If you’ve been doing yoga for a while, chances are you are pretty comfortable with the mechanics of most of the basic poses and are aware of the tremendous yoga benefits for women and man. You know how to draw your navel into your spine to engage your core. You know how to use your breath to help you sustain a challenging pose or work toward one that seems difficult. You have learned most of what you need to know about your own body to be able to suit the poses to the places that work for you. As you go through a practice, you feel like you are pretty much secure in the major anatomical points of each of the poses.
While this doesn’t mean you feel like you have “mastered” yoga, it’s a major milestone for most yoga students. It might come after months, or even years, of practice, but you’re probably aware of each step along the way, as poses become more accessible and your knowledge deepens.
That’s an exhilarating feeling, no question. But, it can also trigger a sense of frustration, especially for driven yogis. The more you become adept, the more challenging it can seem to search for the next step in your yoga journey.
Look at this as an opportunity to delve into the next level of yoga. This can mean taking a closer look at the details of your physical practice. It can mean intensifying your meditation. Maybe you want to enrich your knowledge of yogic tradition. Whatever it is, now is the time to look past the “what” and explore the “why” and “how” behind your yoga. Here are five tips to do just that.
- 1. Focus
Yes, you already concentrate when you do yoga. But the physical focus of your eyes has a huge effect on your yoga practice. The next time you hit the mat, make your gaze the center point of your intention. Investigate how your eyes inform each aspect of the pose: Your balance, alignment and perception might all shift.
- 2. Put the details top of mind
Once you know where your arms, legs and torso belong in each pose, you can shift your attention to the details. Think about your hands and feet. Are you keeping all four corners of your feet on the mat? Is there energy in your hands without tension? When you practice, your hands and feet should be as much a part of each pose as your biggest muscle groups.
- 3. Specify your intent
Again, having command of the physical basics of each pose means you can take more time to think about how you choose to approach them. That answer will be different on any given day. Maybe in one class you want to focus on strengthening your front leg in Warrior I Pose (Virabhadrasana I). The next time, you might want to feel the opening of your back hip flexor. Give yourself a moment before each class to think through at least a few poses this way. Then, practice them mindfully and examine what you take away from that session.
- 4. Learn the narrative
Pick a few favorite poses and make it a priority to find out what they mean. Most yoga poses have a rich history within mythology that you can translate into your practice. For example, Monkey Pose (Hanumanasana) has a beautiful story of loyalty behind it. So, as you slide toward the floor or extend your legs along your mat, imagine yourself making a heroic leap for someone or something you believe in.
- 5. Play with your breath
You probably already have the ability to slow down and relax your breathing as you practice. So, now is the time to experiment with different breathing techniques (pranayama). You can change the counts of your inhale and exhale to slow down your breathing further. Or, if you meditate, you can try different techniques altogether, like alternate nostril breathing. Whatever you choose, changing your breath will help you focus on it when you practice.
These tips might just give you a great boost to take your practice to the next level of knowledge and refinement. Remember there is no one right answer when it comes to deepening your yoga. Yoga is a personal journey and the next step is up to you. The physical, mental and spiritual aspects of yoga are unique to each student (or teacher) and only you can say how you want to explore that. Maybe try one of these tips each class for a month and see what works for you, or use them as a blueprint for your own free form exploration.
Author Bio: Vijay Diwakar has been in the health industry for more than 10 years. He has inspired people for Weight Loss, Building Muscles and Living a Healthy life. Stay Connected with him on MyBeautyGym.