We’ve all done it: mindlessly gone through the motions, attached to the poses, and forgotten to tap into and feel the mind-body connection in our yoga practice. Yet most of us know that yoga can facilitate a sense of presence and ease. I didn’t understand this when I first started yoga—I thought straining to hold a pose was the goal. While I heard teachers talk about easing up on poses when or if I felt strain, it took time for me to integrate this concept.
The good news: You don’t have to struggle the way I did—you can create more ease in your practice right now. Below is a list of ways to jumpstart this shift—so that you can begin to connect more deeply with yourself in your practice and feel better both in and out of yoga class.
1. Trust yourself.
If one goal of yoga is to be connected to the present moment, then second-guessing what feels good in your body will only lead to disconnection. When a teacher instructs a pose that doesn’t feel right to you, give yourself permission to opt out and make a different choice. Your practice is your practice. If you embrace what feels good to you, and trust that you know what’s best for you, you can make better choices and create more ease.
2. Slow down.
Do you ever ask yourself, “What am I feeling during this pose and how am I breathing?” or are you moving so rapidly from pose to pose that you don’t have time to check in with yourself? Yoga affords a beautiful opportunity to listen to your inner rhythm and connect with your inner self. When you slow down enough to tune in to how each cue feels in your body—and then perhaps modify or customize a pose based on that—you gather more information about yourself and your practice. Doing this can also allow you to let go of attachments to ideas about, for example, how a pose should be done, allowing you to more fully connect with yourself and your needs in practice.
3. Shift your perspective.
Most of us close our eyes at the end of class in savasana, but have you ever closed your eyes during class? When I first attempted this in a seated downward facing dog variation, I immediately felt more. Closing our eyes can heighten our senses as we move and breathe, uncovering new levels of awareness. When we let ourselves fully feel in our practice, it deepens our experience.
There’s no right or wrong way to feel in yoga. See if you can embrace, embody, and accept what feelings and sensations show up for you in the moment.
4. Embrace imperfection.
The beauty of yoga is that it’s about practice, not perfection—it is, after all, called yoga practice. We don’t all need to look the same in poses. Find the place in a pose that suits your body and sensibility. There’s no right or wrong way to feel in yoga. See if you can embrace, embody, and accept what feelings and sensations show up for you in the moment. Embracing imperfection can help us become more present. Deep acceptance is the objective.
5. Set an intention.
Before practice, quiet your mind, take a moment and a deep breath, and set an intention for what you want to experience. Perhaps you want to find more balance or mindfulness in poses, or maybe you want to locate more inner awareness. Either way, just as in life, creating an intention can transform and empower your experience.
We may do yoga for different reasons, but for me, cultivating ease in my practice gives me an opportunity to feel whole, and that feeling of wholeness keeps me returning to my mat. Once we notice what we’re feeling in our practice and embrace more ease, we go beyond the physical benefits of yoga. We step into a deeper, more profound experience of self-trust.