It’s amazing how many people practice yoga these days. I had a student tell me yesterday he joined Instagram to follow his kids and make sure they were being safe in our social media world. And once he was on there he thought he should see if there was anyone posting yoga or pilates tips. He was shocked at the number of people posting on these topics. And I had to laugh when he exclaimed, “I even found you!”
That being said, and having been at this for quite some time at this point, I do see some common mistakes that yoga practitioners make - on social media, yes, but also in the classes I teach or take. And I am by no way above it all, as I know I have made a few of these mistakes over the years as I rack up more and more time on my mat. Take a look, as these are the mistakes I believe seem to get in the way of actually enjoying your practice:
- Knowing everything or considering yourself a “Master.” You will never know it all. That’s the beauty of discovering yoga. The more knowledge I have gained through the years only led me through doors that had me seeking out the teachers that still knew more than me. It’s an endless search for answers, not only concerning the body or the physical, but the mental and spiritual aspects that comprise a fully embodied practice. Even if you call a teacher a “Master Teacher” know that they have teachers, too - that they are still seeking and working to realize their best self through their yogic experience.
- Pushing through pain. You should not walk out of class in more pain than when you started. Yes, to discomfort. Yes, to going all in and doing your best. No, to pain. A yoga practice has the ability to heal up certain parts of the body, but if you are constantly tuning out the biofeedback the body is giving you by pushing past or thinking you need to push through, you’ve got it all wrong. You will not heal if you are constantly irritating the body by forcing it to do something it might not be ready for or the classic, “But I could do it before and I want to do it again NOW,” mentality. Assess why you feel this way. Talk to your instructors. Find out if you are moving the right way or if there is a better way for you to engage in the posture.
- Thinking that if you accomplish one posture to its fullest extent that you will have somehow “made it.”I have chased postures for years. And what I have learned over time was that it was never about the posture at all, but what I learned along the way. Yes, there is a great feeling of accomplishment when you are able to suddenly pop into a headstand when that was simply not your reality just a few short weeks beforehand or when go back and actually see your feet in a back bend, such as, Full Camel, Full Cobra, or King Pigeon. It’s actually one of the best feelings in the world. But what I always find on the other end of these accomplishments is that there is more to learn about the posture or there is a posture that takes the thought of that one even deeper. It doesn’t end, the learning, so you can never really “make it,” to some finish line or pillar you’ve created in your mind. Be okay with maybe never arriving at it, but work for your goals anyway. Why? Because there is an element of fun to the practice. Haven’t found the fun yet? Find a space where that might be possible.
- Comparing your practice to others.This is death to your yoga practice. It doesn’t matter if your practice ever looks like the guy with his feet touching the top of his head or the girl that glides into the splits without a warm-up. What matters is you show up for you- period. That’s it. Your practice is for YOU and no one else. Relish in having something like that. Most people never will.
- Doing so much yoga you forget about living. I do a ton of yoga each day. BUT, there are days where I barely do any yoga. A yoga practice can bring so much to your life, but not every single day has to be about stepping on your mat. You should not feel bad if you miss a day of practice or if your body needs a break. Let your practice be something that brings you joy and connection, not guilt or stress. I always have a deal with myself. If I have so much to do that getting to the studio is going to complicate the day in a way that will make it unpleasant, I don’t go. I do try and find another time to get to the studio during the week and I will still do a light practice at home, but yoga has taught me balance, and I am grateful for that lesson.
A yoga practice is a wonderful thing to have brought into your life. Try not to fall into these traps and if you do, know that you can fix it – you can make other choices, or start over again and again. Because when you have a yoga practice, you have the opportunity to become the strongest version of you possible. Onward yogis – and keep up the good work!
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