For many of us, just getting to the studio is a victory. You find a sacred slice of time in a hectic day, pull on some yoga pants, and jump in the car. Once you're there, you likely want to make the most of your time. Here are 10 ways (in no particular order) to get more out of your yoga practice on the mat:
1) Be on time. Set a goal to come a little early rather than careen, out of breath, into the room. Give yourself time to settle into your space. Take a few big breaths to become present and leave your day outside the room. Taking the time to center may become a treasured part of your practice.
2) Be respectful of your fellow yogis. Everyone comes to their mat for different reasons. Each person has a different background, intention, body, mat, and outfit. Leave the judgment at the door.
3) Bring only what you need into the studio space. Physical clutter leads to mental clutter. On that note: no cellphones. Calls and texts can wait 60 minutes. Let the yoga studio be a respectful oasis of calm and peace for not only yourself, but your fellow yogis. Finding clarity and mindfulness can be a challenging enough practice without alerts, flashing, vibrations, and chirps. Have you ever been in a class with someone who is obsessively checking their phone or taking pictures and posting them? It's very distracting. It's tricky to focus on peace and non-violence when you really just want to throw someone's phone out the window. #leavethephoneathome
4) Set an intention. Try it on. Ask yourself why you came to your mat. What would you like to strengthen, and why? What qualities do you wish to cultivate and share on and off your mat? Allow your practice to be an opportunity for self-growth.
5) When the teacher speaks, listen. Imagine that when she gives alignment cues, she's speaking to you. Change something. Challenge your habits.
6) BREATHE. Work toward steady, even breathing. It's a challenge to sustain throughout your practice, but it will keep you present and engaged.
7) Alignment comes before depth. Touching your toes or touching the floor doesn't mean much if it compromises the form of the posture. Allow your body to open step by step; depth will come with time and practice.
8) Take advantage of the props like blocks and straps. Props help you find new depth, encourage good alignment, and provide an opportunity to build strength.
9) Explore your edge. That might mean trying a posture that scares you. Ask the for some tips to help you find success step-by-step in a more challenging posture. Find a new boundary. Break out of the rut and be willing to try something new. Maybe that's a mental challenge like meditating or breathing exercises or visualization. Keep growing! Ask your teacher for suggestions if you feel like your practice is stale.
10) Stay for savasana. All the lunges, handstands, chaturangas, backbends, and twisting – they prepare your body for mental and physical stillness. When you feel the itch to roll over and roll up your mat, pause; try to take 10 more breaths. You earned it. Don't skip it. Enjoy the opportunity to rest.
Try a few of these tips to make your time on the mat a little more peaceful, rewarding, and mindful!