Over the past few months, I often have students asking me how they can improve their yoga practice – whether it is to become more flexible or have better balance or master their chaturangas.
Well, there’s a couple of answers to these questions. First of all, it’s good to be reminded that there’s no real end goal for yoga. Every time you practice, you will discover there are some things you can’t do and some you can. You do what your body needs that day.
But of course, there are always new things to try out and learn. And that’s the fun of yoga. And the only way to master new skills is practice – regular efficient practice.
This doesn’t have to mean going to lots and lots of classes. But maybe you can squeeze in ten minutes of sun salutations before work in the morning. Perhaps you can do some stretches in front of the TV in evening? Maybe just practise standing on one leg at the bus stop to test your balance (even if you get weird looks)?
Here’s some other (sometimes ridiculous but ultimately effective) suggestions on how to make yoga a daily practice:
– Boxset Partner Stretches: While gorging on whatever latest series you are watching, do partner stretches with your housemates/boyfriend/wife/husband?
– Kitchen Balances: If your balance is a little off sometimes, try not to do these while holding anything hot or using sharp or dangerous equipment! But if you are doing some bog-standard stirring or mixing or other such kitchen activities, perhaps test your balance at the same time? Perhaps hold a tree pose with your legs while stirring a cake mixture? Maybe do heel raises while beating eggs?
–Early Morning Sessions: In this instance, I often fail to practise what I preach. But try and set your alarm 20 mins early and roll your mat out as soon as you wake (possibly in my case after an espresso) and ease yourself into the day with some gentle sun salutations and stretches. Put some music on or turn up radio 4 and spend ten minutes moving and stretching however you feel like.
–The Random Headstand: Just got in from work and thinking about dinner or putting a load of washing on? Why not do a headstand to reinvigorate yourself? (NB: If you are relatively experienced at doing them). Just have a play – use the wall for extra confidence if you are feeling a bit wobbly. A headstand is thought to have a calming effect on the nervous system and it’s always good to get upside down and see things from another perspective.
–Desk Break Twists and Stretches: Try to take regular breaks from your desk. You can do mini-stretches in your chair. I always like doing twists/spinal rotations. You can also interlace fingers and lift hands to ceiling and do a few side stretches. If you can get off your chair every hour or so you can incorporate some deeper stretches.
–Breathing: Yes. Breathing. This is something you probably/hopefully are doing anyway everyday! But bringing your focus to your breath – whether you are stressed out on a tube/sitting on a bench eating your lunch or taking an invigorating afternoon walk. Wherever you are – if you feel you need to regain a sense of calm, clarity and ease, bring your attention to your breath and try to slow down each inhalation and exhalation.