So you’ve discovered the amazing benefits of yoga… You know how good it makes you feel physically, mentally and emotionally. Perhaps you’ve experienced first-hand how it can be used to heal injuries or you’ve noticed your body become stronger and more resilient. Or perhaps it has helped you keep anxiety at bay or to reduce your overall stress level. Maybe it has helped you to process emotional grief or trauma… Whatever the reason you found yoga (or yoga found you), perhaps you feel that calling to explore deeper into this ancient practice and to continue to unearth its precious treasures. This article will help you answer that calling and to truly take your practice to the next level…
- Explore different types of the practice you haven’t yet discovered
Nowadays there are so many different types of yoga readily available at your fingertips. You’ve discovered how good the practice makes you feel, now it’s time to explore! Let your intuition and curiosity guide you as you start to broaden your yoga horizons. If you’ve been practicing a more dynamic style of yoga, such as Hatha or Vinyasa why not explore the gentler styles such as Yin or Restorative? Perhaps you’ve been thinking about giving a hot yoga class a try or you’re curious about Kundalini yoga. Don’t be afraid to explore outside the realms of the physical ‘asana’ practice either! Bhakti yoga (the yoga of devotion) is a beautiful and joyful practice which can be experienced through a Kirtan or chanting class. Who knows what you might discover!
- Start a daily meditation practice
If you haven’t yet discovered the power of meditation, I highly recommend adding this to your daily routine. The benefits of a regular meditation practice are profound. From increasing mental clarity to controlling anxiety and reducing memory loss, the effects, which western science / medicine is now starting to acknowledge, really are staggering. As well as the many physical, emotional and mental benefits, meditation will really compliment and propel your yoga practice to the next level. When we meditate we expand our awareness beyond the physical body and into deeper states of consciousness, connecting to the source of divinity within us all and reminding us of our natural, peaceful and joyful state. Once you start to meditate regularly, you will soon notice these effects within your yoga practice itself but also within the other dimensions of your life.
- Book onto a workshop or retreat!
A 60 or 90 minute class is a brilliant way to start, but yoga is a vast topic and there is only so much which can be covered during this time. Booking onto a workshop or retreat is a great opportunity to delve deeper into the intricate practices and philosophies of yoga. Many workshops will include deeper practices such as meditation or pranayama (breath control) or they may offer the opportunity to deepen your physical practice by focusing on specific postures such as arm balances or inversions. Attending a workshop or retreat is also a great way to connect with other likeminded people on the same journey of discovery into yoga and many people find these to be deeply transformative experiences. If you feel good after a 60 minute class, just imagine how you’ll feel after an afternoon, a day, a weekend or even a week of yoga!
- Read some of the classic yoga texts
If you’re curious about the origins of yoga or the ancient philosophy behind the practice which is popular in the west today – why not try broadening your knowledge by reading some of the classic yoga texts. It is a history which is both rich and fascinating and this knowledge will hugely help to put your practice which happens on the mat into the wider context of your life. There are so many good books to choose from. To get you started, I recommend The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, The Bhagavad Gita and Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda. These timeless yoga texts will help both the brand new and the seasoned yogi be guided towards the heart of yoga, the essence of what this practice is really all about. They will provide unparalleled inspiration on the spiritual journey and help to deepen and integrate one’s understanding of the practice.
- Take the practice off the mat
When you’re ready you’ll find that your yoga practice naturally starts to extend off the mat. Living a true yogic life really is about more than what happens on the mat. Yoga is a philosophy, an all-encompassing way of life which effects everything from what you eat and how you behave to how you react in stressful situations. As you start to develop your practice and begin to explore deeper into the world of yoga, your connection with your body and mind will deepen and the way you express yourself in the world will naturally start to transform. This process takes time and must be allowed to unfold naturally and organically. Let your heart be your guide as you navigate and make sense of what parts of the practice resonate with you and which parts don’t. Stay open to all the new experiences along the way, and watch in wonder as you truly propel your yoga practice to the next level.