When you first commit to practising yoga, in many ways, it can be easy to stay present. You are absorbed in learning the poses, the new type of music playing in the background, exploring what a yoga block is for, and getting used to chanting OM, or even vocalizing in public, for the first time ever.
Evolving Your Yoga Practice
But after you have learned the poses and engrained them into your muscle memory — after you begin to feel comfortable breathing properly, and can seamlessly link your breath with your movements — after OM becomes something soft and familiar like your morning tea, and your yoga mat as warm and inviting as your bed — a particular danger arises.
The beauty of this stage is that your practice is ready to evolve; the danger is that if you do not take conscious steps to do so, if you stay in this comfortable familiar practice, you will sacrifice the basic principle of yoga as a tool for self-transformation. So, it’s time to get out of your yogic comfort zone and deepen your yoga practice.
Establish Your Intention Before Practice
A perfect way to do this is is to set an intention at the beginning of your yoga practice. This is a fantastic way to anchor your mind to the present moment, as it is now familiar with the ‘routine’ of your yoga poses. If you let routine take hold, you are highly likely to wander away from your yoga mat and back into thoughts of the day you had or will have tomorrow.
If you are at home, create your intention at the beginning of your yoga practice. Take a moment to reflect on either: what you want to get out of your practice, or what particular things you are struggling with. If you are practising at a yoga studio and are not provided time for centering at the beginning of the yoga class, try to arrive five minutes early for class and do so then.
Choose One Intention and Concentrate
Your intention can be incredibly simple, like remembering to breathe fully throughout your yoga practice. Or it can be deeper, more emotion-based, like releasing fear around feeling vulnerable in backbends or releasing anger around the limitations caused by an injury. Working with these ideas breathes life into your yoga practice, making it truly your own.
At the end of your yoga practice, invite your intention to step off your yoga mat and into the rest of your life. How can it apply in your day-to-day experience? Can you remember to breath fully when driving or working? How can you release anger or fear in other realms of your life?
These intentions are about checking in with what is going on with you, not only in your yoga practice but in your life as a whole. When we set intentions, we allow ourselves space to reflect on the issues or struggles we are facing and invite them to be a part of our consciousness for an hour or two.
We are asking ourselves to be honest with what we are dealing with, and to be brave, to confront these issues with gentleness, with compassion, without judgement or expectation.