One of the questions I'm asked most frequently from long-time yoga practitioners is how can I take my yoga practice to the next level?
It's a natural question, especially if you've been doing a posture practice for some time. The Swamis used to say to me that modern Western yoga practice is like going out for a meal and finding that all of the restaurants only serve unseasoned broccoli. Even if you love broccoli, there are a whole bunch of amazing flavors you are missing.
So, here are 5 ways you can expand your palate and deepen your relationships to yoga, in posture practice and in other ways.
1. Get curious about the actions of the postures.
If we are dining at a broccoli-only buffet, the first thing you'll probably do is reach for the salt and pepper, right? This is how I feel about thinking critically about the what the body is doing in posture practice.
Understanding the movement principles and specific actions of the body will automatically add some extra flavor to simple, familiar, (boring?) poses.
For example, let's consider Triangle Pose, Trikoṇāsana.
What is happening with your legs?
Sure, there is the shape of legs standing wide but I want you to engage with some ACTION in your legs.
First, what happens when you add an extra little squeeze?
Pull in like you are trying to buckle up your yoga mat between your feet like this:
Now, hone in on the actions of your front leg even more specifically.
Push down through the inner edge of your front foot and simultaneously pull back at your front hip like this:
This is getting interesting, right?
Next, keep all of those things you've added to the pose so far and rotate your chest to twist open a little bit more like this:
Does thinking about and engaging with these actions in the pose change anything about it for you?
There is so much room to explore in this way. Here in triangle pose, I just offered consideration for one leg. We could go on and on with the parts of your body in this pose. Your back leg, your shoulders and arms, the position of your head....
If you want to level up your posture practice, getting curious about the actions of the poses is a great place to start.
2. Study the yoga texts.
Even if you are on a mission to make posture work more interesting and challenging, āsana is just one tiny piece of the system of yoga.
Yoga as a practice and worldview is a living, breathing, and changing system built on a vast foundation. The techniques and methods you are practicing today have been melded together from many different ancient and not-so-ancient sources.
This brief historical timeline of important texts will show you where you can get started on your yoga history and philosophy exploration.
I compiled a whole bunch of my favorite yoga books for you, including recommended translations of the books on the above timeline on bookshop.org.
3. Practice prāṇāyāma.
Prāṇāyāma is one of the most deeply powerful but often underused and misunderstood practices of yoga. There is an incredible potential to shift your energy and deepen your relationship to yoga when you work more specifically with your breath.
Check out these two blog posts about the breath practices of yoga:
This post has some short video tutorials.
This post explains more about yoga's take on how energy moves in our body.
4. Explore different styles of meditation.
There is no single style of meditation in yoga. The best meditation practice is the one you do and the one that works. In order to find what works, you have to do some experimentation.
Mindfulness meditation is a great place to start. Mindfulness meditation is based on the Buddhist practice shamatha. This is a Pali word that means "calm abiding." Benefits of this practice are presence, clarity, and stability.
Consider taking my Meditation Mondays series, starting December 5, 2022.
5. Sign up for yoga teacher training.
And the last way to deepen your yoga practice is to sign up for Yoga Teacher Training.
I'm honored and excited to be the the lead teacher trainer for the Hatha Yoga Teacher Training program at Lighthouse Yoga Center.
In this small cohort program, I help you to commit to your yoga practice. You'll get guidance and support in your study of the texts and the techniques of yoga. You'll find ways to level up and deepen your connection to yoga. Plus you'll learn the skills to translate what you love about yoga into inspiring and helpful classes for others.
Not ready to make the leap into teacher training?
Check out my upcoming in-person offerings. You can find me offering yoga history and philosophy programs, as well as Restorative Yoga immersions/trainings and retreats, plus workshops on prāṇāyāma, mantra, and mudrā.