After years of practicing yoga, we’re bound to pick up a few tips along the way to help us in our practice, whether from teachers in class, by watching others practice, or simply by downloading them directly from the universe. Here are ten essential tips that I want to pass along to you. Enjoy.
1. Aligning the neck – It’s easy to get a sore neck these days, especially while driving. While behind the wheel, it is common to strain the chin forward, and thus take the neck out of alignment. Here is a simple exercise to help minimize this complaint: every time you come to a complete stop at a red light, bring your index finger to your chin and gently press your head back. This small movement will help to open up the back of the neck, and stack the vertebrae of the spine in proper alignment.
2. How much water is enough? – More than you think, and probably more than you drink in a day. Eight full glasses minimum, or even as much as sixteen if you are doing hot yoga. If you feel thirsty, mild dehydration is probably already present in your body. Drink continuously during the day, rather than trying to guzzle down a lot of water at one time.
3. Pain is no gain – How much pain is too much pain in yoga? Fear and ambition often cloud our judgment when looking at the pain that our body experiences while in a yoga pose. In our desire to compete with the rest of the class, we often misjudge our threshold for pain. If you feel a twinge or a strain, soften the depth of your pose and then breathe into that edge. Discover your body with respect.
4. Before and after class – If it feels safe for you, park a short distance away from the yoga studio and walk slowly to and from class. Notice the changes in how you perceive your environment from the time that you arrive to the time you leave. Notice if things look different, and notice how your body reacts to the walk.
5. My hamstrings are still tight – In class, it is common to spend a lot of time working on opening up the backs of the legs. But while working on the hamstrings, it is also important to pay attention to the lower back. Next time you feel tight in the hamstrings, try a few twists in both directions to open up the spine. Now, as you return to the legs, notice if there is any change in the sensations.
6. Meditation, not as scary as it seems – It would be so nice to commit to a deep, daily meditation practice, but the prospect of it can be intimidating. Instead of diving deep into a long meditation, gradually find your way in with short sittings. Set your alarm clock five minutes early and when you wake up in the morning, head out to your favorite spot in the house or outside, and simply sit in the energy of the morning with no need to do or be anything. Enjoy theses brief moments of welcoming the morning, but keep them short to begin with. As time goes by, your spirit will want more, and as it grows appropriate, you can increase the length of your sittings.
7. I want a mat too! – If you are committing yourself to an ongoing yoga practice, it is a wise investment to purchase your own mat. As much as studios are vigorous in taking care of mats, it would be so much nicer to have your own mat that is clean and well-maintained. And if you take a particularly sweaty class, it’s a relief knowing you’re the only person who will be working on that mat.
8. Happiness is…an eye pillow – Ahh the joy of savasana. Bliss, happiness, peace. But have you tried it with an eye pillow? The light in a yoga room can activate the eyes and sometimes keep us from going to the deepest depths of savasana. With the simple addition of an eye pillow, the eyes can easily relax, and as they do, you will find that the activity of the mind relaxes too. Quiet mind, quiet body, quiet you.
9. That person next to me is so… – It is not uncommon in large classes to be very close to your neighbor, and sometimes their form of yoga can become very distracting. It could be loud breathing, noises, or even a really strong practice that makes you feel a little inferior. Rather than trying to “block it out,” try the opposite strategy by letting it all in. Become aware of everything you are feeling, and notice how it affects your practice. Let this distraction be part of your practice to help learn more about yourself.
10. Sometimes we experience a day when we’re just not on our center and we have difficulty in poses requiring us to balance on one foot like in tree pose or warrior three. It can be helpful in these situations to lift the toes of the standing foot, forcing the weight of the body to distribute itself evenly across the four corners of the foot, providing added stability. Give it a try. It really works.
Whether your new to yoga, or already have a strong daily practice, these ten tips that I’ve picked up directly from the universe–with a little help from teachers, the Internet, and my fellow yogis–might just be that little extra something you’re looking for to make your practice that much better.