Yoga may look like just a lot of stretching, but give it a try and it’s not as easy as it may seem. Standing postures, arm balances, and bending and twisting into poses that seem best suited for a contortionist can be frustrating to a newbie yogi. If these struggles sound familiar and have caused you to opt for another form of fitness, you’re not alone. Many people pass on yoga simply because they think it doesn’t work for them. In reality, they just might be doing it wrong.
Before you pack away your mat for good, it’s time to give yoga a second chance. Use the tips provided to make the most of all the health benefits this mindful practice has to offer: better sleep, less stress, more strength, and even increased relief from various chronic conditions.
Find Your Breath: Breathing helps deliver oxygen into the body while also sending toxins on their way. You do it every day, all day, but for some reason when you start exercising, it’s easy to lose the rhythm of your breathing. Trying new poses and building strength and stamina can often cause people to hold their breath until after a pose is complete. However, if you just start to breathe through the posture, you’ll find it’s actually easier to do, and might even get you past the point of feeling stuck.
Yogi Fix: A few minutes before your yoga class or practice begins, lay down on your mat and focus on taking long belly breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Find a rhythm that doesn’t feel forced or shallow, but instead natural and relaxed. Try to maintain this breathing throughout your yoga practice. Stay aware of times when things feel hard and see if you’re still breathing in a calming manner.
Don’t Try So Hard:If you’re busy off the mat trying to climb the corporate ladder, train for a marathon, or continually strive to cross items off your bucket list, then yoga might feel like a counter-intuitive practice. That’s because forcing yourself to achieve in yoga doesn’t necessarily mean meeting your yoga goals. In fact, it could mean just the opposite.
Yogi Fix: Go slow! If you’ve been wanting to try the Scorpion pose–an advanced arm balance posture–but find a beginner cobra pose difficult, you’re simply not ready. It doesn’t mean you won’t get there one day, but yoga is about staying in the moment and focusing on what you can do today. Don’t rush the result. Instead, relax into the movements without trying so hard. Just see where the practice takes you.
Get Limber: Being inflexible tends to be one of the biggest excuses people have for not trying yoga. But that’s about as silly not eating because you’re hungry. Yoga can help stretch tight muscles and ease the body back into better alignment.
Yogi Fix: Add heat. Classes, such as Hot Yoga and Bikram, are practiced in warm and hot rooms. The heat helps the muscles to release more quickly and stay loose throughout the practice time. If you need relief from tight muscles, try a warm Yin class, which focuses on longer relaxed poses using props to elevate stretching.
Forget About Others: Just like all aspects of your life, there is bound to be someone who is better than you at yoga. You know the one: the former gymnast who can do every headstand and advanced arm balance practically better than the instructor can. Needless to say, it’s easy to feel like less than in her presence, and it’s hard not to keep watch on her during class, even if it’s just so you can roll your eyes in annoyance.
Yogi Fix: Focus on you. Find a point on your body or clothing, if you practice with a mirror, or on a wall or object on which to center your concentration. Return to this focal point throughout class. When you notice your mind starting to wander to those surrounding you, don’t feel overwhelmed by what they can do and you can’t. Instead, find inspiration and energy in those around you. Admire the advances you’ve made in your own practice. And lastly, return to your breath.
Yoga should be as simple or hard as you want it to be, so there’s really no reason not to practice. If you remember to breathe, go slow, add heat as needed, and stay focused on you, your mat time will start to matter more.
What is your favorite yoga pose? Tell us in the comments!