For various reasons, I like to practice my yoga at home. While this gives me a lot of freedom to practice it the way I want to, it also means that I have to be my own teacher. This in turn means that the little corrections, the tiny push which teachers provide are things I need to do on my own.
While it's possible to do this (I take videos of my sessions), you sometimes never know if you're still making mistakes. Even if you go to a yoga class, you may not be getting enough individual attention to rectify the small missteps — both physical and mental — that may hold you back from developing your practice.
Below, I have listed some common yoga mistakes which you may not realize you're making:
1. Not being self-aware.
One of the spiritual benefits of yoga is learning to immerse yourself in the present moment. So when you're doing the poses, it's important to be self-aware and focus on your body.
That means being aware of how you're breathing, of whether your back leg is stretched properly, etc. Doing poses on autopilot, thinking about the movie you just saw, isn't conducive to a strong practice. If a pose is too easy for you, maybe it’s time to move on to one with a higher difficulty.
2. Letting your ego get in the way.
We've all been in this situation. You've been practicing a pose for a long time but are yet to master it. It's easy to get frustrated in such a situation and force your body into a pose.
By forcing your body this way, you risk injury. But it's also important to push yourself beyond mild discomfort. So how do you know the difference? By being self-aware. By being self-aware, you understand your body enough to know when to push yourself, and when not to.
3. Practicing inconsistently.
Are you a weekend yogi? A lot of people fail to realize that success with any practice, not just yoga, is consistency. It's also important to realize that each yoga session builds on your previous session.
By practicing yoga inconsistently, you can shock your body even if you accomplished a pose just a week back. Make a decision either to practice consistently, or just not practice at all.
4. Breathing improperly.
The importance of proper breathing in yoga cannot be emphasized enough. Holding your breath may be OK in weightlifting, but not in yoga.
Some poses require deep breathing whereas some require normal breathing. At some point in a pose, you need to inhale whereas at other times, you need to exhale. Find out how you need to be breathing.
5. Not being genuinely grateful.
To get the full emotional and psychological benefits of yoga, it's important to practice it from a good place in your heart. It doesn’t mean forcing yourself to be happy even if you're feeling down. It just means accepting the present moment for what it is, and accepting yourself for who you are and how you're feeling right now. Regardless of whether you feel good or bad, it's possible and is important to feel grateful during your yoga practice.
6. Not properly warming up and cooling down.
Like with any other exercise it's important to warm up and cool down properly. Yoga, thankfully, provides the perfect cool down in the form of savasana.
But for warming up, I like to do a couple of rounds of sun salutation and a few other stretches, depending on whether I’m feeling stiff in a certain area. So figure out a good warmup routine that works for your body.
7. Thinking of yoga as just a workout.
Although yoga is a great workout and has incredible physical benefits, it also has emotional and psychological benefits. If you intensify your yoga or focus purely on numbers, you treat it as a workout or a stretch and lose the other benefits that it provides.
So treat it as a relaxing, meditative practice, and preferably listen to relaxing music while you do it.
8. Not using props, etc. to modify pose.
None of us start yoga doing all the poses perfectly. Some of us start off in worse shape than others, so it's important to modify a pose to fit your requirements. Find out if you can use props or modify the pose in some way to fit your needs while still using proper technique.
What are you waiting for? Figure out what mistakes you are making and make your yoga practice more efficient.