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7 Ways to Make Yoga Class a Self-Discovery Goldmine

Practice
yoga class child's pose

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Set an intention for your next yoga class to discover something new about yourself.

Time on the yoga mat is enlightening for most of us, but it can get a little blah no matter how much we love it. Liven up your practice by using your average yoga class to learn more about yourself.

“If your yoga practice feels stale, consider the following tips to pull your lotus flower out of the mud,” said Kris Fleischer, a yoga teacher from the Jersey Shore.

  1. Slow down your breathing. We focus a lot on breathing techniques during class, but some of us don’t pay attention to the pace. “By slowing down your breaths, your nervous system calms and your mind settles, allowing the muddy water to settle,” Fleischer said. “Your mind settles, and as a result, you are able to make better decisions.”
  2. Make time for rest. Need a break 10 minutes into a one-hour class? Don’t be afraid to be the person who randomly takes Child’s Pose. It may be just what you need to discern what’s going on in your body and mind, leading to the breakthrough you need. “By giving your body what it needs on the mat, you take the practice of making clear choices with you into the world,” Fleischer explained.
  3. Get creative. Tired of your yoga teacher’s musical preferences or practicing in the same studio? Make up your own routine and practice at home (or somewhere else really inspiring) and use your own playlist. “When you listen to music you are connected to, you move in ways that further connect you to your yoga practice,” Fleischer said. “The postures become new all over again.”
  4. Keep showing up. Looking for more from your yoga practice but just not getting it? “Show up anyway. Persevere,” Fleischer recommended. “These are the practices when you discover what you are really made of because you are giving yourself to be in the present moment on the mat, warts and all. Your practice becomes an offering of self.” That may just lead you to find out more about what you desire or need—and exactly how to get it.
  5. Don’t go big. Avoid going into your deepest expression of a pose—at least for one class. “Stay up higher in Triangle Pose and focus on getting equal length on both sides of your torso by elongating your spine. Use a block in Half Moon Pose so that you can pay more attention to your Quadratus Lumborum [that ab muscle on your back] than getting your hand to the floor,” suggested Valerie Knopik, PhD, Yoga Medicine instructor from Indiana. “Slow down enough to focus on subtlety and nuance rather than depth.”
  6. Focus on the poses you hate. We all have at least one pose that we dread. Why don’t you like that pose or those poses? “Sit with this and cultivate some wonder about what your most disliked postures might be able to teach you,” Knopik, said.
  7. Stay after class. Maybe your practice isn’t where to look for self-discovery after all. It could open you up and help you connect with the energy of others in class. That may spark a discussion that helps you feel more in tune with who you are. So don’t rush out the door right away. “Some of the best lessons come at the moments when you want to bail,” Knopik said. Staying—whether in a pose you can’t stand or just hanging out after class—is often the harder work. “That time spent lingering is the time when breakthroughs and wonderful ‘aha’ moments come about,” Knopik added.

Kristen Fischer is the author of “Zoo Zen: A Yoga Story for Kids” (Sounds True).


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