Time after time, the same question pops up with yoga students: Why am I not seeing the results I want? While you should never put your body in a position that would lead to injury, you should be putting your body in many places where it feels uncomfortable! Whether you're kicking off a yoga practice for the first time or you feel like you keep hitting personal plateaus, these tips will help you find a deeper practice.
Take the Vinyasa
All of those Chaturangas may seem like torture in the beginning, but moving through vinyasa, the sequence of moves used to link poses, is necessary to create the most active yoga practice possible. Instead of seeing this transition as the enemy, think of them as a time to reboot. Whatever happened in the last pose is washed away as you move through this transition. Going through the vinyasa (Four-Limbed Staff to Up Dog to Down Dog) strengthens the core and is perfect prep for more advanced balancing postures.
Practice more often
Once or twice a week just won't cut it. It's easy to get caught up or tough on yourself when you're not seeing the results you hoped for, but to really experience big shifts in your body, SF yogi Les Leventhal advises "to practice four times a week." He explains that the people who practice once a week always are the first ones to approach him really frustrated with their progress. If you don't have the time to hit up four 90-minute classes during the week, that's totally reasonable. Make the point to develop a strong home practice or find a DVD that can complement your in-studio sessions.
Pay attention to food
The majority of yogis out there sing the praises of a plant-based diet; when your body is digesting and processing meat and/or dairy, moving through deeper twists or jumping transitions can be difficult. If going meat free isn't an option for you, start paying closer attention to your diet and when you chow down.
You never want to have a big full belly when entering a class; on the flip side, if you're famished, you're not going to have the fuel you need to power through a class. Yoga teacher Kristin McGee stresses eating at least an hour before your practice. However, if you're really ravenous and have 20 or 30 minutes before class, she suggests grabbing a banana.
Come back to breath
The very best advice to move through mental roadblocks in yoga? Always come back to your breath. When your breathing pattern is strained or uneven, every pose is going to seem like an hour. Instead of tensing up when things feel rough, focus on ujjayi pranayama, breathing in and out through your nose.
Once you really get into the yoga groove, you'll be able to recognize the moments when you're tightening up. At these moments, breathing deep will give you a release and allow you to power through the rest of the pose. This is especially important advice if you're getting acclimated to the temperature in a Bikram yoga or a heated Vinyasa class. The heat can feel overwhelming, but your breath will keep you centered and calm.
Just don't bail
When the going gets tough, it's easy to fall out of a difficult pose and refuse to give it another go. While taking Child's Pose is a fantastic way to reconnect with your breath, it should not be used as an easy out during the moments that you're teetering on your edge.
When you feel your heart rate go up and you want to let go of the pose, focus on your breath, release any clenching in your jaw, and put a smile on your face. If you always bail from the difficult poses, you won't learn to love or appreciate your inner strength.
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