For the most part, there’s no right or wrong way to practice yoga. As you’ll hear your teacher’s say, it’s your practice. (The exception may be alignment-based styles like Iyengar Yoga.) Still, there are things you can do to ensure you have a great time on the mat and get the most benefit from your yoga practice. Here are a few suggestions:
Dress for success.
Even in yoga, what you wear can make a difference. No, I don’t mean you should have the latest designer yoga outfits. I mean your attire should make it easy to practice comfortably. Your clothing should be loose enough to move in, but not so loose that parts are your body are exposed at awkward times. You’ll also want to be able to see and be sure not to trip.
Basic pants that are not too wide or too long are best. Your top should be snug enough that your neckline doesn’t block your vision when you’re in downward-facing dog.
A good test for comfort that I like to do is this: Get into downward-facing dog pose. Are you comfortable? Can you see? Next, jump or walk through to a seated position and do a pose like shoulder stand or other inversion. Still comfortable? If so, you’re dressed for yoga success! One last note on attire: Your feet will ideally be bare, so you’ll be more stable on the mat.
Be on time.
A rule often associated with school or work is appropriate for yoga too. Being late to yoga class has consequences you’ll want to avoid.
For one thing, if you’re rushing to class, it will be a lot harder to settle onto your mat and get into the “yoga zone” before practice. You’ll get more benefit from your yoga practice if you take the time to come prepared. For yogis, that means leaving your rushed, chattering mind at home (or at least in your car).
Getting to class late can also disturb your classmates. On the other hand, if you’re early, you’ll have time to connect and chat with your yogi friends!
See it through!
While we’re discussing time on the mat, another way to benefit from your yoga practice is to stay for the entire class. The end of a typical yoga class—savasana and the closing meditation—is the most important. The goal of our physical practice is deep relaxation and meditation, so leaving before savasana is like leaving your job before you get your paycheck!
It’s tempting to push ourselves on the yoga mat, especially when we practice with more experienced students. While it’s great to be challenged by the energy in the room, there’s no value in trying to do someone else’s practice.
Listen to your body and back out of a pose that feels painful or uncomfortable. You can always use modifications, which your teacher will likely offer. As yoga teacher Doron Hanoch says of trying to match someone else’s version of a pose, you don’t have their body, and they won’t have your injury if you try to do something your body isn’t ready for.
If you’re already following the tips I’ve just shared, great. Keep it up! If not, try them and see if it it makes a difference.
And stay tuned for future posts with more tips on how to get the most benefit from your yoga practice!