Yoga, at least the physical asana practice, is an ever evolving game. Over time, the practice itself can see many seasons, phases, and styles.
Some periods of life (days, weeks, months) call for strenuous heat producing power vinyasa flows. Some times call for restorative yin posted up on a bolster.
Sometimes our personal yoga practice is vigorous and inspired. But other times, the urgency to practice asana fades. We can get stuck in a yoga rut and lose the inspiration to practice altogether.
Whether you’re a seasoned yogi or contemplating starting a yoga practice for the first time, here are a couple of simple ways to revamp and make your yoga practice shine!
1. CHANGE UP THE TUNES
It’s pretty easy to put on a ‘zen meditation’ playlist and get some basic stretches in.
But Hai. We’re amping UP our practice here, not chillin it down. So turn up the beat.
Try out some non-traditional yoga music.
I like to play african drum beats, silly hip-hop songs, classical music, electronic, reggae- pretty much anything but zen meditation music. Why? Because zen meditation music is meant for just that: sitting to meditate. You need the monotonous tones and subtle soothing sounds. But in asana yoga, you need inspiration for movement.
Choose songs that excite you and make you want to dance around and sing.
Play eclectic music from different genres and mix it all together. This way, you never get too stuck or lost in thought. The constant change and generally upbeat nature of the music helps keep it fresh and fun. The more fun you are having while on the mat, the more you’ll want to get back on it.
Play whatever music you like, there is no one type of yoga music for your home yoga practice. Zen meditation music has its function. So does cheerful, inspired music.
Great tunes are a surefire way to amp up your yoga practice in 2020.
You can follow some of my ridiculous yoga playlists on Spotify, search my username: JPMARLOW
2. GET OFF THE MAT
There’s a conception that we must conduct a formal yoga practice on our mat for it to actually be considered yoga. Wrong. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Our yoga practice transcends the borders of a mat.
Yoga is a state of mind, not a pose. Yoga is discipline. It teaches the ability to remain present and focused no matter what situation you find yourself in- a complicated pose, or a life obstacle.
Yoga is happening all the time.
You can sit in meditation on the train. You can take a tree pose anywhere you are standing upright. Do Sun Salutation A at your desk to refresh the energy in your body. Practice a few handstands while lounging on the beach.
Yoga will meet you wherever you are with however much or little space (and time) you have.
Bring awareness to the breath, practice presence, and you are doing yoga.
Boom. Roll up your yoga mat. Improve your yoga practice.
3. USE PROPS
Although yoga props are (sadly) often viewed as a handicap or crutch, yoga blocks, straps, blankets, and bolsters actually serve powerful functions for our bodies.
Blocks bring the ground to you
Straps expand your reach and accessibility
Blankets lift you up
Bolsters support your body into postures
Even the wall is a fantastic ‘prop’ acting as a still point of support
Everybody is different and every body is different. Physical anatomy differs even from one side of our own body to the other. In this way, props can help us to ‘even the playing field’ of the limitations of the body during yoga practice. Props improve our asana practice, not take away from it.
Using yoga props properly is actually the sign of a well developed, self aware practice. Knowing how and when to use yoga props allows you to deepen and develop poses in ways you may not otherwise be able to. Skillful use of yoga props indicates that we are aware of our strengths and constraints. It also indicates that we are capable of accepting support from tools and resources when necessary (both on and off the mat!)
4. FACE YOUR FEARS
One big factor that can keep us from ascending and growing our asana yoga practice is fear.
Advanced asana postures can be intimidating and downright impossible- at first. But just like all things, with time, experience, discipline, and yep: PRACTICE, they become easier and more accessible.
Want to improve your yoga practice? Choose a few advanced (for your level) poses and set them as ‘goal poses.’ Work towards them a little bit everyday. Try to break up the monotony at work with a headstand or sit in lotus pose while you fold laundry at home. While in formal practice take the options for core strengthening and conditioning. If you feel warmed up, take a new variation of a pose to get outside of your comfort zone!
Maybe you’ve got even bigger dreams, Eka Pada Viparita Dandasana, for example. Not something you can just do by your desk (or can you?) Carve out time to face the fear. Make it a priority. Take baby steps.
Bottom line is, the more we face the fear, the more it disappears, in yoga and in life. With exposure and practice, intimidating yoga postures become simple ones. With exposure and practice, our life goals more achievable.
What are we truly afraid of? Falling down? To improve your yoga practice, face the fear. Allow yourself to fall- there's not that far to go.
HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR YOGA PRACTICE
Like one of the great yogis who popularized yoga in the west, Pattabhi Jois, said, ‘Practice and all is coming.’
If your yoga practice is feeling lackluster, don’t give it up altogether. Rather, give yourself the opportunity to refresh. Use these simple tips to revamp and AMP IT UP! 'Practice and all is coming.'
The biggest secret to attaining yoga goals and real life goals, is to practice. Want to improve your asanas? Practice more. Make your practice an integrated experience. Play some inspiring music. Get off the mat. Grab blocks and blankets. Do what scares you!
This is the path to a stronger yoga practice in 2020, and to liberation in eternity.