This is a guest article by Maria Rainier.
Whether you’re new to yoga or you’ve been practicing for years, it’s tough to get a handle on exactly what your body needs from a yoga session. Each person is different, so no instructor could possibly conduct a perfect session for each attendee. This means that it’s up to you to discover what works best for your body, what offers the greatest benefits, and what to do more of at home. The following tips will help you accomplish those goals, so in your next few yoga sessions, try using them to optimize your individual experience.
Prepare your body for a more successful yoga session with pranayama and follow up your practice with another few minutes of the same exercise. Pranayama is a yogic breathing pattern that relaxes you, puts you in touch with your body, and helps you achieve mental clarity. Most yoga sessions will include some form of mental warm-up, and while you’re doing that, you can add pranayama to increase the deep relaxation benefits of yoga.
Simply inhale through your nose, holding your breath for five seconds, then inhale again to completely fill your lungs. Hold your breath again for five more seconds before exhaling through your mouth. Repeat this once or twice before falling into a normal breathing pattern. Once you start breathing regularly, focus on your breath and meditate on the air flowing into and out of your body. This will help you breathe more deeply and effectively throughout your yoga session, enabling you to stay more energized and focused.
Try to arrive early to your session, lay out your mat, and sit cross-legged as you begin to meditate. All it takes is a few minutes before your yoga session begins, but simple meditation will help you stay focused and positive. Concentrate on one aspect of your yoga practice that you know you can improve in the coming session and visualize yourself achieving that goal. Think deliberately about the parts of your body involved in your goal and send positive energy to them in preparation for the session. This practice can actually improve the oxygenation of these areas of your body as the blood supply flowing into them increases.
Tension is the enemy of flexibility. When you’re trying to do a pose that requires a lot of flexibility, don’t hesitate to use your block. It’s not a cop-out and it will actually improve your flexibility over time if you use it correctly. Don’t rely on the block to do your work for you, but use it to achieve a truly relaxed pose. Trying to force your body into a pose that demands too much flexibility for your current skill level will only create tension and impair your flexibility. Instead, let your body sink slowly into the position, using your block to stay confident and balanced.
Build more strength in your yoga session by actively using your body weight as resistance. As one group of muscles pulls, push against that force with your body weight to intensify the result. You’ll achieve more muscle tone and strength by pushing yourself to increase the resistance of your own body.
It’s tempting to compare yourself to others in a yoga session, but resist the urge to check out other people’s poses. Focus on your own body and try to feel the pose the way it looks when the instructor executes it. Need something to distract you from thinking about the other people in the room? Follow your breath and focus on the air entering your body as you inhale and exiting as you exhale. Focusing on your breathing and your poses should help you keep your attention on having a more productive yoga session.
Author Bio: Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education where she writes about education, online degrees, and what it takes to succeed as a student taking online programs remotely from home. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.