60 minutes of practice. 60 minutes we dedicate to ourselves on the mat — without phones, without brain-chatter. With the first month of the new year coming to an end, it’s a good time to check in and ask yourself: Am I doing yoga right? And no, I don’t mean the physical practice. I'm asking if you are practicing good time management — making time for the mat, and giving yourself ample time to get to class; I'm asking if you're kind to yourself and the people around you — giving the mind the quiet it needs, and not pushing past your own limits? If you answered no to any of these questions, it might be time to reset your intentions for the year. Here are some tips on how to make the most of your yoga practice:
For starters, it’s always good to make time to check the schedule and plan to go for classes one week ahead. Pencil it in and book the class to avoid getting flighty. On the day-of, set yourself up to be 10-15 minutes early, and that will give you some buffer time even if the MRT starts to slow down or if it starts to rain. Remember, there is no grace period, and late comers will be turned away — you don't want to be that person! If you get there 15 minutes early — GREAT! Here's a tip to start you off on the right foot: grab 2 blocks and place them under your elbows (at their second height) when you’re in Child’s Pose, opening up into a nice gentle shoulder stretch to counter everything that you’ve done scrunching forward at work or on your phone. This also acts as a warm up for your shoulders that gives you more mobility, be it to hold a stronger Plank, or to walk your knees in more in Knees Chest Chin.
Set an Intention
This is a phrase that gets thrown around a lot, but what does it actually mean? It can be a goal, a word that will guide you through the day, a thought that you want to let go of... For me, I think about how much I want to push myself that day. Sometimes I’m in my first of three classes for the day and I know I want to just take it easy. Some days I’m fresh off a run from the night before and know I have to be a bit more mindful when I move through poses. Sometimes my old shoulder injury acts up, and I tell myself it’s okay to put the knees down in plank if it hurts — it’s important to be in touch with your body. Sometimes you just want to have fun; or maybe you want to push yourself to your maximum because it’s the only workout you’ll get this week. Whatever your intention, checking in with yourself and what you want out of the class can really help you.
Blocks aren’t just for Newbies or “inflexible” people. Using blocks in half splits can actually help you go deeper, and focus the stretch more on your hamstrings and less on your lower back. In half moon pose, using a block will help make variations like sugarcane pose or revolved half moon more accessible, bringing your practice to a new level! Just remember, it’s a practice, not a performance, so if your struggling in a pose, don’t be shy to use blocks to help elevate the floor. There are so many creative ways to use blocks, even for the most flexible yogis. For example, if you feel extremely flexible and Half Splits is a piece of cake, use the blocks to glide your torso forward to go deeper into the stretch (as seen in the second image). So, next time you’re in class, grab two blocks and let them elevate (literally and figuratively) your practice!
Clarify your Practice
If there are some poses you just can’t seem to get, go to the teacher after class. If you can’t catch him/her in time, remember the issue, and ask the teacher before your next class. I asked so many questions in my first year of practice. The biggest one I had was: Why am I not getting more flexible? I practice almost every day! And the answer was simple: it takes time. Four years in, and my heels still don’t touch the ground in downward facing dog. I remember being convinced I was doing it wrongly then being repeatedly assured that I was not — my shins were just that tight. And that’s alright, it’s just another work in progress.
That brings me to my next point. Instead of comparing, be inspired instead! I used to be really demoralised when someone who practiced for a much shorter time than me could do many more things than I could. It was also intimidating do be next to someone who can float into a handstand AND jump back, when I cannot float…. anywhere. Sometimes I still get a little jealous, but I try to remember that it is MY practice that matters, not that of others. And so, I only think about trying to be more better today than I was yesterday. If you’re like me and you get inspired by the poses on Instagram a lot, snap screenshots of the poses you want to do. Feel free to make requests to the teachers before class. Even if they can’t squeeze that pose into the sequence that day, they can tell you what poses you need to warm up. I used to make requests all the time, and I relied on my teachers to get me there. Instead of watching with envy, set goals for yourself, and ask for help.
Remember, yoga is meant to be fun. So, if you’re not having fun, ask yourself why, then reach out to your teachers for help — that’s what we’re here for! So when you next find yourself with a free moment, plan your workout schedule for the week, think about any questions you might want to ask us, and have your mind set on enjoying your practice!
By Tan Lee Jing, Teacher at Yoga Movement.
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