Six Ways to Take Your Yoga Practice to the Next Level

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.

take-your-yoga-to-the-next-level2Lead 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.

take-your-yoga-to-the-next-levelGo 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.