How to make your yoga practice more peaceful 16 December 2015
This post is for anyone that goes to yoga and thinks how the heck do people find this relaxing!? Or anyone that finds themselves entertaining judgemental or negative thoughts more often than they would like. Amongst other things. Keep reading and find out.
2015 has been a busy one, and I thought it was time I started sharing what I've learnt. This year I decided to take a year off studying Law to study Yoga. Polar opposites but extremely complimentary too! So during my 'year off' I ended up squeezing in a lot... I have completed my 200hr Yoga Teacher Training, 90hr Acrovinyasa Teacher Training, courses in Chair Yoga, Long Slow Deep (Yin style yoga), Assisting and Adjusting + Partner Yoga, and also Mindfulness Coaching.
It's funny when you start learning about something you're interested in, you have a burning desire to know more. Which at the same time can sometimes make you feel like you really don't know much. But it doesn't mean what you know isn't worth sharing. So I thought I would start to blog a bit more about some helpful things I have learnt this year.
I put a post on Instagram and asked people what they struggle most with in a yoga class. A lot of the questions were related to the mind STUFF - frustration, negative thoughts, patience. A great place to start! I struggled with my head more than anything when I first starting going to yoga. It's actually part of the reason why I decided to practice at home. I would beat myself up for a good hour with negative thoughts.
Why is my balance so crap!?
Ugh my legs are so tight.
Pretty sure we did this sequence the other day and I sucked at it...
Who is breathing like Darth Vadar!!?
How is yoga relaxing!?
I heard inhale... but no exhale! Am I meant to be holding my breath??
This teacher keeps saying 'beaaaautiful' and if she says it once more I'm leaving.
The best thing that has helped me find calmness through yoga (especially in a class setting) is learning more about mindfulness. Bit of a buzz word that everyone throws around a lot but it's nothing new and it's something that can help take what you learn on your mat into the rest of your life.
8 things to make your yoga practice more peaceful - try them!
A Sense of Humour
Don't take yourself so seriously, especially not your thoughts! Try and practice with a gentle smile. It really is hard to be angry at yourself or anyone else when you force a smile. It doesn't have to be a full teeth bearing smile, it can simply be the corners of your mouth turned up slightly - soften between your eyebrows, get rid of that frown. Remember to inject a sense of humour into your practice when you're straining your face in a difficult pose, have just stacked a balancing pose or when you catch yourself being mean to yourself - tell that little voice to be quiet, or replace it with some better chat!
Take a step back from the judgemental thoughts - about yourself and others. Become an impartial witness. Whenever a judgemental thought comes to mind, the quickest and most effective thing I do is drown it out by repeating LOVE LOVE LOVE in my head. Remember, there is no need to be self conscious in a yoga class.. if you think people are judging you, don't worry - they're most likely judging themselves! BE KIND TO YOURSELF.
An easy way I learnt to 'observe my thoughts' was to literally act as though I was stepping outside of my body and looking at what goes on in my head from an outsiders perspective. If your best friend said the things you say to yourself.. how long would you keep them around? Try to make that voice inside your head a nice one.
This does not mean to scrap your goals. Goals are great. Bring yourself into the moment though. Appreciate where you are, right NOW. Give your full attention to each moment rather than losing your presence due to being side tracked by the expected outcome. If a teacher offers an option for a deeper pose and you aren't feeling it, don't worry - a deeper pose doesn't make you a better person, the yoga postures are just there as a gateway to practice mindfulness, the stuff 'yoga' is really about.
Understand and accept that sometimes things must unfold in their own time. Practice cultivating patience towards your own mind and body. Give yourself room and permission to experience all experiences (pleasant and unpleasant). If you can't reach your heels to the mat in downward dog, be patient, for one - it doesn't really matter, and two - woohoo you have a reason to keep stepping onto your mat. You can't rush the unfolding of a rose, can you? Be patient and gentle.
We often spend a lot of time and energy denying and resisting what is already here. Acceptance does not mean you have to agree and like everything as it is, it means taking every moment as it comes to practice acceptance rather than trying to impose our ideas of how things 'should be'. Accept life as it is today.
Develop a basic trust in yourself and your feelings. Trusting your intuition even if you make mistakes, rather than always looking outside of yourself for guidance. But at the same time not denying the importance of being open and receptive to what you can learn from other sources. In being 'mindful' you are taking responsibility for being yourself and learning to listen and trust your own being.
Put aside your tendencies to hold onto things. i.e. non attachment. When we stop holding onto things we give ourselves space to live in peace. Think about the things you hold onto and whether or not they are serving you in a positive way. There is only one constant in life.. and that is that everything is constantly changing! So don't let yourself be attached, let it go.
A Beginners Mind
Bring a sense of curiosity and kindness to your mat (and life). Experience things as though you are feeling and seeing them for the first time.. because you are, you haven't felt the next moment until it comes along. So be kind. I like to imagine Rex (my nephew) doing something for the first time - his first sounds and steps, everything is done with such excitement and wonder. Bring that to your yoga mat. Because it's pretty damn amazing that you could even be there :D
P.S. Have some quiet time to practice these mindful techniques with Get Bendy, Get Split & Get Inverted!
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I hope these can help you. I'll be blogging more about this and also answering questions so keep an eye out. In the mean time, do your best to remember these in your next yoga class. If you have a recurring thought try and match it up to a pillar of mindfulness that can help you. The big ones for me have been non-judging, non-striving, and a sense of humour.
P.P.S. Just to clear the grammatical air. I know 'practice' is a noun and 'practise' is the verb (British English rules are different to the US) but I have decided to just opt for yoga practice. Sorry Mum (grammar queen haha!).