8 Shifts in my Yoga Practice

After several years of asana practice, there are still times I power through the entire sequence in mental chaos, barely noticing what my body needs in each posture. Then I arrive in savasana realising I didn’t allow myself to enjoy the process.

But the beauty of this is the opportunity to become my own teacher, learning to recognise the habitual patterns in my practice that are not serving me.

There’s a reason this thing called yoga is considered a journey. So far in my practice, I’ve experienced these eight major turning points that continue to bring a more nourishing mind-body experience, and ultimately, a more peaceful, joy-filled life.

line-grey 1. Learning to take modification over advanced version of the posture

This is when I started to recognise the ego in my asana. When my body calls for it, I am learning to drop into the less powerful version of the posture. It can feel empowering to listen to my body and not push it for the sake of looking good or going hard.

line-grey 2. Taking the advanced version when I know I can “go there”

Conversely, I’m learning to tune into the difference between when my body is fatigued and when being I’m fearful. If my body moves intuitively and has a curiosity to go deeper, or into uncharted territory, I allow myself to explore it. And if I wobble, I try to remind my ego that it’s ok.

line-grey 3. Embracing the postures in which my body feels tightest 

When I hear the teacher mention frog pose I no longer think ‘just kill me now’. I realise the poses that bring up these kinds of thoughts are the ones my body might need the most. The switch in attitude has brought much more peace to my practice. I am learning to enjoy the poses I’m ‘not good at’.

line-grey 4. Maintaining my drishti

The focal point in each pose has become as important as the pose itself. If I’m flicking my eyes around the room (so tempting in standing forward bends!), it’s a reminder that I’m probably in distraction mode: trying to run away from being in my own body. 

line-grey 5. Maintaining the breath

Alongside maintaining my drishti, I’ve noticed staying present on my mat is intrinsically linked with maintaining my breath. The moment I drop off from Ujjayi breath in a flow class is the moment the mind has taken over. Either my mind wants to distract me from the physical effort, or I float away with the fairies during the poses my body finds ‘easy’.

line-grey 6. Taking child’s pose

The art of surrender and respecting my body can be as simple as taking child’s pose when the rest of the class is powering through a vinyasa. This is the point at which I can honour my body the most by allowing it to opt out and rest rather than trying to keep up for the sake of – guess what? Ego.

line-grey 7. Pulling my hamstring (badly)

A big note-to-self has been to not impatiently and mindlessly throw myself into postures when I practise at home. I’ll never forget the ripping and cracking sound that came from just beneath my pelvis two years ago. As a consequence, my legs remain bent in folded postures, but it’s a constant reminder to respect my body and be present to its limitations in each moment.

line-grey 8. Practising yoga off the mat

When the teacher reminds the class that how we react on the mat is a reflection of how we react in life, it can be a wake-up call. Drama so easily creeps up in my head during least favourite postures (Utkatasana I will love you one day). I am finding that by maintaining breath and drishti throughout each challenge, I enter a less reactive state. And the ripple effect is that I’m finding myself in a less reactive state when faced with those challenges beyond the mat.

“Yoga is a journey of the self, through the self, to the self.”

Bhagavad Gita
Images: Monique Easton

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