Even though some of us begin practicing yoga because of the major physical and mental benefits we hear about, there comes a time when we want to delve deeper into the practice. For most yoga begins as a physical practice, going to the studio a few times a week and getting a good workout. However, and depending on the studio, this feeling of physical bliss starts to become more, and after a while turns into a hunger for a deeper meaning in the practice of yoga.
It is not always easy to know where to begin to deepen your yoga practice, and particularly in the internet age, there is not all truthful wholesome information out there. Nonetheless deepening your yoga practice is a worth while and rewarding endeavor that can change your life in the best way forever.
First off I would like to say, contrary to every advertisement out there, you do not need to go through teacher training in order to deepen your practice. If you find yourself wanting to walk the path of a yoga instructor, by all means please find the right studio and become a teacher; however it is not the only way or the ‘right’ way to deepen your practice. Teacher trainings are expensive and not all the information, though amazing, is needed for someone just looking to get deeper within themselves as a yogi.
Create a home alter or sacred space to practice.
Having a space of your own that is dedicated to your yoga practice is huge. It does not have to be spiritual, although it can be, just as long as it is a space that you dedicate to your practice. It can even be as simple as a shelf in your home above your practice space that just has knickknacks dedicated to your practice or that are sacred to you. If you have not started an at home practice, create this space anyway as inspiration. Have a ritual for both when you sit down and meditate or contemplate life for entering this space. I like to even bow to my alter when I walk by, although you do not have to.
Create an at home practice
If you have not started doing this yet, then this should be your first step. Creating an at home practice drastically changes the energy of your practice. It gives you the space to work on and try new things that you might be too self conscious of or do not have the opportunity to in the studio. Further it allows you more space to delve deeper into yourself. Be confident in your practice and just try things, without instruction or videos. Buy a book with a practice laid out, like Ashtanga, or try to mimic the practice you were at yesterday. Only practice poses you have attempted with an instructor and you are confident you will not hurt yourself in. Try not to practice to videos or YouTube, the point of a personal, at home practice, is to be more internal and it is not going to happen if you have someone else’s energy always there. Further try to play inspiring music, or chanting; do not play harmful or explicit content.
Meditate, meditate often
Believe it or not asana, or physical practice, is not the whole of yoga. Meditation is actually taken as more important and crucial to a yogi’s lifestyle. Try to set a schedule for yourself and really stick to it. Find a timer and put your phone on silent. Start your meditation at three minutes and slowly increase it once a week or every other week. Ideally you want to be meditating about 20 minutes a day, but you can always split this up through the day. I choose to meditate at increments of seven four times a day. Find something that will work for you and that you can stick to, even if that means getting up earlier.
Collect items that further your practice – get a set of mala beads
No I am not advocating becoming a spiritual materialist. However collecting tapestries, mala beads, and items for your practice will keep you more active and devoted to your path. It is hard to excuse yourself from class or meditation, when every time you look down you see your set of mala beads, or look around your house you see yoga stuff. Further, depending on what you purchase and why, many of these pieces can be instrumental to your practice. Playing a singing bowl, or ringing a bell before your practice can create a mental shift quicker the more you practice with it.
Start a daily prayer or mantra practice
Daily prayer or mantra practices can be as small or as in depth as you want them to be. However having a mantra or prayer that you say every day will help clear your mind and help you set intentions for the day. Mantras are usually in Sanskrit which is a vibrational language. The sounds and cords actually have a positive physiological effect. Further if you choose to begin saying a set of malas, when in your day to day life, if anything stresses you out you have the option to always excuse yourself and say a few rounds with breath. Doing this will bring you back to that place of peace and give you a more even mind to negotiate the obstacle you are facing.
Read yoga books
Read lots of yoga books, and not just the books written by the contemporary Instagram Yoga Star, but the really old texts. Yoga has become so popular in the past few years, almost ever original text has an English translation to it. Be picky with the yoga books you choose. Anatomy and physical practice books are great, but books like “The Deeper Dimensions of Yoga” by Georg Feuerstein, “The Yoga Sutras”, or “The Autobiography of a Yogi” by Paramahansa Yogananda will offer you insight beyond the physical practice. Each one will offer a wealth of knowledge, further they can spark new paths and more reading material.
Be conscious, vigilant, forgiving
Finally be conscious of every word, feeling, and action you take. Constantly scan yourself for how you are feeling physically, mentally, and emotionally; then correct any behaviors that seem old or off from your practice. This wont be hard because if you listen, you will be cued with an inner voice telling you that you “should not yell at the car that just cut you off” or “you should not judge the homeless person because you do not know their story”. Listen and take heed of this voice, it is your Inner Self guiding you. Be vigilant in listening to that voice and heeding its warnings and lessons; but also forgive yourself when you mess up. We are not sages or perfect, we will forget practice, sleep in and miss meditation, or blow up when we get angry. That’s okay. Just breath and pick up where you left off. Yoga is after all just a practice.
Yoga is a practice that is so much more than just the poses. When we begin to feel that deeper connection and hunger, it is time to heed the inner voice and start to deepen our practices. Though there are many different ways and paths to walk, these are just seven suggestions that can be easily slipped into your day to day to help you find that inner Self.
Practice in Peace and Love ❤