My ten tips to get better at yoga asana:
- Connect your movement to your breath
- Use the ”Lightness through engagement method
- Learn 360 Core Activation
- Be kind to your wrists and hands
- Learn how to be comfortable in backbends
- How to do the perfect Chaturanga
- Jump & Step forward with strength and grace
- Learn different Vinyasa Variations
- Utilize dynamic stretching and active flexibility
- Learn how to stick to a routine – consistency is EVERYTHING
Are you going to yoga once or twice a week? Maybe have been for a while now? And you feel you have reached a plateau in your progress?
This is nothing uncommon, since when you go to your regular yoga class the teacher often has too little time to dig deeper into those things that can actually grow their student’s yoga practice. And that’s just how it is, there’s nothing wrong with it and a lot of students are perfectly happy with where they are and just enjoy that time every week when they get to move and breathe and relax in Savasana.
But if you are curious about those small things that can make all the difference in how you feel in your yoga practice, and also in the results you get, both physical and mental, then this is for you.
These are my ten best tips on how you can level up your yoga practice for amazing results:
Connecting your movement to your breath
This might sound like the most basic thing in yoga, but when I teach I experience that it’s harder than you might think and people might not really know exactly how to do it.
Often when I say to my students ”Sweep your arms up” their arms fly up and I’m thinking ”No way they’re breathing that fast (and if they do that’s a problem)”
Connecting your movements to the pace of your breath is an amazing tool to become more aware of your body and where it is in space, it calms your nervous system and you become more aware.
Use the ”Lightness through engagement method”
When you use the Lightness through engagement method you will make your body more active in your yoga poses and your transitions, instead of just ”hanging out”. This will not only activate more muscles in your body, giving you better physical results in form of strength and flexibility, but you will also create better body awareness. Lightness through engagement adds more dynamic to your yoga practice, it will require you to focus more and be absolutely present in the moment.
360 core activation
Your core is so much more than your abs, and being able to activate and use your core efficiently will take your practice to new levels. This requires a new way of looking at your core and learning how to activate and utilize the deepest core muscles like the transverse abdominals and deep back muscles. When you practice a strong and dynamic vinyasa flow you get a lot of core work ”for free” almost without noticing it, but there are also many fun drills you can use to find the 360 core activation. Having this type of core strength is an excellent way to protect you from injury, and if you plan to add inversions and other advanced poses into your practice, you need to do your core work.
Being kind to your hands and wrists
Wrist pain is common within the yoga space and can even stop people from coming to yoga. What you need to do is learn how to activate your hands correctly, because when you do, that activation will protect both your wrist joint and your elbow joint. So make sure not only to warm up your wrists before every class but also get the correct activation that will bring the stress away from your wrist and distribute it through your forearm muscles instead.
How to be comfortable in backbends
Backbends can be scary and intimidating, not to mention very uncomfortable on the verge of pain. You should never have pain in a backbend, however, there will be discomfort. I used to think backhanding was something that was either natural or you didn’t have it. However, after years of yoga practicing and working focused on my backbends I realized that the trick to more comfort and depth in my backbends was back strength. When the back is strong, it dares to bend, it feels supported by the strength and can relax.
The perfect chaturanga
This pose and transition is hard, both physically and technically and if you’re not in a workshop it’s rather seldom broken down in detail. But we still do it several times during a vinyasa class, which at worst can cause injury and pain. The trick to the perfect Chaturanga is to learn how to protect your shoulder joint and your rotator cuff by distributing the weight properly and learning the correct way to lower down.
Jump / Step forward
How is it even possible to step the foot forward without dragging it on the mat? You’ve seen it done, but you can’t for the life of it do it yourself. The trick is to think up instead of forward, you need to create space for your foot by activating your core, protracting the shoulders, and being able to hug your thigh into the chest before you set the foot down.
Jumping forward is of course another story that requires courage and strength, but is in no way impossible. You need to learn how to activate your shoulders as you jump, and you can do this by practicing kicking up to handstand to a wall and pushing through your shoulders with everything you have.
Different Vinyasa variations
“The Vinyasa” is a fun sequence you do in most vinyasa classes but it comes in so many variations. When you’ve reached a certain point in your practice, maybe you’ve started to jump forward and back, or maybe even taking it to a handstand, or you want to add in a bit more back strength, then it’s time you explore some new, different vinyasa variations. They will intensify your practice, and the more advanced they get, the more focus they require and that requires you to be concentrated and absolutely present. New, creative vinyasa variations will grow your practice in many ways.
Dynamic Stretching and Active Flexibility
Stretching is actually proven to be a not very effective way to become flexible. What you need in order to create sustainable flexibility are dynamic stretching and active flexibility. Dynamic stretching is when you are active in the stretch, you’re not just hanging there hoping to make your muscles longer, but you activate your targeted muscle aiming to make it both long – and strong. You also work with the antagonist muscle, the opposing muscle, for example when you want more hamstring flexibility you also target your hip flexors.
Active flexibility is another thing you often get a lot of for free in your vinyasa practice. Standing tall and lifting one straight leg forward is a great example Active flexibility means you have no resistance, nothing to push away from.
How to stick to a routine
However well you apply all of the above the one thing you need the most is CONSISTENCY. I always advise people to do yoga for 20-30 minutes every day instead of going twice a week for 90 minutes. This is what will create amazing results, and also grow your spiritual practice.
But it’s not super easy. Learn to apply the ”Three R:s method”. Reminder – To make you not forget, Routine – what you do and Reward – what you get after.
I’d love to see you there!
And if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to comment or email me.
If you want to practice yoga with me, download the Yoga Lioness app, completely free and there are some free classes for you to try, and also a 14 day free trial in the Committed Lioness membership.