How To Enhance Your Yoga Practice

Yoga is a practice that has made essentialism one of its core values. Having among its main philosophical pillars the concept of Aparigraha, non-possessiveness, it goes without saying that this millennial discipline requires little to no fancy equipment. All it takes it’s just a mat and a good dose of consistent dedication. Nevertheless, there are some things that could really take our practice to the next level.

1) Begin with an intention:
Setting an intention allows you take control of your life by deciding which path you will take. The power of intention in yoga is that it gives our practice a focus to maintain during the whole flow. First, take a moment to ask yourself, “Why am I here on the mat today?” Close your eyes, breathe, and meditate on your intention. As you start to move your body, let this intention be your guiding force.

2) Practice being fully present in the poses:
We often lose touch with the moment and forget what it means to fully be present in what we are doing. We may be here physically, but not internally. When this happens during yoga, we become disconnected from the poses. Don't just do yoga, feel how it touches you internally. Ask yourself, “Can I go deeper? Am I feeling the pose in my body, mind, and heart?” As you connect to the poses with more presence, observe what is being felt in your body. Notice your breath movement, and make sure it corresponds to your body.

3) Read a spiritual teaching:
Yoga is much more than just postures. It is also a tool for calming the mind, opening the heart, developing gratitude, and reaching self-realization. Investing time to study ancient and contemporary texts that teach eternal truths can transform our attitude and perception of the body, breath, and soul relationship. Next time you do yoga, try reading a powerful teaching, and let its contemplation be an inspiration for your flow.

4) Go beyond Asana:
So many yoga-lovers think the physical postures (aka asana) is all there is to master – but these are just one part of the yoga puzzle. The truth is asana was originally developed as a way of preparing the body for meditation and mindfulness. That’s because yoga was, traditionally speaking, more about the spirituality side of things and less about getting your sweat-on. So if you’re serious about yoga – really serious – you should go beyond the bendy-bits and start indulging in the other components of yoga, like meditation, pranayama (which is breathwork), chanting, and even the yamas and niyamas. There’s so much more out there and understanding the poses and how they relate to the bigger yoga picture will boost your physical practice in ways you never knew possible.

5) Use Mala Beads:
A mala contains 108 beads, traditionally rudraksha seeds on a silk string, followed by a guru bed, and a silk tassel. Mala beads are used as a meditation tool. For each bead you chant a mantra until you have reached the guru bead.

6) Burn incense:
The smell of incense wafting from the entrance of a yoga studio is instantly comforting. A familiar scent that you associate with a particular activity (like incense and yoga) can easily transition you from whatever state you were in before starting class and into the zone for your practice. There are many incense scents to choose from that you can burn at home. I love the traditional Nag Champa which you may smell in many yoga studios.

7) Incorporate Aromatherapy:
If incense isn’t your thing, try using essential oils! As mentioned above, scent has the power to transform your state and mood, so incorporating aromatherapy can be a lovely addition to your yoga practice. Whether you’re wanting to get energized, relaxed, focused, or grounded there is an essential oil to pair for just about any intention or effect.

8) Try sound healing:
If you’ve never had a sound bath you need to get on this ASAP. It’s a wonderful de-stressing and relaxing treatment. While a live sound healing session or sound bath is a unique physical and auditory experience, you can do this at home without instruments or other people! You can find loads of sound healing options on Spotify that will amplify your yoga practice. You may not get the sensation of the sound waves passing through your body in the same way that a live session would feel, but the auditory and relaxation effects can be very similar.

9) Do a self-massage:
This one is sure to elevate your yoga practice! If you love hands on assist during a studio yoga class (when the teacher comes around to physically fix your form or give a light massage) then you’ll want to take the time to do some self-massage during your home practice! Self-massage has many benefits from myofascial release to lymphatic drainage, so you won’t want to skip it! Try giving yourself a hug and cupping your shoulder muscles in your hands, running your fingers from the bridge of your nose and across your brow bone, or lying flat on your back and hugging your knees into your chest while rocking back and forth.

10) Incorporate a mediation:
We mentioned meditation above, by discussing mala beads. BUT you don’t need a Mala to meditate! Asana, or the yoga poses, that you focus on during class can be a lovely meditation practice if you’re able to solely focus on the breath-movement connection. If you want to elevate your yoga practice you can try doing a simple breathing meditation like the 4-7-8 breath, or a guided meditation (if you’re practicing at home don’t be afraid to break up your practice like this).

11) Play:
Find your inner child and don’t be afraid to try a challenging pose. Add some fun playtime to amplify your yoga practice! Take the time in your practice to stop, pick a pose (headstand is a fun one to work on), and break things down.

12) Participate in workshops, seminars, and retreats to keep your practice inspiring:
We are all moving through different levels of being in the flow of life as we develop more wisdom. “To live is to learn, and to learn is to share.” The practice of yoga gives each of us the opportunity to live, learn, and share as we evolve. When such occasions arise sign up and take advantage, as this will inspire your yoga practice. The more you learn about the body, postures, their alignment, sequencing, breath work, and the soul, the further you will transform yourself, awareness of your body, and your yoga practice. It’s not just about learning yoga, but also sharing what you learn. Sharing is powerful since it forces us to always be reading and studying and going deeper inside ourselves. Disconnecting for a few days, a week, or more to immerse yourself in yoga training is an experience that will revive the yoga high in your life.

13) Use props:
– Bolsters and cushions: A staple of yin and restorative yoga practices, a high-quality yoga bolster provides support, stability, and cushion during grounded poses. These props make many poses more accessible and comfortable.
– Yoga blanket: Mexican-style blankets are heavyweight and durable. They’re useful in restorative yoga to provide extra cushion behind the head and under the knees. Yoga blankets can also be used as an extra weight on the body to ground and calm the nervous system. They also keep you warm if you tend to get chilled during savasana.

– Yoga blocks: One of the most common props, used in a lot of yoga classes in the yoga block. Blocks are a lovely way to create stability and support when practicing yoga as they can be added to many traditional yoga poses. They can be stacked on top of your mat to bring the stability of the floor closer to your body.
– Yoga straps: Yoga straps can provide length and space where they’re needed, without you having to strain or push themselves into a given asana. These straps act as an extension of the arms to connect with the lower half of the body in certain stretches.

– Sandbags: Yoga sandbags add weight to your poses. They can also enhance a sense of grounding in many restorative yoga poses.
– Eye pillow: Eye pillows are placed over the eyes during restorative yoga poses or savasana.Eye pillows help the yoga practitioner to melt deeper into the poses by muting any sensory distractions.
– Yoga Wheel: A yoga wheel will increase the range of motion in your spine, plus, create a good spinal workout while stretching your hips and heart space. Yoga wheels are tools to help improve balance and can help increase flexibility-they can be used to lengthen tough to stretch spots like the back and build strength in the core by balancing on one when you’re in plank. Yoga is like planting seeds. The more we care for our yoga practice, the further it will grow, evolve, and blossom. There is so much to learn and be inspired by, we just need to start making changes and begin savoring the fruits of our yoga practice.

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