How to Deepen Your Yoga Practice
The biggest obstacles of any practice are to maintain the
habit, to keep your interest and focus, and to continue to be challenged. Yoga is no different. Our practice can become stale, boring, we may
no longer feel challenged, or we may simply have the desire that there is more
to learn. To move past these blocks, we
move toward a deepening in the yoga practice experience.
At first, you may think to deepen your practice means to
move toward impressive feats of strength and flexibility.
When people discover I’m a yoga teacher, they often say
something along the lines of the following:
“Oh, I do yoga.”
“Oh, I could never do yoga.”
“I should do yoga.”
“I’m not (__fill in the blank__) enough to do yoga.”
“I don’t have time to do yoga.”
The interesting thing about these responses is the common
idea that yoga is something you “do”. We
see people practicing yoga, or “doing” challenging postures on a mat, in fancy
clothing, and thinkthatis
yoga. Suddenly, yoga seems out of reach
because of time, work, family, life.
5 Benefits of a Regular Yoga Practice
By Linda Nutter Snay, RYT
Yoga is a widely growing practice in the U.S. In fact, the 2016 Yoga in America Study
conducted by Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance found that over 36 million people
have practiced yoga at some time in their life.
That’s an astounding number of people embracing the benefits of an
ancient practice into their modern life.
Why? What benefits does the
modern yoga student gain that keeps them coming back?
5 Benefits of a Regular Yoga Practice
Yoga class is a sacred space, free of judgment, expectations, and criticism.
Yoga is where we turn to quiet our minds from the chaos of the outside world.
Yoga is where we release the tension we have accumulated within the body and make space for healing.
Yoga is where we feel safe, supported, and at peace.
Yoga is not an escape.
Yoga is a technique for getting quiet, feeling the breath and heart beat, and turning the awareness inward.
We become calm, quiet, and centered.
N is for Namaste
Once you step into a yoga class, you will most likely hear new words and phrases you have never heard before. These new words you hear are based in the ancient language of yoga, Sanskrit.
In some classes, the teacher will use only Sanskrit terminology when referring to yoga asanas (Sanskrit for postures). Others may teach completely in the English translations. My preference is to teach mostly with English terminology, yet introduce basic Sanskrit terms to help anchor the teaching to modern life.
M is for Mantra
Mantras are a useful addition to a meditation practice. You can silently, or aloud, repeat a word or
groups of words to help your mind stay focused.
You can repeat the mantras through out your meditation, to re-connect when
your mind wanders, or to begin or end a meditation practice.
Here are some commonly used mantras, their definitions and
ways to incorporate them into your practice.
OM/ AUM: Probably to most recognized mantra in
yoga. It has many translations, but most
often refers to the divine universe, or the union with the universe.
Listening is a powerful quality. At its most basic, it’s a sense that we use
to be in the world around us, to keep us safe and informed. Past that, it’s an emotional quality we
develop (and continue to develop) throughout life. We expect it of others, so we are heard. We teach it to our children, so they learn
the value of being a good listener. We
do our best to listen to our loved ones, so they can express themselves and feel
heard as well. But there is an even
deeper listening, one we are not often taught.
Much of the talk about yoga is directed at adults. The benefits to health, concentration,
fitness, stress relief, sleep, and managing emotions. But it’s important we don’t overlook the
wonderful benefits yoga can provide our kids.
Kids today are often very busy. There is a lot of work to do at school and
much less play. There are lots of
organized activities and much less free time.
At the most basic level, yoga and meditation give kids a chance to use
their bodies through movement and listen to or still their minds.
Amudrais a hand gesture, often used
during meditation or even within some yoga postures to help direct the movement
or life-force energy. There is often
symbolism in the fingers, the shape of the gestures, and many times the mudras
are used to cultivate a specific quality, such as calm, uplifting energy, and
stillness of the mind. You will often
see mudras on the figures in ancient artwork of Asia, as they are symbols in
myths, stories, and figures and add meaning to the art.
Once you begin a regular yoga practice, you will find you
benefit so much from the routine, the stillness it provides, the consistency,
the community. And then life will show
up in one of its many forms to interrupt what you have worked for. While in the moment, you may perceive this to
be annoying, it may upset you, you may not know just when you will get back to
your practice, but this is a huge turning point. A big opportunity for growth, even if it's hard to see at that moment.