The Secret to a Better Yoga Practice
Within the past five years, yoga has become extremely popular in the U.S. It is now so revered and respected that you can find some form of a yoga studio, or at least a yoga class, almost anywhere in the country. It’s widely touted as the way to find deep inner relaxation and calm. And it can be. But what happens when the peaceful nature of yoga falls victim to the typical American mindset? As Americans, we tend to prize ambition, drive, and competition above all other attributes. More often than not, these character traits serve us well in life. The problem is, they don’t serve us when it comes to our yoga practice, they hinder us. The good news is, by changing your mindset you can ensure you get the most out of your yoga routine.
Yoga Is Not a Sport
Since I first discovered yoga, I’ve participated in various different methods. From Power Yoga, to Vinyasa, and yes even Bikram (definitely the toughest so far), I have discovered that no matter what branch of the yoga family you subscribe to, there is one constant. Yoga is not a sport. Yoga is a practice. This means that you must look at yoga differently than you would a regular form of exercise. Yoga is not about competition, it’s about growth.
Don’t Become Competitive
If we are not careful to be mindful of our own limits, we can become competitive with not only other yoga practitioners, but ourselves. The problem starts in class when you see Susie over on her mat with her leg in extended downward dog much higher than yours. Without thinking, you assume that your leg needs to immediately come up as high as Susie’s leg. Being too competitive has caused our good intentions to go right out the window. When this happens, it’s nearly impossible to find that deep relaxation.
You may never be able to get your leg as high as Susie’s leg, and in yoga that’s okay. Yoga, excuse the pun, is flexible. It’s made to adapt to different body types and different physical fitness levels. There is never a point where an instructor should try to force you further into a position. Likewise, you should never force yourself into a position. Progression is your personal business, to happen only on your personal time table.
Stress Equals Injury
We have become so conditioned to the idea that competition and stress are a natural part of life that we spill these thoughts over into our attitude about yoga. In her article, Insight From Injury, Carol Krucoff warns that his kind of thinking can only lead to injury. She explains how over zealousness is a one way ticket to serious harm for any yoga practitioner. A yoga class is not the time to feel stressed because haven’t mastered that one asana that you’ve been stuck on. Let all that negativity go, and enjoy the process.
The next time you unroll your mat, try not to focus on what you “should” be doing. Instead, think about why you love yoga, think about how far you’ve come, or better yet, don’t think about anything. You just might find that once you let go of your results oriented mindset, you feel the relaxation you’ve been searching for all along. Namaste,folks.