your practice. If there’s bad energy lingering in your space when you’re trying to do your thing on the mat, you’re likely to be affected by it.
Try taking your practice to a new environment if you’re trying to practice in a space where you regularly work, wrangle the kids, watch TV, or do anything else that takes a lot of mental and emotional energy. If you can’t, do your best to keep your environment clutter-free and fresh by clearing out unnecessary items and/or diffusing your favorite essential oils.
2. Start Your Practice With Meditation
There’s no right or wrong way to start your practice, but a brief meditation at the very beginning can help clear your mind and get you in the zone before you start moving around on your mat.
Take a seat on your mat, close your eyes, and practice tuning into your breath and the sensations in your body. You can optionally use mudras, mantras, om chanting, or specific poses like lotus or half lotus pose to enhance your meditation.
3. Incorporate Pranayama Into Your Practice
Pranayama is the practice of extending and controlling the breath. In yoga, it’s believed that a person’s breath carries their life force.
Ujayi is an ancient breathing technique commonly used today in yoga (especially in hatha yoga). It involves breathing with the lips sealed by taking slightly deeper than normal inhalations in through the nose and exhaling slowly through the nose while tightening the muscles in the back of the throat.
4. Tailor Your Practice to Your Needs
You may think you need a vigorous vinyasa flow when in fact what your mind and body really need is a slower paced flow with longer holds, or perhaps even a restorative yoga session.
Before you get on your mat, pay attention to the messages your body is telling you, and shift your practice accordingly. You can use your meditation in the beginning to do this—even if it means making a few little tweaks (going slower, favoring certain poses over others, using props, etc.) as you go.
5. Stay Longer in Resting Poses
Resting poses like child’s pose and downward facing dog aren’t meant to be rushed. Child’s pose is ideal for turning your awareness inward while moving around in downward dog can help you feel all the sensations in your body.
Stay a while long in these poses when you decide to take a rest. When you’re ready to start moving around again, you’ll have a clearer state of mind and better feel for how your body wants to move.
Image (edited) via We Are Social