By Jenny Clark | Originally published on www.yogamoo.com
Yoga has the ability to change your life. The key to transformation for me was surrendering to its teachings and letting it happen. It happens over time, slowly and surely. You see lessons you learn on your yoga mat turn up in your off the mat life.
For many of us the path to a yogic lifestyle doesn’t start with the desire to change your life. For me, yoga was a class at my local gym, something I did after a high intensity workout to ensure I properly stretched my body. I was soon hooked. I loved the feeling, the full body awareness, the strength, balance and grace it gave me and of course the relaxation.
Along the way I have learned a few things about moving towards transformation and making the most out of your time on the mat.
Schedule your practice into your daily routine. If you need motivation to get on the mat then think about how you felt when you left your last yoga class, that always works for me!
Commit yourself not only to getting on the mat but to fully be there. Arrive to your class at least 10 minutes early. Make contact with the teacher, even if it is a simple hello or a smile. Set up your mat and props. Find a comfortable position and have a mental clearing, releasing anything that is running through your mind and keeping you from being present. Put those thoughts to one side, tell yourself you can revisit them after class. When your make that commitment to be mentally clear you create a clearer path for the teachings of yoga to be absorbed. The next 60-90 minutes is all about you, your body, your energy and your practice.
After class, move slowly and speak quietly. Take as much time as you need to reintegrate into the world. Sip water or tea and thank yourself for your practice.
My most memorable practices always include connection. I love being on the mat, by myself, exploring my own practice but deep down a desire for connection is always there.
One meaning of yoga is union and in a yoga class we are surrounded my like minded souls all climbing a mountain just like ours. As long as your neighbour is not in meditation when you roll out your mat, say hi, make a connection.
We learn so much on those sticky rectangular mats but in reality we truly connect when we step off the mat. So net time your hand or foot touches your neighbour or their mat during practice, don’t say sorry, say hi! When the teacher introduces partner work, grab a partner, give them a sweaty introductory yoga hug and enjoy that partner pose.
Get to know your body by becoming curious about how it moves without judging how it doesn’t move. This is tricky, judgement will continually creep in. It is not something that will go away and stay away but your lesson here is to notice when it comes in.
When you are practising asana notice how the same pose feels on each side of your body. Avoid trying to fix anything, thinking that something is wrong. It is natural for us to feel different on each side of our body but cultivating that awareness allows you to start reading your body.
With practice, this awareness becomes natural and even a common occurrence. As this awareness becomes more natural for you start to notice how you move in between asanas and where your thoughts go while you hold the pose. Are you racing from one to the next or can you move between challenges with grace and strength? Do you want to exit as soon as any difficult appears or can you move your body into a modification to allow you to fully absorb the benefits of the asana?
Don’t judge your body for these reactions, rather take them as learnings and let them guide you through a practice that is right for your body. Yogic awareness is the best technique I have found to getting to know yourself.
Next time your roll out your mat try one of these techniques and get more out of your practice.