“Wherever you are is the entry point”     Kabir

The reasons we begin practicing Yoga are unique to each person and their needs. For many Yoga can be the ultimate relaxation exercise that also helps stretch and strengthen the body for more flexibility. Other seek help for particular physical problems or to complement other exercise activities. How fit or flexible we are, our present state of health and what we hope to gain from Yoga or meditation practice are unique to who we are and the starting point of what may be an exciting journey.

You may be a beginner who has just been introduced to the physical poses in yoga classes. If so, you are still learning to move into your asanas(Yoga Poses) with fluid movements that aren’t jerky or awkward. If you have been taking yoga for many years, you may have reached the point where you wonder what you can do to deepen your yoga practice to make it more fulfilling to your mind, body and spirit to achieve a deeper relaxation. Indeed, it is very common for those who persist in the practice of yoga to find that as their initial goals are attained their needs and desires for what they want out of their practice changes.

So, whether  you are that novice still going through early learning process,  or a more advanced practitioner who has the physical Yoga practice seemingly mastered, I invite you to try integrating aspects of these 5 steps to help you add dimension, power and joy to your experience in yoga.

Step #1: Remember To Breathe

While you are engaged with a regular yoga exercise, sometimes it can become a force of habit for you to hold your breath when moving into your next pose. Don’t stop breathing when moving into those difficult poses as this can be disruptive to your concentration. It can also cause you to become light-headed. Keep the mind and body connected through strong, even breathing to help calm yourself during each pose.

Step #2: Holding Stretches Longer and/or more consciously

Now that you have begun to breath while doing your poses, it’s time to practice holding your stretches longer. Simply doing one pose and then immediately moving onto the next one does not allow you to adequately stretch your muscles. Hold your stretches longer and work to relax with your breath as your body adjusts within the poses. This may serve deepen relaxation, reduce risk of injury and allow the deeper change asana can bring to your overall physical and mental state of well-being. Working with the focus on being conscious and attentive in the poses can help you  enjoy the full benefits of the yoga practice on the mat and in your life.

Step #3: Relieve the Tension in Those Muscles

As you learn to hold on to your poses longer, you may unintentionally tense muscles throughout your body. Be aware when you are doing this, as overworking your muscles can cause you to become injured and increase the stress that you are trying to release. Avoid struggle and contention against yourself in the poses. Though there is a degree of physical challenge to be expected it is easy to confuse this old habits of struggle, forcing stretches or staying in poses far beyond our ability to remain focused, attentive and relaxed while in them.  Instead work in the poses to search for areas of your body where you are tensing yourself such as your face, toes and shoulders as you work to release the tension in those areas.

Step #4: Cut Out the Extra Movements

Yoga is all about fluid movements of your body that links your mind and spirit into poses that release the stress while adding flexibility to muscles. As you breath, your body transitions from one pose to the next using the fewest moves possible. Yet sometimes your body makes extra movements in anticipation of the next pose, which can set you off-balance and make your yoga poses feel jerky and clunky. Take note of the extra movements and try to get rid of the fidgeting caused by your anticipation to help your poses feel more fluid and graceful.

Step #5: Practice More

The best way to deepen your yoga practice is to actually do the poses more. Practice at least twice a week if you can, finding a spare moment where you can go through your routine without being disturbed. Even if you can just get in a few stretches in your office or practice before you fix breakfast in the morning every day will help you and your body reap in the benefits.

Above All Else, Enjoy Your Yoga

If you are not enjoying yourself, it becomes harder to focus your mind to committing to the yoga practice. Always move at your own pace and enjoy the poses you make so you can stick with your yoga routine. As you progress in yoga or as other needs or desires emerge allow your practice to evolve with you.Sampling different styles to support your main practice can keep things fresh and offer new insights and experiences.