7 Easy ways to deepen your yoga practice
Yoga is such a personal journey that is ever evolving. I find that I have times when I love every moment on my mat feeling deeply connected to my breath, my body, my heartbeat and the moment. Other times, my mind is running the show again and again, and I must become aware of drawing myself back to my breath over and over. And so the cycle goes… The Human Experience blesses us with an incredible yet mischievous mind and yoga provides us with tools to help quiet the ‘monkey mind’ and reconnect to our inner Self. Our True Self. Our True Wisdom.
Some of the most useful ways I find myself enriching my practice and giving my monkey mind something to focus on, thus enriching my yoga practice by deepening the connection to my body, my movements, my breath and my inner voice are as follows:
1. Set an intention: This is a powerful and I think and a most important step in your practice. Whether you are coming to your mat for a 5 minute flow to shift some energy and wake yourself up from an afternoon slump, or you are on your mat for a few hours, setting an intention speaks to the Universe about what you would like to invite in. It might be a bigger picture goal or it might be something very simple just for that day. it might be for yourself or it might be for someone else who you know could benefit from having some cultivated loving energy directed their way. Whatever it is, use positive language and say it/think it/feel it with your whole Self. Yoga is a powerful practice and intention setting a powerful part of manifesting the life that you would like to live. It is also a powerful way to give back, to yourself or to others.
2. Add essential oils: Whether you use them in a diffuser or apply them topically, essential oils can enhance your practice quite powerfully. When you use pure certified therapeutic grade oils such as doTerra, you know you are applying the highest quality oils to your skin or inhaling them into your precious lungs. Oils can help alter your mood, help change your brain chemistry, help repair damaged muscles, help improve your respiratory system, support your lymphatic system & nervous system, they can help boost your immunity, support you through emotional ups and downs and so much more. Depending on what you want the oils to do, this is a sure way to enhance the benefits of your yoga practice. For more info on what oils are good for what ailments, contact me and we can have a chat about what will suit you.
3. Ground down your feet: Grounding your feet in a post helps deepen your connection with the Earth. Helps you build a more stable base of support. Helps you gain better balance through the pose, and helps you connect to your deep core lines, strengthening your feet, drawing energy up from the Earth to grow the pose with integrity. Grounding your feet also sets you up for a sturdy journey through your practice and thus, into the rest of your life. It helps you become sure of yourself, have confidence in your movements, to grow tall in your stride and be your best self.
4. Connect to your deep core: Whenever you move on your mat, take the time to ensure your are connecting/moving from your core. You can do this a number of ways. Spread your toes every time you reach your foot away from your torso or plant it into your mat, or flex your toes back to wards your face in seated poses, activating your inner core lines which help switch on your deep sore muscles. These muscles help support your spine when you move, so you are moving from a far more integrated and supported place. Drawing your belly button toward your spine and up towards your heart as you move helps activate the deeper core muscles along with the more superficial core muscles to work together to provide a more stable movement. This can otherwise be known as activating uddiyana (‘flying up lock’ – in your stomach) and mula (root lock – anus/perineum) bandhas (internal energetic locks) to enrich your practice, support your physical movement and build and hold internal energy flow.
5. Listen to your inner voice: Whatever your iceberg looks like that day and how ever much of the tip is showing above the surface, only you can really explore and know what is below the surface… Take time at the beginning of your practice to stop, sit or stand still, close your eyes and tune in deeply. Listen to what your body has to tell you that day. Listen to what your breath has to tell you. Then as you begin to practice, continue to tune in. If you notice yourself getting pulled back into the multitude of thoughts that can so easily distract us, you would human and that is perfectly OK. Take a moment and stop again, tune in again, listen to your body and your breath, then start your next move from a more connected space.
6. Expand the pose in every direction: When you think about the full expression of the pose (whatever that looks like for you that day on your mat), think about how you can expand the pose in all directions. Spread your toes and ground through your feet, grow the pose from the ground up. Extending your heart forward/upward, extend your crown forward/upward helps you stay light in your torso, lengthening your spine and creating space for your lungs to expand and your spine to move more freely. Reaching your finger tips further expands the energy of the pose to the furthest point. It brings the pose to every cell of your body, not just your main body and muscles, but switches on all the muscles along the way and creates a felling of fullness. Breathe through every pour on your skin, rather than just through your nose. Feel as though your cells themselves are expanding with breath and the practice will reward you a 1000 fold.
7. Be patient with yourself on the journey: This is one that we often need to remind ourselves of. Being patient is a constant practice. Yoga helps us cultivate patience, not only with ourselves on our yoga mat, but this then flows off our mat and into our lives and a greater peace is brought into the way we live. If one day you can do a pose to it’s fullest expression, then the next you find yourself falling out of a balancing pose, or fatigued and not able to find the strength you have had another time, or perhaps you have been working on a pose for a while and ‘progression’ is slow, be patient with yourself on the journey. Yoga is not a quick fix, it’s a life long practice that will continue to evolve as you do, always giving back in ways that sometimes are not as obvious as others. Enjoy the process and be in the moment with your breath. You will enjoy the practice far more when you are not so busy raising that bar.