Sydney is very health-conscious, and so yoga is a preferred form of exercise/release/meditation (whatever it is to you).
I go to yoga to find balance and acceptance in my life and in myself. I have been practicing yoga on and off since my early 20s, and I always find that whenever I return to my mat – after however long – I am always taken away by its power to connect my mind, body and spirit.
Yoga isn’t easy. This may be hard to believe for non-yogis. It requires focus, self-discipline and a deeper connection to oneself and one’s body. It also requires strength and flexibility.
There have been times when I’ve found it hard to connect to my practice, and have found a yoga class (dare I say it) boring. This isn’t the case anymore, purely because I know how to get the most out of my practice. After all, yoga is only as rewarding as you allow it to be, and a simple shift of attitude can show the most incredible benefits.
10 ways to make the most of your yoga practice
Respect time, attitudes, emotions, energies – not just that of your teacher and fellow yogis’, but your own.
If I book into a yoga class, I make sure I respect myself and get to that class. I make it a priority. I also respect my own time, and make sure I am not rushing to my class, but instead give myself extra time to get there early, settle and breathe.
2. Drop expectations
It can be hard not to hold expectations. We have expectations for everything; all day, every day, for big and small things.
For yoga, though, you need to drop all of them. It doesn’t matter what happens in the class – how your body feels, how focused your mind is, how it felt last week. All that matters is you in that moment, and just letting go.
3. Notice how you feel before
Life is stressful, which is why the benefits of yoga are plentiful. You may go to a yoga class stressed and tensed from whatever you’ve gone through that day. Take a moment to notice how your mind and body feels before a class, and accept it, without judgement.
4. Have an intention
Usually, your yoga instructor will provide you with an intention or mantra in your yoga class. It could be anything from manifesting happiness, to forgiveness, to recognising your achievements, to having gratitude for everything you have. Or, it could be as simple as thanking yourself for showing up to your mat that day.
Whatever your intention or mantra is, make sure you keep it with you all class. It will help give your class focus and purpose, and is the key to manifestation.
5. Leave your inhibitions at the door
What happens on the mat, stays on the mat. Your yoga practice is yours, and you should aim to shut out every stress, worry, insecurity and just be.
6. Leave your phone at the door
The most powerful yoga sessions are completely free of distractions. Yoga studios are peaceful; all there is to hear is a carefully curated soundtrack playing in the background, and maybe a faint hubbub of a busy road, or wind whipping in the trees. A phone going off will pull yourself and your fellow yogis out of a calm, meditative state, and this is detrimental to your practice.
7. Remove all self-judgement
The key to yoga and meditation is to empty your mind, focus on your breathing and reach inner stillness. Thoughts will pass through your mind, and you should imagine them like cars passing by on a busy road – you should accept they are there, but not dwell on them. Don’t judge yourself for having these thoughts, simply observe them come into your mind and watch them leave again.
Self-judgement is not welcome on the yoga mat; only self-love.
8. Listen to your body
Your body tells you things all day, every day. You need to learn to listen to it. Maybe you have a sore muscle, or maybe your hips are tight. Or, maybe you are exhausted, and you need rest.
Whatever you need, make sure you give your body what it needs.
9. Notice how you feel after
Notice how you feel before your practice, and how you feel after. Most likely you will feel a divine calm. Often I will feel like I’m wading for a few minutes after coming out of a class.
Your yoga teacher will allow you to remain on your mat if you want to, and make the most of this time! Stretch, breathe or just sit. It’s all about what you need at that time, and for a lot of us, being on the mat is the only time in the day we get to ourselves!
10. Take your intention home with you
Perhaps the most important thing you can take away from your yoga practice is your intention. Whatever it was, don’t throw it away as soon as you step off the mat. Try and practice it through the rest of your day, and your life!
If you can be as kind to yourself in your everyday life as you are on your yoga mat, you will live a very happy life.