The benefits of yoga are plentiful. Studies prove, practice shows, and history knows that yoga is more than just a workout.
Yet it’s often those thoughtfully sequenced classes in a studio that remind us it all begins the moment we roll out the mat. Though our lives are busier than a one-armed paper hanger, millions go to great lengths to make sure they find time to squeeze in their favorite yoga classes.
But hold the pose – not every class leaves you feeling blissful and ready to take on the world. What makes one class feel like a path to enlightenment and another a struggle to get through? Is it the teacher? The other practitioners? Our focus and attitude?
Here are a 8 tips to help get the most out of yoga classes:
- Come to class free of expectations. Don’t expect the teacher to offer you the secret to life, don’t expect the other students to leave the back row next to the wall open for you again, and don’t expect your tired body to be able to hold the poses after you were up until way past midnight. Letting go and experiencing what really is is the yoga. Moving into each class with an open mind present with what is going on in your life allows you to fully experience the moment instead of wrestling with what you had hoped the class would be.
- 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. It helps to clear away any distractions from the get-go, such as a full bladder, uncomfortable clothes, or hair that flop in your eyes. Don’t wear that cute yoga top if you have to keep dropping out of poses to pull it down over your belly. The bottom line is if you’re distracted by these minor annoyances, you are not present in the practice.
- Disclose physical limitations to the instructor. Tell him that your lower back hurts, you just had knee surgery, or you have a headache. Part of a teacher’s training is to offer you modifications so that when everyone else is perched in crow pose, you aren’t splintering your wing because you were too shy or had too much of an ego to speak up about your needs.
- Honor your own inner teacher. Let the instructor be your guide, and let your inner voice be your guru. That’s right…the experienced 500-hour instructor in front of you is to serve only as your guide. Sure, you can learn from her, but ultimately the goal of yoga is to honor your own inner teacher. It’s your practice. Listen to your true guru.
- Listen to your body. Your amazing body is a unified part of that divine guru within. If you are more concerned about looking good than being good to yourself, you will ignore your hamstrings when they are screaming at you. Become subtle enough to detect that voice whispering (sometimes in the form of a held breath) that says it’s time to drop down to child’s pose. Respect your Self.
- Leave your phone at the door. Respect the time devoted to the practice. Don’t bring a phone that can connect you to the outside world into the practice room. Plus, it’s annoying to hear a phone ring in the middle of Savasana.
- Breathe. Simple, powerful, and vitally important: breathe. On the mat, and off, you’ll get more out of whatever you do if you inhale and exhale mindfully. Being aware of the breathe will keep you balanced, grounded, practicing within your capacity, and mostly, will allow you to fully experience and appreciate the moments in your practice.
- Be grateful. Feel thankful for getting yourself to the studio, onto the mat, and into the moment. Your attitude of gratitude will infuse your practice with the grace 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.