How can a person who’s been practicing yoga for a while take their yoga practice to the next level?
Emily Burke, Senior Teacher at TheHotTT
There are of course various ways to accomplish advancements or deepening in your yoga practice. Depending on which type of practitioner you are, you may want to try a different approach than the yogi on the mat next to you to bring your yoga practice to the next level. Let’s take a look at two different kinds of people and what would best suit them individually.
If you find yourself constantly trying to achieve the perfect posture, pushing to, and possibly beyond your limits on a regular basis. My advice to you is to take a step back. That may sound contradictory to taking your yoga practice to the next level, but if in fact, this feels like the complete opposite to want you want to do, then this is exactly what you need to do. Yoga is never about how deep you can go or how bendy you can be, it is about creating balance in your body and in your life. Take time in your practice to feel more on an emotionally deeper level. Find a connection between body and mind through patience, forgiveness and breath. In other words, be kind to yourself and see how your practice will grow.
Now, if you happen to lean more to the side of freedom of movement, going to where you feel comfortable, perhaps listening to your body even when it might be more of a whine than an actual warning. Maybe even go as far as to say babying one’s self, then it may be time to toughen up! Be a little more strict with yourself. Of course, still listening, paying attention to your body, just with a little more dissection on what truly is being said. Try setting some goals for yourself, they may be little goals, such as holding a posture one breath longer than what you “feel” like doing. Or maybe a little more challenging, like committing to a daily practice for one month straight.
My advice for everyone no matter what type you are or even whether you want to deepen your practice or not, is to listen to your teachers. It seems very simple but not always easy. I am currently working on this myself. We have a tendency to jump right into postures when we know what’s coming, trying to get to that deeper level. Turn off your auto pilot, tune in to your practice. Hear the words and apply them to your body the best that you can. One movement at a time, one breath at a time.
Leticia Leyva, Support Teacher at TheHotTT
There are several ways to deepen your practice based on how you’re already practicing. If you have more of a willful practice and tend to really focus on pushing deeper and pushing your edge, maybe you can try having more surrender within the postures and finding more stillness. Maybe focusing more on a moving meditation and holding or maintaining each posture for the whole duration of the pose with more stillness rather than constantly pushing to your edge and falling out. On the opposite end of the spectrum if you tend to focus on holding the posture for the full duration but don’t really see any progression within the pose, you could shift your focus to playing with your edge and pushing your boundaries. Test the waters and push until you fall out, find that limit and then get right back in and work towards pushing that limit further. that’s how you make progress within the pose and really just overall life in general.
Michele Pernetta, Workshop Teacher at TheHotTT
There’s no quick answer to that, as it depends where they are in their practice and what they are working with and through. That is where a good teacher comes in.
In my experience the main thing intermediate practitioners can do is observe their desire to look a certain way in a pose. It makes you go too far and lose the correct skeletal alignment. Losing that goal-oriented approach to wanting to go deeper or “achieve” something in a pose, can open a new world of experience for the practitioner. It will not only create better alignment, but it will create a softness internally that will allow your sensitivity to develop, your feeling.
How does one do this? Use your breath to gauge how far to go into a pose, as soon as it becomes constricted, you have gone too far. Try to balance strength with flexibility, equally.
Zefea Samson, Senior Teacher at TheHotTT
Stillness. Once you have mastered the basics of some poses, try to find stillness in between the poses but mostly in the postures self.
If you are used to ploughing yourself to get into a certain position, try for a change to NOT do a pose. Instead of pulling and kicking harder – surrender, relax, breathe. Feel where you can let go, where you are holding tension. I always feel that so much space opens like that in body and mind. Basically let it happen instead of making it happen
Jeannie Savage, Support Teacher at TheHotTT
Push yourself in the classes you take is the best way to take your yoga practice to the next level! Pushing yourself can be holding your postures longer, challenge yourself to not come out of the posture early! You’ll push boundaries not only physically, but psychologically. Go to any workshops, advanced classes and private sessions offered by your studio. When I have attended these, I find myself having questions… so, when you think of them write them down! Take notes!! Read, listen, do, be.
Push yourself to your edge in everything you do. Being able to not only know and sense where your edge is, but playing with it. You need to have awareness when playing with your edge, listen to your body. Make sure you are able to move into the pose or deeper into the pose even slightly, without hurting yourself. Continue to go over your notes from training!! I rewrote mine shortly after, made them more organized and clear.
Check out any sources recommended to you: books, articles, youtube videos, websites, blogs, whatever it may be!! Dabble in different types of yoga, let yourself experience different variations of poses. Come back for more training! Network with other yogis out there!Talk about your practice with others around you, it creates conversations and opportunities! Share and be open.
Christian Scaraglino, Senior Teacher at TheHotTT
There are so many ways to take a yoga practice to the next level. First and most obvious you can increase intensity. Be determined to hold the postures until the teachers ends the pose. Give 100% in each class and during each pose. Take two classes a day, or come more often, do a 30 day challenge. It sounds simple but I can guarantee doing anything for thirty days, that commitment and self investment, will have a big transforming effect on your practice. You will find that time will slow down, and you will remember more about your life during that time period.
Then there are also yoga competitions. I am sure there are many arguments against competitions. But there are also good arguments for it. Competition practice requires you to become more serious about your practice. If you take the competition with the mindset of self improvement, you will start to find your edge and begin to push you edge with more awareness. With dedication and the right coach you can really take your practice to the next level.
Finally there are other more simple ways to take things to a new level just by being more present in the class, committing to practicing with awareness. Listen with all three ears maybe you will hear something new. Pick a new spot in class each time you come. Try to take class without water. Avoid taking class in auto-pilot mode, move with the words that guide the class. Focus on the breath to stay connected to the present moment in class. Focus on how your body moves, see if you can notice when there is a resistance in mind or the body. But I would add: that mindfulness is how one should strive to practice yoga.
Torrey Trover, Senior Teacher at TheHotTT
In my experience, the way to take yoga practice to the next level is to pay more attention to the aspects of yoga beyond the physical ones. Taking on and maintaining a personal practice which includes seated meditation is one of the most important things a yoga practitioner can do. It begins to bring the practice of yoga out of just the yoga studio and into all things everyday. The discipline and prioritizing it takes to make a seated practice a necessary part of everyday is a priceless shift that has endless benefits. When a person can begin everyday by going within and working on themselves, when they go out in to the world they have more perspective, compassion, and patience.
This shift can seem like an intimidating one at first. The key is to start small. Set aside 10 or 15 minutes every day at first. That time can grow and grow as the practitioner’s practice expands. Luckily a person who has been practicing asana for a while has started the process of opening up their physical body which will make it easier for them to start sitting still for longer periods of time. Developing a meditation practice also loops back and enhances the asana practice. The practitioner will have more patience and compassion with themselves, and a greater ability to feel more subtlety in their practice.