5 Common Yoga Mistakes
My yoga practice has to come to mean different things to me over the years. Initially I started practicing yoga for the work “out” and now I practice for the work “in”. Here are some things that I have learned along the way:
Unconsciously Holding Your Breath
Your breath helps to control and maintain the life force moving throughout your body. It is through deep and continuous breathing that fresh oxygen travels into your body cleansing the blood and oxygenating your muscles. The breath also works as a powerful connector to your asana; helping to keep you feel strong throughout your practice as toxins are being chiseled out of the hidden crevices in your body.
Comparing Yourself to Others
Your yoga practice is all about you. This is your time to take care of yourself, discover new amazing things about yourself and to be down right selfish. Don’t waste your time comparing your practice to someone else's because if you are really practicing yoga, you know that your practice is not a competition. Join the swim team or run a marathon if that’s what you’re looking for. Improve your own strength and flexibility by practicing asana everyday.
Ok, I’m going to let you in on another little secret... no one, on this entire planet, is like you. You are totally and completely unique; right down to the structure of your bones which meeeaaaansss that sometimes flexibility has nothing to with whether or not you can do a posture like the person practicing next to you or the woman featured on the cover of Yoga Journal. My hip structure is such that I will not ever be able to samakonasana (better known as the same angle splits) and I've made peace with that. So, bone structure not withstanding, the moral of the story is don’t steal from yourself by placing your precious energy on someone else's practice. Focus on you and only you.
It is easy to zone out and start thinking about everything from feeding the dog to paying the bills when you’re not staying present during your asana practice. But we have to remember that yoga is a moving meditation. In fact, yoga postures were incorporated thousands of years ago because the monks and gurus were tired of having stiff joints and muscles. How in the world could they be expected to meditate for hours upon hours with an aching body?! So if you think about it, yoga is intended to be more of an “inner” work out than it is an “outter”work out.
Learning how to stay present in your practice is cultivated over time. I am an avid Bikram Yoga practitioner and I admit that it was (and, depending on the day, sometimes still is) difficult to contend with the sweating, itching, and heat of the room while holding a one minute posture. I had to train my mind to stay focused by gazing deep into my own eyes in the mirror and focusing on my breath. This helped to tame the wild horses in my brain and now I can enjoy my practice at a deeper level.
If you don’t have a mirror to peer into as you’re practicing, find a focal point or “drishti” directly in front of you, hold a soft gaze, and try not to avert your eyes or blink while in the posture. Next, focus on your breathing by repeating this mantra silently: “Breathing in, I know that I am breathing in. Breathing out, I know that I am breathing out.” Your breath should be in rhythm with the words. Integrate these simple tips into your daily asana and see how much more present and balanced your practice becomes. The really great thing is that you can use these tips just as easily off the mat to enjoy a more present and balanced life!
Letting Your Belly Hang Out
Letting your belly hang out during your practice can wreak havoc on your lower back. Set an intention to keep your belly sucked in and your tail bone tucked under to maintain a strong core throughout your practice. There are some postures, such as back bends, in which you don’t have to hold in the belly. In most cases, it is best to remember that a strong core requires a sucked in belly.
Short Changing Your Savasana
I used to short change my savasana all the time. I felt like I was ready to conquer the world after an amazing asana practice and the last thing I wanted to do was lay on my mat in stillness for ten minutes. I have learned so much since my early days of yoga. I smile when I think of my old ways: laying in savasana impatiently; a hundred things running through my head. Now I feel powerful when I’m laying on my mat. This is a time of restoration and reintegration. The heart rate slows, the breath is rhythmic as it flows in and out of the body. Our lives are often so full of wonderful chaos and laundry lists of things to do; it is okay to give yourself a moment to just lay on your mat and enjoy the fact that at that moment you are exactly where you are supposed to be.
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