When I first began practicing yoga, I was already an athletic person. In fact, I was lifting weights and practicing martial arts every day. So I figured yoga would be just like any other stretching and therefore, I thought I was prepared. I quickly learned that I wasn’t.
The big realization occurred when my wife and I went to San Francisco for a week. I had bought us a package of hot yoga classes at a local studio thinking it would be a fun date. But not long into the first class, they called for eagle arms and I promptly realized I wasn’t flexible at all. In fact, almost everyone but me could do it.
However, during that week I improved my flexibility quite a bit and I enjoyed doing it so I added yoga to my normal routine. Nowadays, I’m much better (but still a student). So with that in mind, I’ll give you some of my favorite tips for how to get better at yoga – whether at home or in a studio.
The Benefits Of Getting Better At Yoga (In Short)
When you get better at yoga, you’re ultimately improving both your mental and physical health. Yoga helps you calm your mind and strengthen your body by focusing on your breath and holding poses that challenge your muscles. This process of breathing through discomfort translates into a much more relaxed demeanor in stressful situations including those you might face at work.
Other benefits of yoga include feeling more comfortable with yourself, learning self-discipline, and connecting with your present time experiences.
How To Get Better At Yoga In The Comfort Of Your Home
First things first. When you’re advancing yourself in your yoga practice, don’t overdo the stretching. When you stretch too far/fast, your muscles tense up. This is because your body is sending a message that your muscles, tendons, etc. are in danger so the muscles need to tighten to prevent injury. When you start your practice, go just to the point of a gentle stretch and then hold it there until the muscles relax. This can take anywhere from 10-30 seconds or more. Once they relax, you can go a little deeper into the stretch and repeat the process.
It’s also important to note that you need to check that your frame and joints are properly aligned before going into the stretch. Yoga is a marathon and not a sprint so play the long game and be smart about how you do it.
Now, when you’re practicing yoga at home, the easiest way I’ve found is to memorize a series of movements. You can find some routines on YouTube and once you have those moves memorized, you can practice them each day/night while you’re watching T.V. or listening to some calming music.
But I have a caveat here. If you’ve never been to a class, you should go to a few. In a studio environment, your instructor will give you specific and immediate feedback which can help you prevent injuries. Once you feel comfortable, it’s a lot easier to improve your practice at home.
Tips For Getting Better At Yoga
Get Grounded Before Your Session
Yoga is all about focus, patience, and deliberate action. And it’s hard to do any of these if you’re running through your daily checklist. So before you run to your mat, take a moment to mentally give yourself permission for some “me” time.
It can help to spend a few minutes meditating or simply sit on your yoga mat and focus on your breathing. If you’re going to a yoga class, just arrive a few minutes early so you have time.
Notice Your Breath
Deliberate breathing helps center your mind and focus your energy. When you’re practicing your asanas, and even before, be intentional about the way that you’re breathing. You can do this by learning to take a diaphragmatic breath that fills your belly rather than raising your shoulders. As your mind wanders, bring it back to your breath. And with every exhale, deepen your pose just a little.
Here’s how to get better at breathing:
- Start by relaxing the muscles in your jaw, tongue, and face.
- Take a deep and steady breath in through your nose and intentionally fill your belly
- Pause for a moment at the top of the breath
- Exhale out through your mouth and pause before taking another breath
Steady Your Gaze
When you begin your sequence of poses try to maintain a steady, soft gaze on a certain point in the room (also called Drishti). Steadying your gaze helps you calm your mind and become present in the moment. It also helps you avoid distractions and focus on your asanas which helps you get more from every movement you perform.
We all know that we need water. But you may not have considered how it can help you get better at yoga. When you’re fully hydrated, your blood is thinner, your muscles are less likely to cramp, and your body is primed to perform.
This is especially true if you’re doing yoga in a class environment. When you’re new or even if you’ve been practicing for a while, it’s important to remember that you’re not competing with others. You’re aiming to be better than you were the day before.
Suspend the natural urge to compare your progress to people around you and just allow yourself to do your best with each pose. It’s also important to note that your body isn’t always as flexible as it was the day before. Today, you might find a pose is harder than it was yesterday. Just go with it and do your best. You’ll also feel more relaxed if you’re not stressing yourself out during practice.
How To Improve At Yoga FAQ’s
How long does it take to get really good at yoga?
The amount of time it takes to get really good at yoga depends on your physical body and the number of hours you’re putting into your practice. You’ll notice improvements in flexibility in as little as a few days to a week. But if your goal is the mermaid pose or one-handed tree pose, this can take years of dedicated practice.
This sounds cliche but remember that it is a practice and the goal of yoga is not to get to a specific destination.
How often should you do yoga for the best results?
I recommend you do yoga at least three times a week for a full 60-90 minute session. However, if you’re busy and don’t have that kind of time, do it for 15-20 minutes every day first thing in the morning or before bed each night.
Doing the shorter daily sessions may not result in the same gains as the extended yoga sessions but you will definitely make noticeable improvements.
How can I motivate myself to do yoga?
I find that the best way to motivate yourself to do yoga is by starting with shorter, daily sessions and building yoga into your routine. You’ll start to notice big improvements in your stress level, flexibility, and general wellness. Once that happens, you don’t need motivation anymore. You’ll notice that you don’t feel as good when you’re not doing yoga and it becomes a need rather than something you have to force yourself to do.
Why am I not getting better at yoga?
This is a common question and generally, the reason is that you’re simply not practicing enough. But it’s also possible that you are practicing often and still not making the gains you want. This can be due to several reasons.
First, you may be distracted during class and therefore not going as deep into the stretch as you should be. Next time you’re in session, pay attention to this, and see if that’s the case. If it is, spend a few minutes getting grounded before class and make it a point to focus while you’re in session.
It’s also possible that you’re doing yoga and then remaining relatively sedentary at all other times. For example, if you do yoga three times a week for 90 minutes, but then sit at a desk for 60 hours a week, you’re probably going to make slower gains. If this is you, take 2 minutes to stretch every hour or so. Do a forward fold, downward dog, and child’s pose to keep your hamstrings loose and your posterior chain in line.
When you’re starting out it’s common to wonder how to get better at yoga. And following the tips above goes a long way toward improving the results you’re getting from your practice. That being said, it’s not a race so take your time to establish a routine, learn proper form, and connect with your breath.