Do you ever feel like you've hit a plateau in your personal practice? I can't tell you how many times I have. It's always discouraging when it happens, but in retrospect it's clear that hitting a plateau is part of the yoga journey. Whenever I find myself in that space, not really sure what to add, or how to integrate new poses into my practice, or just generally feeling off balance, I look to these six things to get me back on track.
1. Come back to the breath
I think it's pretty common, especially in the western world, to think about yoga almost as if it's a fitness class. We're all about the good sweat and the funky poses, but if we strip that away and focus on the breath, we may find that we have more fuel for the practice. We might be able to go further and move deeper in the practice when the breath is put first.
A challenge: for one full class, approach the practice as a breathing class first, and an asana class second.
Related How to breathe better in yoga.
2. Take a break
There is such a thing as practicing too aggressively. A while back, I was focusing on scorpion pose in my personal practice. I would practice it daily. Multiple times a day. And I wasn't getting anywhere. So I stopped. I stepped away from the pose and got back to basics with the breath (see number 1). Weeks later, when I came back to scorpion, I saw major progress. Sometimes taking a break will bring you deeper than constant physical practice.
3. Expand your horizons
One of my biggest yoga teacher pet peeves is bad-mouthing other styles of yoga they don't follow. I actually had a yoga teacher who discouraged the class from trying other styles! I think practicing different styles of yoga enriches the personal practice. Whether it's Bikram, yin yoga, Iyengar, or Ashtanga - you'll learn something new in each class that will serve to grow your practice even more.
4. Learn to love what you loathe
Everyone has poses they avoid in their practice. Mine used to be half-moon pose, among others. Often times, the root cause of the reason I dislike a pose is because I'm either not strong enough or flexible enough to come into it or hold it easily, and my body's response is to sweat or shake, which is uncomfortable to me. But as with anything, continual practice leads to improvement, and when the strength or flexibility has improved, and the poses come with more ease, I find that I'm more likely to integrate them into my personal practice.
5. Take a picture
I'm a big fan of snapping a quick picture for comparison later on down the road. To me, the picture is great motivation, a solid indicator of where I started, and, later down the line, will serve to show how far my practice as grown. My journey with scorpion pose is a long one, but I'm so grateful I took the pictures above.
6. Use props
Whether you add a chair, a set of blocks, a yoga strap, a bolster or a blanket to your home practice space, props can be enormously helpful in the practice. If you're looking to protect your knees in backbend, a block will helpful. If you want to improve flexibility in the hamstrings, a strap will do the trick. Learning how to use these yoga straps, blocks and other props and integrating them into your practice not only to help prevent injury but also to improve your personal practice.
Let's talk What tips do you have for improving your yoga practice?
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