So this is my one thing, and I reckon there’s a good chance it could be your one thing too, but we’re all different, so maybe it will be one of a number of things you can do to deepen your practice.
Breathe first -- the obvious answer, but a little too obvious to be the "one thing." Focus on your breathing, move with it or be stilled by it. Always be aware of it, without stressing yourself to stay in touch with each breath -- soften into your breathing.
Soften -- the one thing you can do to deepen and change your practice, especially if you’ve come from a fitness approach to exercise that’s all about pushing and striving.
Soften not just in Yin yoga, which is all about allowing and surrendering. Soften your whole practice and make it a metaphor for your life.
A Strong Warrior, Not a Fierce Fighter
Can you be softer, less fierce in a Warrior posture and find your true strength? Does that make sense?
You can sink more, go deeper into the hip of your lunged leg -- this is not a pushing forward, but a grounding down. Literally softening into the support that gravity gives you to hold yourself strong, rather than risk flying forward and falling flat. Allow the back hip to melt forward and down to feel stable and centered.
You can soften your shoulders back and down -- this gives you the poise to hold your arms like a bow and arrow. Steady, still.
Can you soften your focus over your front middle finger -- the tip of the arrow, so to speak? This will help you to maintain perspective -- imagining that your target for the future is moving (because everything is always changing). If you are too fixed and rigid you will miss your mark.
A Dancer's Pose That Lifts, More Than Kicks
It is easy to focus on the kicking part of getting your foot higher in Dancer’s Pose. Teachers (me included) will often motivate with cues to kick harder, kick more, kick back, just keep kicking! But that doesn’t sound very graceful or poised (come to think about it, it sounds like a struggle).
What if you softened your focus to be less about the kick and more about a lift? Yes, the initial kick up is important to establish the momentum of the backbend, but from there try to feel deeply into the lift out of the hip to take your leg higher, rather than focusing on the pressure of the foot into the hand.
Lift the raised arm up higher, not simply by the pressure of the kick into the hand, but through the slow opening of the stretch from the shoulder.
Keep the gaze soft over the extended hand, feeling it as a graceful lengthening rather than a forceful reaching.
Balance is always fluid, never rigid. It is found in the soft stillness within movement rather than by locking out rigidly, gripping, or forcing.
Soften Into Any Posture
The strongest, most yang postures can be softened with some yin, particularly the yin attitude of allowing rather than pushing. Allow the breath, allow the opening, find the fluidity. Whether in a flowing practice or in static postures.
Soften a little, and see if you don’t feel stronger than ever before.
Do you have any other ways that help you strengthen your yoga practice? Share them with the community in the comments below!