The poses are only one part of yoga.
Yoga includes moral & personal observances, breathing techniques, meditation, & more; that’s a vast separate topic and not what I’m talking about for our purposes here. I want to give you ways you can enhance your experience on the mat - mentally, emotionally & spiritually.
Yoga rewires your nervous system to respond calmly under stress.
By intentionally placing your body in slightly uncomfortable positions and then breathing calmly, you realize you don’t have to freak out every time something feels weird. Yoga stimulates your nervous system in ways that mimic life. It gets into your subconscious and you start responding differently to life.
With that in mind, try these powerful experiments.
These suggestions are not “better” or “ideal” ways to practice yoga, they’re options for practice. Use them if they resonate with you and enrich your experience.
1. Hold a goal or intention in your mind throughout practice.
Sustained focus on a single idea is what meditation is all about, so essentially you’re combining meditation with asana here (asana means doing the poses). Furthermore, focus is like a muscle: the more you work it, the stronger it gets. Doing this regularly helps you sustain longer periods of focus during work or play.
A different way to practice, along similar "focus" lines . . .
2. Don’t allow external thoughts during practice.
This is arguably an even better way to access the power of your subconscious. The conscious mind controls only a small percentage of our behaviour (stats differ, but it’s somewhere around 9%). The rest is our subconscious, autopilot programming.
If you’re stressed and can’t turn your mind off, dedicate your practice to resolution of whatever you’re stressed about. Be open to whatever outcome comes - yogis call this non-attachment - but if something beyond your control is happening, stressing won’t change a thing.
Set the intention that you will do everything within your control and release everything outside of your control. Then practice, and focus only on the sensations you feel in your body and the connection you have with yourself. Don’t let yourself think about the issue.
As you get your conscious mind out of the way and allow your subconcious to work on it, you will often come to perspectives and solutions you wouldn’t have been able to see any other way. Worst-case scenario, you’ll give your mind/soul/spirit vital rest (we need emotional & spiritual rest just like we need it, physically & mentally).
3. Hang out with yourself.
Think how it is when you’re hanging out with your favorite person in the world. They walk in the room and you drop what you’re doing and want to hear all about their day, get the updates on whatever they’re working through, and just be with them. You’re totally in the moment with them, loving every minute and engrossed in everything they say.
Make your practice a hang-out sesh with yourself. Listen to yourself, enjoy your time, explore the deepest nuances of yourself.
The beauty of this is that, while other people can be undependable and you can’t control them - YOU can be there for yourself every day. It’s entirely dependent upon YOU. YOU control 100% of how you treat yourself. You can give yourself the treatment that maybe you wish others would give you.
4. Practice “in character”.
If you’re working on a goal, visualize yourself doing it successfully. Make it as real as possible - watch it play out like you’re watching a movie. Crawl into this successful character’s skin and feel what it’s like to be in that body, that mind, that spirit.
Then practice yoga “in character”. Again, you’ll rewire your subconscious in extra-powerful ways for being this person all the time.
(Note: this needs to be done because you love yourself and want to do something special for yourself, not because you reject yourself and think you’re not good enough until you attain your goal. You’re a masterpiece just by being a human, and nothing you can do will change that.)