One of the best feelings in the world is noticing progress during your yoga practice. It’s those rare, brief moments of noticeable improvement in strength, flexibility, alignment, concentration, or even transition that make all those stumbles and fumbles feel worth it.
But when we start to get the hang of something we previously struggled with, how do we ensure that we keep growing? It can be tempting to cling to the high of repeating the same thing over and over again now that it’s possible to do, without moving forward much after that to keep the challenge of growth going.
Ready to step things up a little? Try some of the following growth tips to see how you can put a good challenge back into your practice.
Get Serious About Your Alignment
If you only pick one thing to do to challenge yourself more in your practice, make it your focus on alignment. More often than not, we think we’re doing a great job while holding our bodies in really strong and beautiful asanas, but in reality, our alignment can be way off.
Do your own research online to get familiar with proper alignment, watch YouTube tutorials if you have to, ask your teacher about specific asanas you want to improve, and consider taking private lessons if you want to get real serious. Likewise, don’t be afraid to use props like yoga blocks. They exist to help you improve.
Hold Your Asanas a Little Longer
Almost anyone can hold Warrior II for a couple brief seconds, but try holding it for 30 seconds to a minute or longer and see how it feels. Chances are your legs and arms will burn a little!
If you can combine long holds with a commitment to maintaining extremely accurate alignment the whole way through, then you’ve got yourself a real challenge. Holding your asanas for longer also gives you the opportunity to become aware of all the different parts of your body that are working.
See If You Can Go Deeper (Safely, Of Course!)
Obviously, if it hurts to go deeper, then you shouldn’t do it. But if you’re feeling good, feeling strong, and are warmed up enough, it may be worth seeing of you can sink lower into your lunges, open up your shoulders a little more, or go a little further in your backbends.
This requires knowing your body and knowing it well enough to know when to back off. You could also try focusing more on your warm-up, such as practicing cobra or upward dog several times more than usual throughout your practice before trying to do a more serious backbend, like full wheel.
Try to Relax As Much As Possible
We often forget that just trying to relax is as much of a challenge as it is to work through the physical postures. When both the mind and body are relaxed, we also put ourselves in a better position to prevent injury simply because we’re more aware of what’s going on.
Whether you’re focusing on alignment, holding your asanas longer, going deeper, or any other type of challenge, remember to tune into your breath and allow yourself to relax a little more with every exhale. After all, yoga is not just about physical challenge. It’s a mental challenge too.