3 Ways to Tweak Your Yoga Asana Practice to Find More Strength

JJ Muenz
3 Ways to Tweak Your Yoga Asana Practice to Find More Strength

“I know I’m not supposed to think in yoga, but…”

I LOVED when a student/friend/yogi sister said this after taking my class. How hilarious is it to think that you are free of thoughts when you enter a yoga class? I wanted to wrap her in my arms and hold her close to my heart because of her sweet naivete.

Looking back over the last six or so years from when I started practicing asana on a mat, I had some of my most profound thoughts and feelings during yoga class. The moments when the teacher would tell us to focus on our breath, and I would realize 10 breaths in that I forgot to breathe.

There was this one time (at band camp) during Savasana, where tears ran down my face. I couldn’t take being strong anymore. I needed to let out that emotion, and finally, in a place where I felt comforted by the energy in the room, I let those tears stream down my cheeks at lightning speed, not holding back one drop of liquid.

It was a yoga “aha” moment, where I caught myself smiling as I pranced out of the room. Next time you roll out your mat, try these 3 instructions for a stronger practice, and see how you feel.

1. When the teacher offers modifications, take them.

Your teacher is giving you a disguised gift for proper alignment. Push the ego aside and give blocks, straps, and knees down in certain poses a try, and your body will thank you! Alignment over advanced power poses beats an injury, any day.

2. Rest when needed.

You are competing against yourself. No one has any idea what you have been through all day but you. Do not overdo or overcompensate because of the person next to you. Take a Child’s Pose, rest in Savasana, and when you’re ready to return, go for it.

When you don’t listen to what your body needs, your body will be stiff and sore for longer than needed. Give your body and mind exactly what it needs, and you will leave class feeling better than when you walked through the door.

3. Relax your face.

There is no funnier feeling than looking around the yoga room at all the serious faces. I understand the feeling of Warrior II when you are locked into the moment and your legs are rooted into the ground…but keep the face soft.

The last thing you want to do is stress yourself out when you’re practicing yoga. So what if you don’t get that arm balance down, or touch your toes in a Forward Fold? You’ve got time. Find the patience to dominate a pose and enjoy the road, rather than leaping for the destination.

Going hard and being tough is fun—until you get injured and frustrated. Take some time for your body to ease into your asana practice. Take a walk down memory lane in the basics course and you’ll learn things you never knew. And if all else fails, just remember this: "baby steps."