In my previous post I discussed how learning to become my own yoga teacher has helped me to sustain a regular yoga practice at home. In this post I share some tips which have really helped me to improve the quality of my practice.
- Have a good teacher
Firstly, I think it’s really important to visit a yoga teacher that you have a really good connection with at least once a week. Even if you only visit them a few times a month, it’s enough to keep the practice on track and it helps you to become more confident in your home practice when you know that there is always someone you can go to if you need to.
One of the first things that I started to look at was spending more energy focusing on my breath. I found it really helpful to shorten the amount of poses I do and instead focus on my breath for a sustained amount of time. I try to make sure that I am breathing for at least 6 seconds during every pose, counting ‘1,2,3’ for each ‘in’ and ‘1,2,3’ for each out breath.
3. Have a main ‘focus’ in every practice.
For example, one day I might choose to focus on having a strong connection with my pelvic core in every posture. Other days, I might choose to focus on engaging the muscles in my thighs throughout the practice. Setting small targets for every practice is actually very powerful as it focuses the mind. It’s surprising how the body remembers what has been practiced previously at the next session. I have noticed my body starts automatically remembering things that I have focused on previously even if I am focusing on another part of the body altogether.
4. Focus on one main pose
What has been really useful is looking in a book or watching a video of someone practicing a pose with proper alignment so that I have an idea in my mind of what I am working towards. I find it really useful to visualize myself achieving the pose before I start trying to practice it. It is amazing but where the mind goes, the body really does follow. Visualizing myself achieving a pose helps my body to get an understanding of what I am aiming for.
5. Practice plank pose for a minute before your practice.
I find it really useful to practice a strong core strengthener before I practice. The plank pose helps me to connect with my core/centre. I have noticed that cultivating this physical strength in the posture transfers to the mental strength and discipline that I need during the rest of the practice to help keep my focus and presence.
6. Set an intention for the practice
I find it really useful to have a little ritual before setting an intention for each practice. In an ideal world it would be a meditation sitting but sometimes it’s not always possible to have my sitting in the morning. Sometimes this has to happen in the evening instead when I have more time. So instead, I find it really helpful to drink a cup of organic green or oolong tea in a nice bowl with a candle on before setting my intention. I really find this helps me to be centred and it sets the mood for the practice. I try to drink the tea as mindfully as possible. I find having this stillness before my morning practice gives me space and a calmness that transfers to my physical practice.