How To Get the Most Benefit Out of Every Yoga Class
Let’s be real for a minute . . . yoga classes are a luxury, and with our busy, hectic lives we can sometimes only squeeze in a class or two a week. Whether you’re a newbie who’s a little intimidated by the Lululemon-clad yogis popping into handstands, or a seasoned yogi feeling stuck in your practice, this article offers a few tips to help you get the most out of that hour investment on your mat.
Read on for 5 easy ways to get the most benefit out of your yoga practice:
1. Arrive early
We have all been that person frantically rushing in during the teacher’s opening warm-up, trying to silently unroll our mat and slow down our breathing while everyone else tries to ignore our interruption. Life happens and inevitably we can’t always be on time, but we can take steps to minimize the chances. Schedule an extra half hour around your class time.
You wouldn’t show up late to the doctor’s office or an important meeting, would you? Treat your yoga class with the same priority. Get there early. Introduce yourself to the instructor if you haven’t met him or her yet, and take a few minutes before class begins to stretch, breathe, and center. Set the tone for your practice and notice how different it feels to begin your practiced calm and centered.
2. Try a different spot
Humans are creatures of habit, and that’s never more apparent than in a yoga classroom. Everyone has “their space” in the room, and it can feel like a real affront when someone else drops their mat in “your spot.” Make the conscious effort to try a different place in the room.
If you’re the wallflower always sticking to the back corner, try taking a spot nearer to the front. Not only can you see and hear the instructor better (and possibly receive more assists and feedback), you also remove other students from your line of vision. It’s so much easier – and less distracting – to not look around when you’re in the front.
And if you’re always on the left side, moving your mat to the opposite end of the room is a great way to change your perspective. Even if the view is the same, you might meet a new person or simply find that you’re more open and accepting during your practice, having placed yourself physically in a new space.
3. Narrow your focus
Drishti, which translates to a focused gaze in English, is a principle of yoga that’s easy to practice on the mat. At the beginning of class, choose something to focus on – maybe it’s activating your core muscles, softening your eyes and jaw, or even just hearing your own breath. The drishti can be something you literally set your gaze on (your abdominal muscles for example), or it can act more as an intention (focusing on your breathing).
Giving your mind one place to go in every pose helps you tune in to what you’re feeling and experiencing and allows you to tune out the other bodies around you. Long story short, your drishti keeps you present.
4. Stay for savasana
Seriously, do it. Scheduling that extra half hour around your class means tacking some time onto the end, too. Yoga instructors tend to agree that savasana is the most beneficial pose in your yoga practice. Whether you find lying prone at the end of class for a few minutes to be brutally boring or soothing to the soul, stay there.
In yoga philosophy, savasana really is the pose that seals in your practice and allows all of the energy and space you’ve just created to settle in, both mind and body. In practical terms, it’s just plain good for you to chill out for a few more minutes before heading back into your chaotic life.
5. Carry it with you
Resist the urge to chatter in the hallway outside of the classroom. The yoga studio can feel like a sacred space, and it’s courteous to preserve that for fellow yogis. Try to hold onto your peace as you enter back into the busy world outside of the studio too. This includes the commute home.
We’ve all left a yoga class and then promptly honked the horn at a car that cuts us off. Take a few deep breaths and wave that car through. We practice yoga so we can live a better life – during our time on the mat, and once we step off.
Your time on the mat is just that – time for you. It’s an investment in yourself, and one that pays off over and over again. By giving yourself a little more space, a focused intention, and a new perspective, you can really maximize the benefits of your yoga practice and carry that balance off the mat and into your life.