Find Your 'Strong Practice' in 4-Steps
1) Stop comparing: Stop comparing yourself to others in the studio. Seriously, just stop. You can be inspired by whoever yogi you think is the most experienced in the room & better yet even pick up new tips & techniques. But please, leave judgment/self-comparison off your mat. Know that your strong practice on one particular day will look nothing like any body else’s in the room. We are not all apples! You are u n i q u e. Your body, background/experience in mindfulness/fitness, mood - all contribute to a very un-replicable practice. Once you realize your practice is yours and yours only, you can begin to own it. What you feed, grows. By constantly directing your awareness & attention to anyone/everyone else's practice in the room (perhaps you're doing this subconsciously) you compromise first, your focus on your own breath & second your focus on on your own movement.
Let's not forget life's give & take. That thought you entertain - 'how come he/ can do that & I can't?' Is energy that belongs to cultivating hyperawareness on your mat & is in fact stolen. No comparison = no distraction. What you're left with to face is you & only you - a one-of-a-kind serve yoga journey. You are your only competition in yoga because there is no possible way to keep score of the individual, most full version of yourself you are unearthing. There is no score. It's a practice of self-discovery. Stop Comparing. 2) Practice Daily: It's called a practice because you keep at it. You show up even when your mood is off, intentions are scarce & your body is lazy. It’s mental before it is physical and there is d i s c i p l i n e involved.
Persist because you can. Test your mindfulness – your capacity to guide your actions from an informed, knowing place. Ex. ‘I feel good every time I practice yoga because I am relaxed, I enjoy the stretch, I got to sweat – etc. I should prioritize making time for my practice in my day.'
A secret to practicing daily is knowing the why you show up. Me? My practice makes me a better human. I am not my nicest human without my practice. I am less patient, more reactive & can get snappy.
My yoga grounds me. It enables me to see the dualities of life & seek balance within those dualities. My yoga keeps me in good health & enables me to heal from past experiences. Know your why, and bring it with you to your mat daily – with a newfound understanding of your profoundly cultivated intention.
Practice & all is coming.
You skip a day, the next time you practice you notice it takes a little longer to find your edge. Your ‘edge’ (the point in your practice you can no longer deepen in the posture & sustain the pose without compromising its integrity or alignment) – becomes further away the more time off you take from it. I wouldn’t say it becomes harder to practice without some consistency – I would just say it takes longer to achieve where you left your mark last, without consistently showing up to that space. That’s all this practice is. A task of t i me , doing your time – and waiting for the right time.
3) You gotta believe: You gotta believe it's there. If you are looking for your strong Serve Yoga practice, trust it is already there. Michaelango, the Renaissance Artist, put it beautifully – “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free. Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”
You gotta see that strong practice yogi in you – and it’s there. Be like the sculptor. It’s only when you start to really see the body’s potential for what it is – specific concepts isolated from the sweet ignorance the mind serves – can you really discern, plate & serve yourself a more hearty practice. Believe.
The knowing is empowering. We get frustrated with our practice because we know we can do it & we are restless to get ‘there’. If you did not know that your strong practice exists - you wouldn’t be in a hurry to be there already.
While you recognize it’s there – also acknowledge it takes time to get there. Good things come fast. Great things take time.
4) Slow down: I can’t stress this one enough. S L O W down your practice. S L O W down your breath as you flow. Stop taking those shortcuts as you move. Take your time to see the top of every inhale and the bottom of every exhale.
Why? Because it’s all in the subtleties. Everything you are looking for is hidden in the transition from one pose to another. The spaces b e t w e e n your inhales & exhales. The moments you can pause & hold & breathe, in the most novel way on your mat.
This comes with a sense of curiosity. Stay curious about what goes on behind the scenes, the internal workings, the processes not seen… and you will find a deeper understanding of all the elements that come together to make that one strong practice happen.
It is only when you really slow things down that you discover the hidden treasures of breakthrough. Every time I show up to my mat, I find something new in my strong practice... because I don't deceive myself with this idea of an end goal or a destination. I know it's about the small gains on my journey that matter. The trivial wins eventually add up to a bigger, unimaginable picture. Your strong practice.
You have to do something differently every time, but something for the better.
Pause & try to activate different muscles in a foundational posture.
Take a transition at a much slower pace to observe which muscles need to play a bigger role and therefore require more strengthening.
I like to call it finding your full expression even through transitions. Challenge yourself to do more, be more, but without haste. With that much more attention to detail & with that much more refined focus.
A fast practice is a sloppy practice. A deliberate practice is a meticulous practice. Make your choice. How do you move?
Give these four secrets another read, pocket the tips & you are already halfway to finding your strong Serve Yoga practice. All the best!