Competitive sports encourage tireless tenacity and pushing through pain to find victory. Yoga is a physical activity that rewards the very opposite: holding back to gain more from your practice. By holding back, I mean easing into poses and modifying them to suit your needs. In a crowded yoga class, you might be inclined to follow along with every instruction given by the teacher and to compare yourself to others. But a true flow that works for you is the result of paying careful attention to yourself.
If you are feeling sluggish, your body may benefit more from a restorative class than an hour of power yoga.
Here are a few hints I’ve learned about how to modify routines to get more from them.
Listen to your body. This is the most common expression in yoga, but the most important. Teachers won’t always offer alternatives to poses, but if there is a pose that doesn’t feel right to you, do something else. This is your time and your yoga.
Pace yourself. I used to think that I wasn’t getting the full benefit of a class if I skipped vinyasas, but I would be so worn out I couldn’t focus or breathe smoothly by the time we reached harder poses. Challenge yourself to not do every vinyasa, and relish the brief pauses to collect yourself.
Props are not weaknesses. There is a misconception that props are for beginners, and designed to help you when you cannot do a pose. Our bodies are all different and some poses may never be accessible without props. Additionally, using props can help you do poses more safely rather than pushing your limits and risking injury.
Gauge your energy levels. If you are feeling sluggish, your body may benefit more from a restorative class than an hour of power yoga where you struggle and tire yourself out even more. Burning calories is nice, but honoring your body’s basic needs is even greater.
Yoga injures are often the result of overdoing it. Know when to hold back, and choose the right moments to push through difficult challenges in your physical and mental practice.