So you’ve done it: you’re an intermediate yogi, relatively confident and comfortable in class while still feeling challenged. It’s time to take it to the next level—but how to get it is not always straightforward. Here are a few steps you can take to intensify your yoga experience.
Lead With Your Body and Breath, Not Your Mind
By now, your body has developed a fair bit of strength, stamina, and flexibility. When a teacher offers another variation, or an option like closing your eyes while in a pose, don’t let your mind hold you back. Your body will let you know if you’re not ready, but it won’t be able to tell you if you don’t give it a chance. So turn off your mind, follow the cues, and let yourself fall out of the pose if you need to. Just remember to listen to your body over your mind.
Try Something New
You’ve probably developed a favorite class or teacher—now it’s time to branch out. For instance, if you’re into intense power classes, slow it down and try a yin class to balance out your practice. Each teacher offers their own style, even in classes where the sequence of poses stays the same. Mix it up and take a lesson with a new teacher—you might be surprised at the new perspective that is offered. If you like to tuck yourself away in a corner, station your mat front row and center. If you only attend evening classes, get up early and hit the first class of the day. Switch it up to keep your practice fresh.
Refine Your Posture
Striving for the optimal posture in your poses is an ongoing goal that you’ll always be working towards. Now is the time to bring it to the forefront of your practice. Maybe going to yoga is part of your regular routine, but don’t let your poses become routine! Try going to a class and pretending that it’s your very first time doing every pose. Listen closely to the cues, and don’t let yourself settle into them the way you usually do—take the time to make sure that your body responds to the words being said. Focus on proper alignment, not depth.
Go on a Retreat
Whether you’re looking for a two-week affair in a tropical country or a weekend in a local venue, a yoga retreat is a great way to immerse yourself in the practice. Contrary to what you might think, retreats aren’t only for super-advanced yogis who plan to become teachers– there are options available for students at all levels. A yoga retreat will shake up the routine and will introduce you to elements beyond the physical practice—think nutrition, philosophy, anatomy, and even self-discovery. Go into the experience with an open mind and you’ll return with a new perspective.
Take the Challenge
Whether or not your studio offers an official 30-day challenge (or some other iteration), embark on your own challenge. Commit to practicing every day for a predetermined period of time, and find a buddy who is willing to do the same for some extra accountability. Committing to a challenge like this will mean setting small goals throughout. By the end of the 30 days, you’ll notice changes across the board—body, spirit, and mind.
Hit the Books
The history and philosophy behind yoga is complex and fascinating. Maybe your teachers have piqued your interest with snippets they have learned in their training. Now it’s time to do some of your own discovering. Peruse your local library or ask your favorite teacher for some recommendations. Your newfound knowledge will provide you with a new insight into your practice.
The beauty of yoga is that it can never be truly mastered—there is always room for improvement and growth. When you embrace this aspect of yoga, you’ll find that you can continually reinvent your practice, making it a true lifelong experience.