One can't emphasize the benefits of yoga enough. This ancient practice has earned worldwide popularity, and for good reason. The American Osteopathic Association confirms yoga’s role in improving muscle strength and tone, flexibility, circulatory health, respiration and overall fitness. It’s a gift to your mind too: yoga has been found to have a positive impact on mental health (a lot of which can manifest itself in physical aches and pains as well). It also increases mental acuity – something we could all use in a world full of distractions! But is there a way you can enhance your yoga experience? Whether you’re just starting out or a practicing yogi, you could always use some tips on how to make each yoga session the best it can be, and that’s where we come in. From personal practices to products, here are some suggestions that make sure you maximize your yoga gains.
How to Enhance Your Yoga Experience
Stretch, stretch, stretch!
This may seem counterintuitive - “Isn’t yoga all about stretching anyway?”, you might ask. But unless you’re a pro, don’t underestimate the power of a good stretch before you begin your asanas. The better your warm-up stretch, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to meet those flexibility goals. Moreover, stretching protects against possible injury. It’ll also allow you to identify problem areas with respect to flexibility, which is something to keep in mind so you go slow on those parts. In the long term, this will really enhance your yoga abilities. Good moves to start with are pelvic lifts, leg raises, neck rolls and torso twists.
Focus on form, not flexibility.
Everyone’s body is different, and flexibility is often a non-linear process. You might find that you’ve made huge strides in flexibility in a week, and then no progress for a month after. If you’re part of a beginner’s class, it’s also important not to compare your progress to others’. What’s more important is that you maintain proper form while performing your asanas. In an effort to bend more, you could end up bending wrong. It takes time for your body to recognize the difference between a muscle naturally extending and pain from overextension – it’s best to be safe and go gentle. A good measure for figuring out what your limit is, is to focus on your breathing. If your breathing starts to get shaky, that’s a good sign you’re probably pushing too hard.
Try some CBD for concentration.
A common obstacle for beginners when trying out yoga is the inability to concentrate. You might hear ‘I’m not patient enough for yoga/meditation’ very often from people who experimented with yoga and abandoned it. This is not surprising – there are just far too many distractions to keep up with. For chronic worriers, quieting intrusive thoughts might not just be difficult, but impossible altogether. Something that’s coming to the fore as potential relief for the above is CBD or cannabidiol. How does CBD achieve this? By bringing balance to one of the bodies lesser-known organ systems called the endocannabinoid system or ECS. The ECS is being researched for its role in pain, nausea, anxiety, and inflammation. It is theorized that taking CBD can provide relief in these cases, and anecdotal evidence seems to support this.
If you’ve ever attempted to meditate and found that you’re distracted, and then got stressed about the fact that you’re distracted, creating a cycle of worrying – CBD might be what you’re looking for to enhance your yoga process. It can be taken in numerous ways – you can take cbd drops, vape it, or take capsules. Also important: finding the right strength of CBD.
If you’re practicing yoga solo, this one is especially important – disconnect from outside stimuli, especially tech. Put your phone on silent, turn off podcasts and TV shows. If you’re the kind of person who enjoys a little background sound, choose ambient music that won’t have a beat that your body may be tempted to ‘move’ to. Alternatively, practice yoga in a secluded spot at your local park or by the beach for the sounds of nature! As far as possible, practice yoga in silence or natural surroundings: it allows you to hear your breathing and really connect with the rhythm of your body. In fact, the word yoga originates from the Sanskrit term for ‘unite’: and how better to achieve unity of the mind, heart, and body than with no interruptions?
Invest in accessories.
While it’s true that yoga has been practiced for centuries with no equipment besides the body and mind, quality yoga accessories aren’t a marketing gimmick: they can actually aid progress and prevent injury. For beginners, the only thing you’ll probably need is a good mat that won’t slip and has a decent thickness (about a quarter inch should be fine), but is also firm. Squishy mats can hinder your balance. Once you progress in your practice, it might be a good idea to invest in belts, cushions, and blocks to enhance your yoga capabilities.
It’s important not to get off the mat and rush right back into the bustle of your day, but to take some time to lie down and relax, and maybe give yourself a good massage to keep your blood circulation growing and speed up muscle recovery. Other ways to keep your limbs happy are to make sure you hydrate well and get a good night’s sleep on days when you do yoga (and all others as well!) While you may not see the results of this immediately, it's another long term solution to enhance your yoga practice.
The most important thing to keep in mind when starting yoga is to maintain your commitment to it.
The mind-body transformation that comes with yoga isn’t immediate, but if you work at it, it’s incredibly rewarding.
Make small, achievable goals that will keep you motivated to keep going. If you’re part of a class, try practicing at home or at the office in between classes. If getting a new pair of comfy yoga pants makes you want to do more yoga, go get it! Keep in mind that while yoga is meditative, transformative and calming, it can (and should) also be fun.