Making the Most out of Your Yoga Classes
Yoga is a wonderful way to simultaneously exercise the body and quiet the mind. Attending yoga classes a few times each week is going to allow you to reap those benefits. If you want to maximize the impact of your yoga practice, there are a few ways you can take your practice even further.
1. Hydrate Before Class
It can be difficult– especially if you attend early morning classes– to remember to drink plenty of water before coming to class, but hydrating before any exercise is beneficial. Dehydration can result in muscle cramping or feeling fatigued. If you’re not hydrated before a yoga class, it will be more difficult to push yourself to your edge or perform postures that require exerting your muscles.
Keep in mind that it’s best to take your time hydrating, and to drink plenty of water throughout your day rather than all at one time. If you chug a bottle of water immediately before class, you run the risk of feeling bloated or cramped.
2. Stop Saying “Can’t”
There are some poses that will be a challenge for you. Everyone’s body is made differently and moves differently, so it’s likely that some poses will make you wonder if they’re even possible for you to perform. Hint: they are.
Yoga requires your body and mind to work together, so if you start a pose with the mental block of thinking “I can’t” or “this is impossible,” you’re undermining your own practice. When you notice yourself thinking those thoughts, try to actively change the language from “I can’t” to “I’m ready to try” or “I’ll do my best.” You can perform each asana (yoga posture), it just may not happen all at once or on certain days. Training yourself to believe you can do it and being willing to put in the effort will eventually lead you there.
That brings me to the next point:
3. Don’t be Afraid to Fall Over
Sometimes, even if we get passed the “I can’t” mental roadblock, we still run into the hurdle of “I might fall over.” You know what? Yeah, you might. But that’s okay.
In balancing poses or postures that require moving your body in new, unfamiliar ways, there is sometimes a temptation to not attempt the full expression of a pose for fear of losing your balance. Take it from someone who has landed face first on a yoga mat plenty of times: (a) it doesn’t hurt that bad, and (b) you can always get up and try it again. When you reach a point where you don’t care if you fall or lose your balance, it’s much easier to fully attempt challenging poses. And that’s when you make the most progress.
4. Set an Intention and Stick With it
Especially when first starting yoga, it can be confusing or unclear what the instructor means when he or she invites you to set an intention for your practice. An intention is essentially a goal for what you want to get out of your practice. It can be something as simple as “I will do my best” or “I am grateful to be here.”
When you set your intention, commit yourself to coming back to it when the class gets challenging. During difficult poses, being able to focus on your breathing and repeating your intention to yourself can be a very valuable tool. At first, it might feel silly to tell yourself “I’m grateful, I’m grateful, I’m grateful,” while enduring a challenging posture like Saddle, but it truly does help. The alternative is to spend your entire time in a posture wondering how much longer you’ll have to do it or thinking about the ways it’s challenging you– a surefire way to undermine your practice.
5. Don’t Skimp on Your Breathing
Breath is incredibly important in yoga. Moving with your breath and focusing on your breathing is going to help you transition between postures and will cultivate your sense of self-awareness. If your instructor says to inhale for one motion and exhale for another, make an effort to do so, even if that means you need to move at a different pace from those around you. Remember, it’s your yoga. So do what’s best for you and your body.
In addition, commit to doing breathing exercises as they are instructed. Whether it’s taking cleansing breaths, doing alternate nostril breathing, or engaging in an energizing breath, breathing exercises are meant to enhance your practice. There’s no need to feel silly or self-conscious about them.
Feel More Prepared for Class?
Make a note of these strategies for making the most out of your yoga practice, and give them a try the next time (or first time!) you come to the studio. At Your Yoga. we have classes throughout the week, and you can look at our full schedule here. If you’re new to the studio and think you’ll want to try out a few different classes, don’t forget about our special Online Introductory Offer. If you sign up for it online, you get thirty days of unlimited yoga for thirty dollars!