Every time we come to our yoga mats, we meet ourselves exactly as we are in that moment. Although we arrive in the same body, different sensations, levels of energy, environments, and moods all play a part in guiding our practice. Because of this, no two yoga practices are ever the same.
When we practice yoga in a studio, we join each other in classes led by a single teacher. The teacher aims to meet the needs of every student, but you may someday find yourself in a class that doesn’t feel right for you. Maybe you feel tired in the middle of a high-energy Vinyasa class, or restless in a restorative or gentle practice. Your breath may be faster or slower than the teacher’s pace. Perhaps the postures feel too challenging, or too easy.
Although we share these classes together, every minute you spend on your mat belongs to you – and only you. Your outer practice should always be an extension of how you feel, no matter what might be going on around you.
Try these tips to give yourself a nurturing, fulfilling practice in every class you take:
- Modify the postures. Every yoga posture (asana) has multiple stages or variations. Your teacher may suggest a particular stage of the pose, but honor your personal practice by taking a more basic or more advanced variation. If you don’t know how to modify a particular posture, ask your teacher for a suggestion.
- Embrace the use of props. Blocks, blankets, bolsters, and straps are designed to support your practice. They allow you to experience all the benefits of a particular posture without forcing or straining yourself to do it “on your own.”
- Set your own pace. Rather than trying to match your teacher’s pace, always move with the rhythm of your own breath. Focus on using full inhales and full exhales to move your body through the postures, rather than trying to match someone else’s breath rhythm. Everyone will end up at the same place eventually!
- Add something in, or leave something out. If you are feeling restless, adding an extra vinyasa between poses can help burn that excess energy. If you’re feeling tired, skip a vinyasa or leave out a posture that feels draining.
- Allow yourself to take a break. Honor the sensations and energy in the body by resting when you need to. Child’s Pose and Downward Facing Dog are two traditional resting postures, but you can spend a few breaths in any pose that feels good. Try sitting quietly with your eyes closed, or dropping into a mini Corpse Pose for a quick energy refresh.