There just may be some behaviors—some habits—that you have habituated into your yoga practice and, well, my friend, it may be time to take a serious look at them. September is Yoga Month, so it's a perfect opportunity to see if you are guilty of any of these yoga no-nos.
1. Freestyling in a non-freestyle class. Freestyling has its place, like on a dance floor in the club. But doing your own thing in the 6pm flow class can be a bit obnoxious. On the real, showing up to a class requires a bit of surrender—to the process and to the expertise of the instructor. One of the beauties of a led class is the group momentum. That sweet synergy has the potential to create a dynamic shared experience for everyone in the room. Every good yoga instructor is taking you on a journey. Perhaps she's guiding you to observe something differently, encouraging you to refine your approach to the mundane, maybe simply helping you to grow. Often in a led class there are opportunities for variations along the way. But know the difference. Also, many teachers expertly develop sequences and read the room to ready your body for what's to come. If the teacher is instructing Warrior 2, it's probably not the best time to work on your deep back bends. Dive into group class opportunities with an inquiring mind. Trust the process. Just let it flow.
2. Sacrificing your breath. After practicing yoga for just a short time you quickly learn the poses have a life of their own. Breathing into these shapes and exploring the sensations of those experiences can be humbling. To move further and deeper in the practice—to a place of exploration—embodiment of the breath is essential. Typically, nothing else in our lives requires us to bring the breadth of the breath front and center like a yoga practice. When you breathe consciously in the yoga postures you give them dimension beyond form and structure and awaken your being beyond the physical body. Give the breath opportunity to shine.
3. Not bringing a towel. You know those vinyasa classes can be a hot sweaty mess. Bring a fresh towel and sop up the drench, why dontcha? If you're dripping sweat onto your neighbor's mat in Warrior 3, something's got to change. Personal space can be tight. Do your part to keep things within reasonable boundaries.
4. Wearing fragrance. Thinking that the fragrance oil you dabbed on right before class will only be noticed by you, or that it has some healing benefits to all who get a whiff, isn’t cute. Mix that fragrance oil with a little body odor and you get pure unadulterated eau de funk. Sweating, body odor, and detoxing happen in a yoga class. Those processes have a smell that isn't always the most pleasant. It’s yoga, so of course folks expect a bit of that—within reason. Be careful not to turn up the volume on odor by adding extra fragrances that do more to spoil the experience than enhance it.
5. Not respecting your body. This is huge and comes in many forms. Jumping up to a handstand, for example, when your shoulders are rehabbing just isn't smart practice. Before you step into your practice, check your ego at the door. Ego is illusion anyway, and will only trip you up. Make your practice relevant by loving your beautiful self enough to be present in your body, moving mindfully with curiosity, joy, and even humor. When you work within the limitations of your body you actually free yourself to explore the practice at a depth that overshadows a fancy pose.
6. Comparing yourself to the dude or dudette across the room. Ok, all together now: "Yoga is not a competition." Yes, we've all heard this… But isn't it easy to slide into the distraction of comparison, self-doubt, and competition? At the end of the day, however, the practice of yoga postures can be a potent healing practice. Your yoga mat can be your magic carpet to worlds near and far, a prayer rug to connect you to a deeper spiritual experience, a confidante holding a ready space to help you work your stuff out, a safe place of refuge for a restless soul. Substitute the tendency to compete with an appetite to soften your gaze from the external world and expand your attention towards an inner horizon of awareness.
7. Clinging to the “It’s mine, mine, mine!” attitude. We see you over there hoarding space and props. It’s not cool... Ever. People may be late. It happens, but stop it with the bad vibes towards folks. That energetic or verbal scolding just makes you look like the entitled enlightened mean girl/guy. As folks trickle into class, slide your mat over if need be. Got an extra block for the person next to you? Offer it up. Hear footsteps at the back of the room as you’re settling into a juicy passive heart opener before class begins? Welcome folks in with a welcoming heart or a friendly a gaze. Just a mental shift makes a world of difference. Bow down to the community of the tribe and let a fellow yogi have some space. Always remember: Sharing is caring.
8. Skipping the happy ending. Every yoga practice deserves a sweet and happy savasna ending. But isn't savasana sometimes the hardest part of the practice? There's nothing actively physical to do. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika informs us that savasana, "removes fatigue caused by the other asanas and induces calmness." It's the sweet spot in the asana practice where the physical effort you put forth integrates into the vital layers of your being. It's the true happy ending. Make your savasana something to look forward to and consider practicing letting go by giving yourself mental cues to unravel and surrender. Besides, sliding out of class during savasana can be downright rude and disruptive to the other folks in the room. Drink up your savasana reward and hang around for a few. Get grounded in your body and mind after the incredible work you've dedicated to your yoga practice. Keep calm and savasana on.
Now hit the mat and keep on shining!
Photo: Megan Kathleen