Top 10 Ways to Ruin Your Yoga Practice

10. Try to do it perfectly

9. Compare yourself to everyone else in class

8. Put it on your to-do list as yet another thing to get through or feel bad about not getting to

7. Beat yourself up over not getting the full expression of the pose yet because “you should’ve gotten it already.”

6. Push yourself to the point of pain

5. Berate yourself for not getting as far in a pose as you did the other day

4. Insist that your practice be hardcore every time

3. Crank your neck to move through the poses

2. Decide that if you can’t practice for at least an hour than it’s not worth it.

1. Don’t breathe

Now pretend you were watching a small child doing yoga. Would you be criticizing how they did each pose? Would you berate them anytime they fell down from a balancing pose? Probably not.

What if you did criticize this child every time they didn’t get a pose right? Do you think that child would ever want to do yoga?

The same is true for adults. Why on earth would we be motivated to do something that we spend the whole time criticizing ourselves when we’re doing it?

So try this advanced move out the next time you’re on your mat. When you notice your self-criticism coming up, can you recognize it? Congratulate yourself–you caught yourself moving into your pattern of self-judgement. Then try saying to yourself what you would say to that child: “Great job!” “You are trying so hard.” “Good for you for doing something challenging.” Note: this cannot be followed by sarcastic comments to yourself or it won’t work. You may feel ridiculous at first. But when you can approach the practice with compassion, it is more likely to fuel your action of rolling out your mat and practicing.

For more suggestions, check out Top 10 Ways to Get Yourself Back On the Yoga Mat.

My new mantra

“Show Up and Breathe.”

This needs to be my new mantra for life.

Being sick during Ana’s intensives brought me new insight into my practice. I got myself there in the wee hours by telling myself that all I needed to do was “show up and breathe“. That took the pressure off myself to have any requirements of what I had to do.

Because I can do a lot of advanced poses, I can easily fall into thinking that I have to do advanced poses/intense practice every time I practice. Otherwise I won’t be able to keep doing advanced poses and I’ll become someone who just lazes on the mat. What I found was the opposite. Driving myself just makes me mentally (and often physically) tired. It doesn’t actually get me further into the practice and certainly not in the deeper sense of being connected to my spirit. I actually found while being sick it just brought a softness to my practice where I often wanted to go deeper into a pose because it felt good, not because I had expectations that I needed to.

It’s made me aware of a similar racket that I do with other aspects of my life: “If I don’t pull on the reins and drive myself harder, I’ll be out of control and just become an unaccomplished, lazy, flaky person”. But driving and beating myself up does not actually seem to push me towards the person I want to be; it just wears on me.

So I’m taking up this new mantra and catching myself when I find myself in whipping mode. I haven’t convinced myself yet that doing so won’t make a lethargic slacker but I’m willing to experiment to see if my results on the mat just might hold true off the mat.

Sometimes as a teacher you’ll recognize when a student has similar tendencies that you do. I had a student the other night in class who was clearly the most advanced in the class. While his outward form was quite precise, you could see him pushing in the pose. At first I found myself drawn away from doing any adjustments for him. I realized it was because it was hitting a little too close to home. Instead of avoiding him, I went over and just coached breathing with him and you could see his strain start to ease. It was a powerful experience for me because I realize that this type of student is someone I can help by attempting to impart the same lesson that I’m learning.

Are you a pusher? How are you finding ways to let up on yourself?

Image credit: shawnzrossi