Here are five ways to develop a daily yoga practice that offers continual growth and joy, both on the mat and beyond.
1. Begin with an intention.
An intention gives purpose to your practice, and gives you a place to come back to any time your mind wanders (and it will!) throughout the class.
A few examples you can use are “Accept whatever shows up on the mat today, physically and emotionally,” or “I intend to breathe as deeply and as consciously as possible from start to finish.”
Setting an intention adds a whole new dimension to your practice, helping you navigate through areas of your life where you feel stuck. For example, my “acceptance” intention has helped me get past the expectation of never making a mistake in a first writing draft or new recipe.
2. Drop everything you believe about yourself and others.
Letting go of expectations, beliefs, and all the other head crap gives us the opportunity to see what’s truly, honestly possible for our future—both on the mat and off of it.
And letting go of believing you already “got this” (see the next tip on this one) frees you up to learn something new, and not feel humiliated if, on this day, you “don’t” got this.
3. Seek newness in every pose.
At some point, the poses, the transitions, and the teachers’ cues are all going to feel familiar. And familiar can feel really cool. But it can also feel…well, familiar. Instead of yawning at what you think you already know, find something new in that Downward Facing Dog you’ve done 8,000 times.
Fact is, you haven’t done this Downward-Facing Dog yet. Feel what’s different. Find a specific area to focus on—maybe it’s your fingertips—are they pressing and spreading evenly into the mat? How about your stance?
Walk your feet a foot further back and see how that feels. Might feel awful. Might feel awesome. You won’t know if insist that you already know!
4. Pat your own back.
Never leave class without thanking yourself for your effort. I started doing this, even after my most frustrating practices, and have noticed a marked improvement in my overall self-esteem. It also sets me up for a positive, powerful practice the next time I meet my mat.
Showing up, doing the work, and facing our unvarnished selves is worth a serious high five. So do it. You’ve spent a good hour or so stretching your spine, so reach back and give it a pat.
5. Don’t stop now.
Take what you’ve gained in class and invest it into the rest of your day. You feel great, so make someone else feel great with a smile, compliment, bigger tip than usual, or simply your undivided attention.
The rest of the world is on hyper-speed and you’ve just come back to the glory of presence through your work on the mat—so why not share it?