Simple Tools to Improve Your Yoga Practice: Part 1
By: Mark Phillips, Yoga and GX instructor
When you first start yoga practice or an exercise program, it’s all about the teacher or the people or the facility or maybe just keeping up with the group. As you settle into your yoga practice, you start asking yourself, how can I improve or fine tune my practice? Once you get to the place where you’re asking yourself that question, then you might want to start by looking at your focus, your breathing, your muscle control, and your body alignment. The following points might help you improve your practice.
FOCUS – Everything depends on yours. The verb “focus” means adapting to the prevailing level of light and becoming able to see clearly. With yoga (or any exercise practice) the real key is to focus on what you’re doing not what you would like to be doing or what you’re going to do or what you have done in the past, but what you’re doing now.
It’s a proven fact if you focus on the muscles and the parts of the body that you are working, your body will respond much better to what you are trying to accomplish. You can think of it like playing tennis, baseball, or any other sport that requires you to focus and be alert. In sports, you focus on the now so you can react quickly and with control in the moment. Yoga is just like that: you set your focus on your pose while controlling proper breathing, keeping correct body alignment, and expanding your muscle length in an isometric fashion. It’s a beautiful thing when these elements all come together with your mental focus on you and what you’re doing, and you will love the feeling and satisfaction it gives you.
So why do we all have such a hard time with it? Well, I guess you don’t have a speeding ball heading straight at you, (that would wake anyone up!) which would help you focus on drawing yourself into a self-centered, alert state. But instead of focusing on a speeding ball, set your focus inward on that magnificent body of yours and all its wonderful moving parts that make it work. Now, this sounds easier than it really is and like anything else, it requires practice. It’s not going to happen overnight, but it will never happen if you don’t start working on the concept of inward instead of outward focus. I had a world-class skeet shooter tell me once that I was just as good of a shot as he was, he had just shot more shell than I had. It’s like that with everything. It starts by you pulling your thoughts in on you and your body, not on other things. It’s not easy because we’re busy thinking about our cell phones or our plans or anything else, but in time it will happen and the results will be well worth it. Give it a try and always remember that they call it a yoga practice, not yoga perfect!