How to get the most out of your yoga practice

The benefits of yoga are plentiful. Studies prove, practice shows, and history knows that yoga is more than just an exercise class that you struggle to fit into your schedule.

Here are a few tips on how to get the most out of your yoga practice;

  1. Come to class free of expectations. Don’t compare or expect the class to be like any other, don’t expect the other students to leave the same spot open for you again, and don’t expect your body to be able to hold a posture in the same way if you are tired. Letting go and experiencing what really is the magic of being present. Moving into each class with an open mind allows you to fully experience the moment instead of wrestling with what you had hoped it to be. Beginning without expectations gives you greater chance of receiving the benefits of your practice. Let it all go, so you can stay.
  2. Have an intention. An intention is about the state of being, not about the final result. So choose an intention to keep your mind focused on every breath of the practice. This will allow you to experience the moments instead of struggling with the idea of the end result—like a perfect pose or open hips.
  3. Free yourself of distractions. A big part of a yoga class is staying focused and not letting your mind chatter so loudly that you can’t hear the teacher telling you to grab a block for triangle pose. Wear comfortable clothing and don’t get distracted by what someone else is doing, if you’re distracted by these minor annoyances, you are not present in the practice. It’s that simple.
  4. Disclose physical limitations to your teacher. Speak up if your lower back hurts, your knees are playing up, or you have a stiff shoulder. There are always modifications so that you can participate – don’t be shy speak up about your needs.
  5. Listen to your body. Your body has its own intelligence allow it to show you what it requires. Being kind to your body is not being in competition with others it’s about listening to your hamstrings when they are screaming at you and making adjustments. Be present and respect your body.
  6. Leave your phone at the door. Respect your practice. Don’t bring a watch, phone, or any other device onto the mat that can connect you to the outside world. Let go of those thoughts that drag you out of the class and into the office. In yoga, you are nowhere but there, so stressing about how much time is left brings you out of the moment. Which equates to: yoga moment lost.
  7. Breathe. Simple, powerful, and vitally important: breathe. On the mat, and off, you’ll get more out of whatever you do and whatever you think if you inhale and exhale mindfully. It will keep you balanced, focused, practicing within your capacity, and mostly, will allow you to fully experience and appreciate the moments in your practice. Which brings us to the final point…
  8. Be grateful. Feel thankful for getting yourself to class, onto the mat, and into the moment. Your attitude of gratitude will infuse your practice and will help ensure that what you’ve gleaned in class will remain with you long after you’ve rolled up the mat and walked back into the world.

Jayne Micallef, Yoga Teacher –  Joyful Body, LondonUK