How To Get Better At Yoga
Yoga is an ancient practice that dates back to over 5,000 years ago, but it didn’t become that well-known to the west until the 1980s. Since then it has grown in popularity so much that no matter where you go, you will be sure to find somewhere to practice. In fact, it has become so popular that the number of people doing yoga around the globe has grown by nearly double over the past 5 years.
A 2016 study done by the Yoga Alliance in the US found that over 36 million Americans are doing yoga. Most of these people started yoga to improve flexibility, relieve stress, improve their health or their general fitness. Generally, the focus is to improve your life by doing the poses correctly and maximizing the benefits of the practice. There are many ways of improving your yoga training. A regular practice being the primary way. But there are also other ways to get better at yoga.
As the famous yogi K. Pattabhi Jois used to say ‘Practice, and all is coming’. The man, who made Ashtanga yoga popular around the world, took this quote from the Bhagavad Gita. They are the only words that you need to be inspired to practice and surrender yourself to yoga. Practice makes perfect, and this common cliché isn’t any different when it comes to yoga. But a common question that many ask is how often one should practice. This depends on each person as an individual. That being said, if you want to be a serious yogi it is recommended to practice daily.
How Often Should I Practice?
Practicing yoga daily isn’t always easy to in this day and age, but you should try to do yoga as much as you possibly can to really improve your yoga practice. Still, this also depends on what your goals are. If you are doing yoga for your mental health, like for depression as an example, then practicing every day is ideal. This does not necessarily mean that you are doing the physical aspect of yoga. Even daily pranayama (breathing exercises) will help you to relax, de-stress and clear your mind. This will improve symptoms of depression and anxiety.
If you are practicing yoga to increase suppleness, your health, and general fitness, try the physical side of yoga three times per week. Keepin in mind, the more you do the faster you will see and feel results. This will also depend on the style of yoga you are practicing. Ashtangis often practice every single day, except for on moon days, as this is what is recommended for this particular practice. Those that do slower paced yoga classes, like yin and restorative do yoga less often as their goals are different. If you are doing yoga for an injury, you may start with doing yoga just once a week. You can increase the number of days depending on your progression and movement capabilities.
There is no right or wrong answer to how often you should practice. It basically comes down to you; your goals, your time and the style that you enjoy the most. It’s also about your reasons for practicing yoga.
Yoga Teacher Training
Doing a yoga teacher training course (YTTC) is a fantastic way to get better at yoga. You will learn more about the practice and the mechanisms of each asana (pose). At the same time you’ll deepen your practice. Completing a YTTC doesn’t mean you have to be a yoga teacher. Many people take the course just to learn more about the practice so that they themselves can improve their skills and bring yoga into their home.
Many studios have large classes, so teachers don’t have the time to explain each pose, or how to properly avoid injuries. You also won’t get all the verbiage on what the benefits are. By taking a yoga teacher training course, you will learn these things, which will result in an improvement of your yoga practice. Plus, you can then do yoga in your home, which offers more convenience and the likelihood that you’ll practice more often. You will also learn more about the mental aspects of yoga, and the connection of your body and your mind. This will then allow you to deepen your practice, so you will get better at yoga.
Choosing the right YTTC can be a challenge, and there are so many courses to take all over the world. Nowadays almost every yoga studio offers the course and it has become a huge business. Here are a few tips to help you decide what course to take.
- The Teacher (s) – Choose a teacher that you connect with. This could be one at the studio where you take classes or a well-known teacher that you know through social media, word of mouth or through a recommendation. Remember that they will be teaching you in their own personal style, so this is an important part in the selection of a YTTC.
- The Time – You want to make sure that you take the course when you have the time to invest in one. This could mean doing a retreat course somewhere exotic or tropical, or signing up for a course in your hometown that runs on evenings or weekends.
- The Place – Make sure you are doing your teacher training course in a place that you are comfortable in. Again, this could be your regular studio or at a retreat. If you decide to go on a YTTC retreat, it’s highly recommend to do it in India. India is the birthplace of yoga and is the best place to really surround yourself in all things yoga. Going to the source of where something was born means you have unfiltered information and the philosophy given to you in the purest form.
- The Style – You want to be sure to learn a yoga style that you like and want to progress in. Some YTTC are a specific style, like Vinyasa, Hatha or Yin, while others are a mixture of a few types of yoga so that you can learn about a few styles.
- The Course – Make sure that things like anatomy, philosophy and physiology are included in the YTTC. These are the key aspects in really immersing yourself in yoga and furthering your knowledge, along with your yoga skills. It’s also recommended to do a little research on each establishment and the course they offer. This could entail reading reviews and looking at the course curriculum.
Mindfulness is the art of bringing your attention to the present moment; knowing what you are experiencing at any given moment. This goes beyond the mat and into your daily life. It is a way to:
- Reduce stress
- Be more aware of yourself and your surroundings,
- Boost your memory and focus
- Regulat your emotions.
- Improves your psychological health.
Yoga teaches mindfulness. It’s not a direct effect, but indirectly, as you learn to focus on what you are doing while you are doing it. You will also learn how to be more aware of your body and how it works, which will make you more mindful off of the mat. You’ll start to feel better about yourself, both inside and out, and will be more aware of things that you do and eat on a daily basis. Doing just 20 minutes of yoga a day will enhance your self-awareness, calm your mind and help you focus better.
There are numerous ways to get better at yoga, which will then make you feel better about yourself. The more you improve, the more your life will change for the better, both on and off of the mat. This is the true meaning of yoga and what it is all about; improving your life.
In addition to practicing at a studio, taking a yoga teacher training course and being mindful, you can also improve your practice by doing yoga at home. For some great tips, have a look at articles for doing yoga at home like this Yoga Stretches article. You can also learn more about yoga by signing up for our newsletter.
Meera Watts is a yoga teacher, entrepreneur and mom. Her writing on yoga and holistic health has appeared in Elephant Journal, Yoganonymous, OMtimes and others. She’s also the founder and owner of Siddhi Yoga International, a yoga teacher training school based in Singapore. Siddhi Yoga runs intensive, residential trainings in India (Rishikesh, Goa and Dharamshala), Indonesia (Bali) and Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur).