How to Advance Your Yoga Practice

Take a moment to reflect on your yoga practice. How is it serving you? Do you continue to strengthen your body, improve your posture, reduce aches and pains, increase your flexibility? Are you able to use your breath to focus your attention, reduce your stress, increase your energy? Do you continue to deepen your awareness of the inner workings of your mind, your intuition, your spirit?  

Advancing our yoga practice can happen in two ways: we can deepen and we can broaden. Deepening the practice has nothing to do with how many poses you can do. It’s all about the inner workings of the breath and the mind. Broadening involves expanding the physical practice by mastering new (perhaps more challenging) poses, exploring different styles of yoga, or increasing the amount of time we spend on the mat.

When we first begin to practice yoga, it’s easy to advance rapidly in both ways. Our bodies can quickly adapt to this new way of moving. With each session, we become more and more comfortable in the poses, and we become more and more aware of how our breath affects our body and mind. But at some point, those quick gains start to decelerate and perhaps eventually plateau. If we allow our progress to stall, we run the risk of getting bored and either becoming complacent about the practice or abandoning it altogether.

So how do we ensure that we continue to progress? To answer this question, I offer you my own story . . .

I started practicing on my own in my living room, first with a couple of books, then with VHS tapes and DVDs. For a few years, I continued to progress at a respectable pace until I finally worked up the nerve to go to a yoga studio. There weren’t many around here back then. The first one I went to was in the Outer Banks of North Carolina while I was on vacation. I figured if I made a fool of myself, it would be in front of people I would never see again. I was amazed at how different my practice felt in this space dedicated to the practice and in the presence of others who were dedicated to the practice. When I came home, I sought out group classes, attended regularly, and my practice expanded . . . for a while.

It wasn’t until I went through yoga teacher training that my practice really expanded in a way I didn’t think was possible. A consistent daily practice, both at home and in group classes, combined with training weekends during which I was practicing for hours a day, transformed my body. I became stronger and more flexible than I had been at any time during my adult life, despite the fact that I was in my mid-forties. I astonished myself with each new pose I was able to do, each time feeling like a kid who had just learned to ride her bike without training wheels.

That kind of progress continued after teacher training . . . for a while. Slowly but surely, I realized I was no longer interested in broadening my repertoire of poses. What I wanted, and needed, was to deepen my practice, to nourish my body, my mind and my spirit, to sharpen my intuition. And I recognized that there were elements of my lifestyle that were preventing that. I wasn’t eating well. I wasn’t sleeping well. And I felt as though I was under a lot of unnecessary stress.

I started making a few lifestyle changes here and there, piecemealing together things I’d read or heard and struggling to make those changes stick. It wasn’t until I found Yoga Health Coaching that I learned that someone had devised a system that addressed all of the problems I wanted to address AND would allow me to become certified to teach that system. Enrolling was an easy decision, even if the financial investment gave me pause. The system worked for me. With my lifestyle habits in check, my yoga practice deepened in subtle yet exciting ways.

So what is it you need to do to advance your practice? Is it simply to become more consistent with your home practice? Is it to attend more group class? Is it yoga teacher training? (Many people enroll in yoga teacher training simply to advance their own practice. You don’t have to want to teach.) Or do you need to make some lifestyle changes?

Whatever it is you need, Main Street Yoga is here to support you. Subscribe to this blog. Check out our class schedule and put one or two a week on your calendar. If yoga teacher training sound like your next step, email me today – we start June 9th! If you know you need to make some lifestyle changes, check out Body Wisdom – the next round starts July 10th and I’m offering an early bird discount on tuition.

If you have any questions or need some direction, I’m always here to help.

See you at the studio!