11 Steps to Becoming an Expert Yogi This Summer

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Do you dream of someday being able to bring your feet over your head? Or even just to touch your toes? It’ll take time before you become a yogi master, but here are 11 ways to move in the right direction.

1. Do Your Research

You can improve your yoga practice even when you’re not in class. Go online and watch demonstration videos, learn about the yogic philosophy, and become more knowledgeable about how postures affect your body and mind.

2. Be Aware of Your Breath

While your primary motivation for going to yoga might be to get a good workout, you’re not fully committing to your practice if you’re not watching your breathing. Try to be conscious of your inhales and exhales throughout the day, and employ mindful breathing in moments of stress, like during rush hour traffic or a long checkout line.

3. Set a Schedule

To get better at anything, you need to keep at it. If being motivated to exercise after work is a struggle, set a goal number of classes for the week instead of specific nights that you’ll go. That gives you some flexibility to take a night off without any guilt (just be sure to make up for it later in the week!).

4. Experiment

Don’t settle when picking a yoga class. Try different types of yoga and different yoga studios to learn what practice is best for you. Hot yoga may be all the rage, but if your body can’t handle it, then there’s no point torturing yourself. You’ll have a more rewarding experience in a class that fits your needs.

5. Talk to Your teacher

In big classes, it’s hard for teachers to give every student individual attention. So if there’s a pose that you have questions about or that doesn’t feel right, ask about it before or after class. Your instructor will gladly help set you straight, and your practice will benefit in turn.

6. Know Your Limits

“No pain no gain” does not apply to yoga. While you want to find your edge, you’ll do more harm than good if you push your body too far. Self care is part of yogic philosophy, and knowing when to back off is just another way to show yourself some respect.

7. Close Your Eyes

It can be scary, but what’s the worst that can happen? You might wobble, your alignment might be a little off, but blocking out extra stimuli will help you become more in touch with how your body is moving through space. Not to mention, you’ll be better able to check in with your breath (keep breathing!).

8. Don’t Judge

It’s hard at first, but learn to be non-judgmental of the people around you—and of yourself. You gain nothing from determining that someone’s yoga pants are too bright and shiny, and the more time you spend focusing on other people, the less time you spend on yourself. And extend this courtesy to your own body and practice; stop worrying about your appearance, just close your eyes and move through your flow.

9. Prepare Your Mind Before Class

Instead of texting or emailing right up until class starts, leave your phone at the door (or in the car) and enter the studio technology-free. Use the time before class to begin your meditation and to quiet your thoughts. If you do bring your phone to your mat, turn it off when class starts.

10. Build a Community

Having friends you see only at class can be another source of motivation for getting to yoga. Plus, certain poses, like hip and heart openers, can bring up lots of emotions, so it helps to know you’re surrounded by people you trust.

11. Plan Your Diet Accordingly

Adding another activity into your day means that you might need to change your meal plan to accommodate your schedule. If you’re going straight from work, eat something with complex carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fat one to two hours before class. Some yoga teachers recommend the easily packable snack of oats, Greek yogurt, and walnuts. If you have to eat right before class, pick something with easily digestible natural sugars and just a little healthy fat and protein. Keep it light so you’re not doing inversions on a full stomach.