We know what it’s like, honestly, we do. You set your goals with all the best intentions in the world, but after a few weeks, somehow those excuses always begin to creep in and you get in your own way. Maybe you start to skip the odd gym session, treat yourself to that cake that just won’t stop staring at you, or put the alarm on snooze and sleep another half an hour instead of getting up for your morning meditation.
Well, if incorporating a yoga practice was one of your goals this year (or if you’d like to set that goal right now!), read the following common mistakes and ways to avoid them to ensure you can make it a success!
Mistake #1: You think you’re not flexible enough to practice yoga
You check out yoga on Instagram or Pinterest and see people looking suspiciously comfortable as they twist themselves into a pretzel and put their body in shapes you haven’t been able to do since you were a baby… Don’t worry! Firstly, people don’t practice yoga because they’re flexible, they’re flexible because they practise yoga. Read that again….
But also, flexibility is only a secondary added bonus of yoga. Yes, maybe further down the line you will also turn into a pretzel, but that is not the primary goal. The joy of yoga is the process, being in the moment, moving your body and your energy and all the beautiful sensations that come with it. So let go of expectations, breathe and enjoy!
Mistake #2: You give up because you’re “not good at meditation”
At the beginning of your practice, you sit down with a Buddha-like serenity to begin your short meditation with all your best intentions, only to find that within 30 seconds you can’t stop thinking about what you’ll have for dinner, what your co-worker said to you this morning or how you forgot to reply to an email three days ago.
Let us first tell you that this is totally NORMAL! It takes a lot of practice to get to a stage where you can even let go of your thoughts for 5 minutes, let alone half an hour. However, we have good news! Every single time you just realise that your mind has wandered, this is a WIN! This realisation in itself brings you back to the present moment, which is exactly the mind process we are looking to train. And in the same way that we work our biceps by doing weight repetitions, we can train this mind process by coming back to the here and now, time after time. So be patient with yourself, you’re doing great! With time and practice your mind will begin to find longer periods of stillness, trust us!
Mistake #3: You get to class but never return because your whole body aches after your first class (or two, or three…)
You finally get yourself to your first yoga class, give it your 100% and you feel nice and relaxed directly afterwards (even if you’re also a little tired). The next day you wake up to the surprise that your whole body is aching and walking has turned into an insurmountable challenge. Well, the good news is that you’ve woken up and worked parts of your body that you maybe haven’t felt in years. And fear not! Once you take a couple more classes, you won’t be left feeling like this afterwards. Once you get your body into a regular practice, it becomes stronger, more flexible and has a higher recovery rate, so that even after a super intense practice, you’ll be left feeling energized and ready to go!
Mistake #4: You take the most advanced variation offered in every pose
If you’ve been to any yoga class, most likely you’ve been offered different options or variations of at least one pose by now. Many teachers offer these variations as a way for students to personalize their practice, encouraging them to listen to their own body and do what feels best for them in the moment, and also to accommodate different levels of practitioners in the class, from beginners to advanced.
Now, we know that it is SUPER tempting to want to take the fullest or most intense variation of each pose (we’ve all felt this). However, to develop a healthy relationship with your practice, we strongly advise you to truly listen to the voice inside you that recognises your limits, rather than the ego-driven voice telling you to push harder and harder. This way you can avoid injury by working on safe alignments, ensuring you get maximum benefits out of each pose and your practice in general.
Mistake #5: You take on too much and burn out
You’ve got past your first few classes and surmounted the challenges 1-4 above. You’re learning the lingo, getting the hang of your sun salutations and know exactly what to do when the instructor guides you into ‘shavasana’ at the end of class. You see people around you practising advanced poses and standing on their head, and you sign up to come to class every single day so you can get to that level too. Now, although its great to commit to a regular practice, going from zero to every day is extremely intense and for many people unrealistic. You feel great for a week or two, but then you begin to burn out, get frustrated or simply lose interest. Why not instead try regularly going to class once or twice a week, and making it stick the whole year? We guarantee you will be much more likely to achieve your goals.
Now that you’ve read our top 5 tips for avoiding common pitfalls, we hope you will be able to make your yoga practice a success! Happy practising!