When it comes to the practice of yoga, we’ve all got our preferences. While some enjoy a certain style or room temperature, others favor a specific teacher or location. However, regardless of your leanings, the growing presence of yoga is undeniable.
According to the Yoga in America Study Conducted by Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance, roughly 36.7 million United States residents practiced yoga in 2016. This is a significant increase from the 20.4 million reported in 2012. Interestingly, however, not everyone is heading out to classes to get their regular fix. In fact, in 2016, one in three Americans reported testing out a solo practice (either regularly or on occasion.)
Sound familiar? Well, you’re certainly not alone.
Enjoying a personal practice in your living room or yard can be a great and accessible way to bring added balance into your daily routine. From mental and emotional wellbeing to injury prevention, the benefits are abundant. However, the mindful guidance and hands-on instruction of a trained yoga teacher can often be missed in these circumstances. So, before you roll out your mat for your next yoga flow, here are six mistakes to avoid making, straight from a yoga teacher.
1. Losing form to look over at a screen.
In the practice of yoga, alignment is everything. Be sure that if you are setting yourself up with a guided class on your iPad or smartphone you take into account your ability to easily see the teacher. If you are constantly turning to watch for the next pose, you will not only compromise your alignment, but also risk injuring your body, and no one wants that!
2. Avoiding poses you dislike.
When you’re participating in a solo practice, it is easy to shy away from postures that push you into a place of discomfort. Whether it’s a deep hip opener like lizard or an arm balance like crow, we all have poses we’d rather avoid. (Teachers included!) However, if you can move through the posture safely, then be sure to throw it into the mix at least once in awhile. Why? Because practice breeds progress, which is ultimately what yoga is all about: progress, rather than perfection.
3. Forgetting about your breath.
One of the beautiful things about taking a guided yoga class is that instruction is associated directly with the breath. For example, we inhale to lengthen then exhale to fold. Unfortunately, when moving through a flow on our own, it can be easy to forget the immense role breath plays in your practice. In yogic tradition, we believe that prana or life force enters and exits our body through the breath. Keeping this in mind will help you to consistently utilize and/or come back to it as you move through your physical practice.
4. Jumping too quickly into peak poses.
Just as much as we try to avoid postures we struggle with, there is nothing like gearing up for the poses we love. Regardless of whether it’s an impressive inversion or a deep heart-opener, move with caution. Teachers design classes to warm up the body for the peak positions you encounter later in the class, so don’t rush! Give yourself time to move into the pose with proper preparation. This will not only prevent injury but ultimately help you to hone in on the technique needed to perform poses the right way.
5. Giving into distraction.
The phone rings, your favorite TV show comes on, and before you know it that down dog looks a lot like you on the floor watching a rerun of Hoarders. I get it, but if you are serious about squeezing in that at home practice, try setting yourself up for success. How do you do this? By minimizing distractions as much as possible. Of course, certain things like our children and pets are non-negotiables. However, small steps like turning off the sound on your phone can make a huge difference in helping you to tap in.
6. Having an all or nothing attitude.
The best thing about doing yoga at home is that the practice can be tailored to YOU. So, don’t get down if you can’t dedicate a full 90 minutes to your mat each day. After all, 15 minutes of yoga is better than none, right?