When you begin a yoga practice, an entirely new world opens up. For many, it feels as if you are rediscovering your body, mind and heart for the first time. These shifts occur at different times for each practitioner, depending on the consistency of practice, engagement and receptivity.
Yoga aims to shift our inner world through refinement of the physical, mental and emotional bodies, and create an inner brilliance (more peace, contentment and love!) which can't help but radiate outwards. The transformation through personal evolution is one of the most rewarding aspects of a consistent practice, however, this growth requires perseverance.
Here's how to deepen (or re-invigorate) your practice for personal growth:
1. Return to a Beginner’s Mind
Remember the first time you stepped on your mat and the experience you felt as you moved into your body with absolutely no expectations. For many students, the first few months (even years) of the practice are incredibly purifying and humbling. With so much 'crap' (stress, trauma, etc.) to move out of our bodies and minds, we are incredibly challenged in the asana to stay present with our breath.
It is always important to return to the foundations of our yoga practice, and even more so once we feel strong in the asana and calm with our pranayama, in order to refine the experience within. Like with anything we can easily become conditioned. It's not uncommon that most of us practice with incorrect alignment, flowing through poses without proper engagement or integration, etc.
Try a beginner’s yoga retreat or class to revisit the basics, and do your best to let go of any other knowledge you have acquired. Let yourself be fully present and open to receive new ways to be guided into your body, breath and mind.
2. Try a New Style of Yoga
Trying a new style is one of the most exciting ways to deepen your practice. Yoga is incredibly diverse with various class styles and teachings, yet they all encompass the same underlying philosophy. You will not be 'cheating' on your regular style/teacher/studio or forget what you’ve learned before by trying something new; on the contrary, it will benefit your practice as you will learn new ways to access the teachings.
Any long-term practitioner will tell you that they enjoy aspects from many styles, and with time, you will use your learnings to fuse together a personal practice that is unique to you.
3. Practice with Experienced Teachers
Teachers are vital for the depth of our practice. Our teachers share their knowledge with us, but most importantly, they share with us the accessible ways to absorb the knowledge. Yoga teachers should act as mentors (on and off the mat) and inspire us to practice with a sense of empowerment and accountability.
Everyone needs continual guidance throughout their yoga practice – and as your practice evolves, so should your teachers. It's natural to outgrow teachers and have the desire to dive into another aspect of the practice. A true teacher (one who has your best interest at heart) will understand this and never hold it against you. An experienced teacher will have years of consistent teaching and refined skills to guide students into the subtle depths of the energetic bodies through yoga philosophy, pranayama, meditation and contemplation.
Do your research and try different teachers until you find someone who can support your practice as it advances. If you don't feel the studios near you provide a teacher you feel aligned with, look for alternatives such as workshops with international and renowned teachers or a yoga festival. If this is not an option, look for online resources such as Gaiam TV or Yogaglo, which offer classes and guided meditations with some of the top teachers around the world at your fingertips!
4. Develop a Self-Practice
A home practice is one of the most beautiful aspects of yoga. The desire and ability to roll out your mat (anywhere, anytime!) and intuitively guide yourself through movement, breath and meditation is a priceless gift. A self-practice doesn't have to look a certain way (there is no fixed time/number of poses, etc.) and is not about 'completing it' rather than the consistency of coming to the mat, even if it's for 5 minutes some days. Your self-practice is your own and can be shape-shifted to align with your schedule and current physical/mental/emotional states. It gives you the ultimate freedom to create your own experience.
5. Go On a Yoga Retreat
Yoga Retreats are immersive yoga experiences. You will live yoga through nature, self-reflection, a like-minded community, consistent practice, high vibe foods and deep sleep – which are the recipe for transformation! Along with these aspects, any quality retreat will include a progressive program with the intention to evolve your practice.
A retreat is an intimate experience with ourselves, but also with our teachers who guide us for the extended period of time and get to know our practice to help us refine it. Retreats give us the necessary space to disconnect from our daily lives, in order to reconnect with what is truly important in life.
Want to deepen your practice with a yoga retreat? Go to BookYogaRetreats.com and search among thousands of yoga holidays and yoga teacher courses on the web!