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‘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.

take your seat

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In out-of-the-way places of the heart,

Where your thoughts never think to wander,

This beginning has been quietly forming,

Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

John O’Donohue

Do not take lightly your tentative toe steps or the whispery calls of a long hushed voice. Do not take lightly a sudden awareness of being or the experience of your whole breath. Do not take lightly the awkward sensation of not knowing and the fear of getting it wrong. And do not, for one minute, think that you are not supposed to feel this way, as you begin to gradually unfold.

Those first steps onto the yoga mat might seem inconsequential. They might seem small. They might just seem like a bit of physical juju as you foofoo around from one ‘pose’ to another. But when you step onto a yoga mat, you take your seat. The word ‘asana’ means ‘seat’ and though you might not feel like you’re doing a whole lot of sitting that is exactly what you are doing. Taking a seat inside yourself. Seat by seat, pose by pose, you come into view. You make contact with the ground of your being, landing softly and remembering that it was always already there but you somehow forgot. That this fluorescent, vital, life-force managed to somehow become dim. That the very essence of you became wispy, imperceptible … hard to reach.

Every organism on this planet is here to grow and each time we take our seat, we reaffirm our commitment to that process. Yoga is one way to take that vow and, more often than not, it takes us by surprise. It begins with the sweet remembrance of embodiment. Of what it feels like to become alive from the neck down, and not because our head is telling us that our body should exercise but because we have actually started to feel again. Droplets of awareness sink into our cells, and, before long, we can hear our bodies speak. Breathe into their message. Receive their wisdom.

I deeply wish to grow. I deeply wish to grow. I deeply wish to grow.

Our breath seems fuller, sensation more acute, our capacity to feel becomes more present and our understanding of embodiment transforms, as we wake up to ourselves. Those first steps onto the yoga mat can lead to the deepest seat you might ever take inside your own being. They can take you to unexpected realms of perception as your intuition sharpens, your awareness expands and your reality takes on a whole new level of detail. As your relationship to the world around you shifts, your relationship to yourself can truly evolve. And that is the stuff of miracles.

There is a voice that doesn’t use words.

Listen.

Rumi