Beautiful back bend at The Shala Bali. The Mat Movement luxury yoga retreats, online yoga classes and inspiring plant-based recipes.

‘Do more yoga’ part deux. How to improve your asana practice.

If you’ve got a solid home practice and feel a little stuck then here’s a bunch of ways to up your asana game. Because, let’s be honest, making shapes is fun. Seeing our bodies grow and evolve through the practice can be rewarding and draws us deeper into a relationship with what’s going on inside our tissue. It gets us more interested in how much potential our bodies have and also asks us to question why we want to improve in asana, specifically.

For me, developing my asana practice has gone from the handstand grail to going super deep into my bodily experience and moving so slowly that I am holding present to as much of the movement as possible. A tuning in as much as a tuning up. And the desire to ‘up my asana game’ comes from a return to classes, a long journey into my own asana laboratory and the sweet remembrance of humility. That I will always have so much to learn.

  1. Get stronger

If you want to move into more advanced postures, you will need to develop a strong core, glutes, quads and upper body strength. It seems obvious but we can trundle along for years in our own practice without necessarily getting stronger.

  1. Practice 4-6 times a week

Whether that’s going to class or practicing at home. Make it regular, consistent and listen carefully to what you avoid and what you fall into. Mix it up and commit to your desire to grow. If you can get on your mat every day then do it but 4-6 times a week is entirely reasonable.

  1. Watch videos

Get inspired. Watch yogis who inspire you and witness their commitment to the practice. Some of my favourites to watch are Dylan Werner, Laruga Glaser and Meghan Currie.

  1. Be patient and kind

Take your time. Come to understand your body’s strengths and limits by working attentively and intuitively. Don’t push it. You’ll get there when you’re good and ready.

  1. Let the practice lead

Listen. The practice is asking you to listen inside every shape. Find your edge and dance upon it by letting the practice lead.

  1. Mix it up

Go to vinyasa, hatha, body pump, boxercise, crossfit, pilates, swimming, cycling. Just doing asana is great but mixing things up can bring a whole new dimension to your practice.

  1. Go to classes

And go to different ones. Visit different cities, try new teachers, taste a different studio and be a student (especially if you’re a teacher).

  1. Have a home practice

Marrying your own practice with a good mix of regular classes means you can move on your own terms then get something you didn’t know you needed. Double win. Here’s a link to a whole host of different ways to develop a home practice and you can also practice here with me any time.

  1. Don’t have a goal

Sometimes having a goal can become an obstacle. It’s probably not what your life coach is telling you but goals can blind us to the presence of the process. Stay inside your practice, moment-by-moment, day-by-day, and the results will come.

  1. Don’t forget about yoga

If you’re focus is asana then that’s a wonderful thing but it’s not always yoga. Yoga is a state of being, not a shape you make. Keep asking yourself what your asana practice is teaching you about yourself.

Collette Davis of The Mat Movement practicing yoga asana in Perth Botanical Gardens.

‘Do more yoga’. 5 ways to kickstart your yoga practice

Do more yoga. Always a solid intention for the new year, as we step again and step deeper into the stuff that serve us. The good stuff. The ‘I remember why I do this’ kind of stuff. I’m a big believer in intention and patience and that the shift will come. We know it and we also know that it’s a layering of effort and an accumulation of focused attention that enables our best wishes to take shape. Beating ourselves with a stick and forcing things into submission is basically unkind and undermines us in some kind of twisted irony, so don’t do that. Just keep laying down and layering up your intentions, trust that you’re signing up to the process and that you’ll get there when you’re good and ready. Wherever ‘there’ might be.

As a yoga teacher, people often ask me how often they ‘should’ practice. And I say don’t do anything you think you ‘should’ do and practice as often as you can for as long as you can.

If you have five minutes then step on up to your mat and play. Close your eyes, breathe, listen and open your body this way and that. Be gentle and explore. If you have two hours then go to town. Don’t let a set structure confine you. There are no rules that say you have to practice for at least 30 minutes a day. Five minutes is just fine and letting your body guide you into a dance might not get you closer to handstand but it will bring you nearer to yourself. It will draw you into presence and change the way you feel. And on the days when you have more time, move deeper into the dance, get even closer to yourself and play till it’s time for savasana.

Here’s a few ideas to help you honor any intentions you might have to get onto your yoga mat more regularly in 2018. And please, as ever, feel free to comment, ask, get in touch or reach out for extra yoga support or advice. I’m here and will do my best to offer what I can.

1. Watch tutorials and classes

Online classes were a gift to me at a time when I didn’t have a home practice and was travelling a lot. It’s really a great way to develop your practice, deal with studio shyness and practice on your own terms. I have online classes here and am filming regularly so keep checking in. Yogaglo and movementformodernlife are also invaluable resources with world-class teachers.

2. Sit on it

Roll your mat out, sit on it, then see what happens. Really, that’s it. Go sit on your mat and listen to what’s going on inside you. Start to twist and stretch and take it from there. If you don’t move, then coming to sit and listen is still yoga. Yoga is a means by which we connect and asana is just one of the ways we do that. Sit, be still and maybe journal afterwards.

3. Play music

I never liked to practice to music and then something shifted and a whole new dimension gave way. I have a bunch of playlists on my Spotify account if you’re looking for some sounds, then simply get on your mat and let the music move you. Allow your breath to lead the way and take you into the shapes your body wants to make. Pause inside those shapes and really feel into your experience, the space around you, the earth beneath you. Flow, dance, be guided and let your body take you. If uncertainty, self-doubt and your inner critic pipe up then notice them, thank them and carry on in spite of them.

4. Create space

Three things here. Firstly, if you’re not travelling around, create a sacred space which is all yours. A space in your home where you come to sit, write, move, listen, light candles, get still, breathe and pour your attention into yourself. It doesn’t have to be big or fancy but putting thought and effort into it can give it more pull and resonance.

The second thing is don’t worry about having a sacred space if you’re travelling around. All you need is somewhere to lay down your mat. Close your eyes. Breathe and any space can become sacred.

And thirdly, get a good mat. It transforms your practice and I’ve linked a few of my favorites here:

The lululemon black mat – my trusty mat for years. Strong, durable and with amazing grip. It’s pricey but a great investment and they have an extra long and extra wide option for extra long folks, like Pete 😀

Manduka travel mat – the EKO Superlite is a gift and I’ve taken mine all around the world. It’s affordable, foldable, wipeable, ethical and light as a few feathers. It’s very thin though and is best with a studio mat laid underneath if you have tender knees.

Manduka Pro – I’m not a massive fan as I don’t think it’s particularly grippy but Manduka have solid ethical creds so this guy might be for you.

Lifeforme – similar to the lululemon black mat in grippiness and weight with all the ethical creds to go with it. A win-win if you’re willing to splash out and make a real investment.

5. Get freaky

To watch people move and express themselves physically has always called to me. I devour dance videos and often watch people practicing asana, both with the eye of a teacher and a student but mainly as an appreciation for the art of movement. The artform of asana and it’s powerful grace. Meghan Currie is someone I love to watch for her sensuality but she also likes to dance, move freely and get a little dirty. She owns that sexy body of hers and it’s inspiring to see. Carlos Tao also has an organic movement style and it’s an invitation to let go and be moved. To get a little dirty, a little freaky, a little free from caring. To let go, explore and see what comes through.

Happy 2018 folks. Go splash some colors on that blank canvas of yours and be kind along the way.