Like many things in life, as we develop a relationship with our yoga practice, it often becomes too easy to feel complacent or lose sight of that magic feeling that connected us to yoga in the first place. (Sad face—I know!)
Instead, we find ourselves well-worn into yoga, knowing that practice is important but—gasp!—not really practicing. We become autobot yogis, finding ourselves making grocery lists in Pigeon, and trying to figure out what song our teacher is playing as we do our Surya Namaskars.
Now first off, let me remind you that this is totally normal! Our brain works hard to economize things, developing stories and heuristics. Staying deeply present is a practice. So, when you find yourself adrift and daydreaming on the mat, here are a few tips that will instantly help you reconnect!
I had a teacher that used to say, “If you control the breath, you control the mind. And if you control the mind, you become Jesus Christ.” While I’m not sure about that last part, I can confidently say that if you learn to control the breath, your practice will be transformed.
In fact, pranayama (literally: breath + restraint) is the single most effective way to enhance your yoga practice. Period.
We all cognitively know that breath is a HUGE part of yoga asana, but (if you are like me), when we are physically challenged, the breath is the first thing to go! Developing a consciousness around our breathing patterns can transform our energies on and off the mat.
Simply, when we learn to harness and control our breath, we learn to manipulate our physiological responses to stress.
Breathwork and awareness has even been shown as an effective treatment for anxiety and panic disorders. Through pranayama in practice, we can learn to regulate our body temperature, our minds’ wanderings, and our stress responses! So, i you want to practice better, breathe better.
2. Plant it.
Just like a house, yoga poses should be built from the ground up. It is only when we have a sound foundation that we can truly find the expansive energies that asana promotes. Try this out: the next time you are practicing, dig in.
This means that whatever parts of your body are connected to the ground need to press through it. Feet, hands, hips—whatever your points of contact with the earth are—need to actively engage downward.
By doing this, your entire body will light up! Teachers often say we need to “root to rise”—digging in will get you there.
3. Offer it up.
You ever notice how much more engaged you are when you are helping a friend or doing service work? The same is true for your practice! On the days where it feels a bit too ‘auto-yogi,’ pay it forward! Dedicate your practice to someone you love. Send your energy toward something that needs it.
Make your yoga about more than you. With each asana, with each conscious breath, give your energy generously.
Remember, we do not diminish when we share our heart. So don't hesitate to breathe in, root down, and love it all out.