Feel like your yoga practice has reached a plateau? We’ve got 12 quick and easy tips to keep your practice evolving.
1. Hydrate all day: Stopping to sip in the middle of your yoga practice can mess with your flow, so it’s vital to arrive to class hydrated. Focus on drinking water all day long — you’ll be amazed at what a difference it makes.
Fall is the season of transformation. We can see this all around us in nature: the leaves are falling, the air is changing and we are harvesting an entirely new crop of fruits and vegetables.
It is important that we change with the seasons — just as nature does — by adapting our daily habits, yoga practice and food choices.
Ironically, it is only through change that was can stay grounded during this shifting season.
By Paula Anderson
“It’s a dog’s life.”
That’s a phrase we hear time and time again. But why is so easy for our pets to seemingly embrace joy? And what is it about these furry descendants of the wolf that brings us such peace? Could it be that they, too, share an innate love of yoga?
It is important that we change with the seasons just as nature does by adapting our daily habits, yoga practice and food choices. During the winter season, the energy of the Earth and its creatures is drawn inward. We can use this time for restoration and introspection, just as many plants and animals use it for hibernation. In preparation for the spring, it is important to slow down and rejuvenate.
An Ayurvedic approach to winter
There is a rule in Ayurveda that “like attracts like.” That is why the kapha and vata doshas can become provoked and aggravated during the dry, dark, cold months of winter. This is because the climate is alike the qualities of these two doshas. If kapha or vata are triggered, digestive fire plummets, leaving you more susceptible to colds, poor circulation, joint pains and negative emotions. Here are some yoga and lifestyle tips that can help you to balance your doshas this season.
In 2006, Rodney and I had the privilege of taking a few classes with Mr. Iyengar. When it came time for Headstand, I informed the yoga master that I didn’t do them — I have a seizure disorder that I always felt was aggravated by Headstands. He told me, in no uncertain terms, to stand on my head now! And I did. I stayed up, and only came down when he said it was time.
By then, the rest of the class had moved on to Supta Virasana (Reclining Hero Pose), and, trying to be a good student, I came down from Headstand and sat right up to join the rest of the class. That’s the point at which he slapped my back and said, “That is your problem, not Headstand: You transition too quickly and mindlessly. I am sure that you do this in your life as well. You never let anything settle in.” Wow, what an acute teaching for a chronic issue!
Practice yoga with Chrissy Carter’s Chaturanga Vinyasa Flow video on GaiamTV.com.
It is impossible to know hope until one has experienced hopelessness — that feeling of suffocating permanence, as if you will be forever trapped in your present situation. In a place of hopelessness, all feels irrevocably lost. We harden and brace ourselves for permanent pain in the same way that we gather and store reserves in preparation for a long, hard winter. It’s as if the shutters have been closed and all the lights turned off. Lost in the darkness, we succumb to avidya (ignorance), the belief that our finite experience is all-pervasive and interminable. Helpless, hapless and hopeless, it is impossible to imagine a light at the end of the tunnel, and we start to lose sight of the big picture.
But in these times, hope can be a light in the darkness, filtering through the slats in the shutters, shifting the shadows in our dark room from ominous to promising. Suddenly and against all odds, we can find compassion for ourselves in the face of suffering.
Student: Jill, what do you actually do for your personal yoga practice?
Me: I practice what I teach.
Student: You mean you don’t do anything else? Spinning? Or running? Or Zumba? I mean, how do you get your arms to look like that?
Me: I don’t mean to sound cryptic … but I practice what I teach.
It’s true. I have been practicing yoga and multiple movement arts since I was 11 years old, and the yoga practice I teach in the classroom (I began teaching part-time at age 19 at The Omega Institute) has evolved and changed with me through the past two decades. The work I share in my classes, workshops, conferences and videos all resonates with my own discoveries in my personal “jungle gym” of a practice.
Oh, how difficult it is to get out of bed on these winter mornings, flop to the floor into Downward Facing Dog, and address the stiffness. Once the morning slumber spell is broken, it all begins to feel right, but there is always that obstacle in your mind to break through.
Perhaps you’ve heard the claims from your neighbor, “yoga cured my insomnia.” Or maybe your co-worker boasts, “I practice three times a week and my back pain is gone.” It’s possible that your 11-year-old daughter squeals with delight because she can now touch her toes and no longer gets “homework headaches.”
If quantity of time on your mat is an issue, then honor the time you do have by increasing the quality of your time on your mat. A hectic life can quickly spiral out of control unless your mind is given moments of pause. When it becomes necessary to “squeeze in” your practice time, condense the amount of time you spend in your poses but heighten the focus of your awareness into a laser-like intensity. Make every moment of your practice count, and you will feel that you have done enough.