by Angela Ambrose | May 9, 2017 4:15 am
Whether you’re a seasoned yogi or a beginner, you may be cheating yourself out of the most powerful benefits of yoga without even realizing it. Here are a few traps that can sabotage your practice and prevent you from finding your true, authentic self.
1) You ditch class when a sub shows up.
You’re all psyched to take class with your all-time favorite teacher and you even planned your crazy schedule around it. Then, in walks some no-name instructor. Your heart sinks and you’re angry with yourself for not checking the online schedule before coming to class. You keep your gaze down as you quickly roll up your mat, hoping no one will notice your stealthy exit. Truth is everyone notices, including the snubbed teacher. But the real loser here is you. Solution: Be open to change and stay on your mat. Life is unpredictable so learn to go with the flow; this is one of the greatest lessons that yoga teaches us. Plus, you’ve already invested time changing into your comfy yoga clothes and driving over to the studio, so don’t squander that time by skipping class. And you never know — you might end up liking the sub even better than your regular guru.
2) You never fully power down your mind — or your phone. While waiting for class to start, you pull out your phone so you can sneak in one more work email or tweet before the teacher starts class. And sometimes you just can’t bring yourself to power down even after class begins. Instead, you mute your phone and place it face up next to your mat. As you move through the poses, you crane your neck to get a glimpse of the latest text that flashes across your screen. Solution: Leave your phone in the locker room or your car. The temptation is too great if you bring it with you to class. The yoga studio is meant to be a safe haven — a respite from all the digital demands and overstimulation of the outside world. Use your centering time to catch your breath, settle in or greet your fellow yogis as they set up next to you.
3) You change positions or fidget as soon as you feel the slightest bit of discomfort. That deep hip opener or burning forearm plank pose feels like self-torture and you refuse to stay there for more than a few seconds. Instead, you discretely slide out of class convincing yourself that the achy sensation you’re feeling is pain radiating from your overfull bladder. So, you take a leisurely pee break and come back right as the class transitions out of double pigeon into a soothing Savasana. Solution: Stay in the pose as long as you can maintain a smooth, deep breath. If your breath gets choppy or you feel a sharp pain, back off and modify the pose or take a child’s pose and chill. The unexpected challenges and discomfort you encounter on your mat help you build inner strength to pull you through tough times in the outside world.
4) You plan your to-do list and look around the room the entire class. You flick pieces of lint off your mat and you examine the flaking polish on your toes as you mentally plan your next pedicure. When your teacher tells you to lengthen your breath, instead you lengthen your to-do list as you bring to mind all the things you need to get done by weeks’ end. Solution: It’s natural for your mind to wander, but staying focused requires commitment and self-discipline. As you breathe, start to cultivate the ocean-sounding (Ujjayi) breath.The audible sound of your breath will help keep you anchored to the present moment. If outside thoughts come to mind, let them float by and continually bring your focus back to the breath as you steady your gaze at a point in front of you.
5) You let your ego drive your practice instead of your body and breath. You judge and compare your poses, jean size and taste in clothing with the person next to you. Your goal is not to de-stress but to impress the people around you and you take every pose to the deepest, most advanced version, even if it means ignoring that shooting pain in your knee or lower back. Solution: You are not auditioning for Cirque du Soleil, so just relax and tune into the sensations of your body and breath. As you move through the poses, try closing your eyes to avoid comparing yourself to those around you.
We all engage in unhealthy, ego-driven habits from time to time, but the first step towards change is awareness. Make your yoga mat a sacred place where you can disconnect from the distractions around you and let go of any false pretenses. Although yoga is often practiced in a group setting, the goal is to turn inward and discover your true essence of peace, love and freedom.
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