Five Ways to Enhance Your Yoga Practice

How can you enhance your yoga practice?

Have you ever looked at your yoga teacher and wondered when will you ever be able to hold that asana for two minutes? Or when will you ever be able to meditate for an hour without moving like that monk you saw on a trip?

What’s so special about them? Trick question! The first rule of yoga – thou shall not compare! Yoga means union. How can you experience union when you’re comparing, judging and measuring your practice with someone else’s? The truth is there’s nothing special about the people you’re looking up to. It’s just the way they approach their practice that allow them to go deep into their practice.

Here are 5 ways to deepen your yoga practice and tap into its deeper benefits:

1. Enhance your yoga practice by finishing it in the morning

So you heard about the endless list of benefits that come from yoga and you decided to practice for at least one hour every day. But WHEN you schedule your practice could make the difference between you dropping or continuing it one month from now. Yoga is a slow-paced practice that’s best done in a focused and relaxed state of mind. And when is it easiest to get into that state of mind? Right after you wake up in the morning, before the distractions of the world catch up to you.

Your subconscious mind is the most receptive during this phase. So it’s easiest to enhance your yoga practice. Since yoga helps sharpen your visualization, concentration, balance, and mental stillness, your subconscious mind will easily cooperate with you. That means these benefits will stay with you throughout the day. Your energy levels will be so high that you won’t need a single cup of coffee while you work. You’ll be able to handle high pressure situations without drowning in stress. You won’t become a victim of your mood swings anymore.

Now if you want to schedule your practice for the evening? There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just that our modern lifestyles are such that distractions multiply as the day goes on. By the evening, we’re physically and mentally drained. We have to put in more willpower to do our practice. You won’t even be able to enjoy the full benefits of your practice for the rest of your day.

2. Empty your bowels before you practice

Why? It’s really simple. Yoga is a process of moving your energy upwards. Digestion is a process of moving your energy downwards. What happens when your body is still digesting what you ate last night and you do yoga in the morning? There’s going to be a tug of war between the energies trying to move upward and downward. There’s no way you can enhance your yoga practice.

Either way, you’ll be on the losing end because of the friction in your system. It will disrupt your digestive process as well as your yogic practice. Your mental state will be more disturbed and your body won’t be able to settle into the asanas comfortably.

So what should you do? Eat living, wholesome, alkaline and water-rich foods – foods that are easy to digest and easy to remove from your body. Finish your dinner around or before the sun sets to give enough of a headstart to your digestive process before you sleep. So that by the time you wake up, you’ll naturally feel like emptying your bowels.

4 Satvic Food Principles

It’s best to maintain a minimum four hour gap between your meals and your practice. If you’re having a light snack like a fruit, then a two and a half hour gap is sufficient.

3. Take a cold shower before you practice

Many of you were probably well aware of the first point – waking up early to do yoga. But how to avoid hitting the snooze button and going back to sleep is a bigger challenge right now. What’s the solution? A cold shower.

No, it’s not about giving you an unpleasant shock to force you awake (even though that’s exactly how it feels when the cold water hits your skin). A cold water shower is not just about cleaning your skin, but energizing your whole system. When the cold water pours over your body, the pores between your skin cells open up. It makes the cellular structure of your body more receptive to store the energy from your yoga practice.

A cold shower in the morning to fire up your energy levels for the rest of the day.

Today, many research studies have proven how cold showers can lead to reduced stress levels, higher alertness levels, faster immune response, stronger willpower and improved metabolism.

For those of you hesitating over that cold water shock in the first ten to thirty seconds, you’re not alone. Here’s a quick tip that helped me. I started showering with normal temperature water and slowly started shifting the knob to ‘cold.’ I could now get through a cold shower comfortably without dancing and shouting in shock. Try this out and let us know if it helped you enhance your yoga practice.

4. Wear clothes that let your skin breathe

When it comes to the ideal clothing for yoga, minimal is always better. Traditionally, yogis would practice only wearing a loincloth. They knew that the energy they channel through their practices should be allowed to circulate freely throughout their system. The tight, body-hugging outfits we see being promoted as modern yoga wear do the exact opposite of that. They start constricting your blood flow when you try to stretch deep into the asanas. Your energy can’t circulate freely.

Did you know what the largest breathing organ in your body is? Your skin! Yes, your skin has millions of pores through which it removes the toxins in your system. When you block them with tight synthetic fabrics, you cover these pores. You’re literally choking your skin.

So it’s best to go for loose-fitting cotton or silk clothes that allow you to both comfortably stretch and let your skin breathe.

Loose-fitting yoga clothes that let your skin breathe.

5. Close Your Eyes to Enhance Your Yoga Practice

The whole process of yoga is about bringing your attention to the world within you. But right now there’s a whole world outside that keeps pulling your attention outward. Your senses are constantly engaged with this outside world and feeding your mind with something or the other. What happens when you close your eyes? The world outside instantly disappears. Sure, your imagination may still be running wild playing around with images of this outside world.

However, you’ve immediately disrupted the flow of your attention to the outside world. Your sense of vision accounts for 50% of your engagement with the world. It’s the most dominant sense you have. The rest of your senses account for the remaining 50%.

If you want to deepen your experience of a practice, really internalize it, you must start practicing asanas with your eyes are closed. It will be tricky to make adjustments in the beginning. But you will observe a powerful growth in focus and balance soon follows when you start practicing with your eyes closed. You won’t have to wait for meditation. Even your asana practice will become a deeply meditative experience.

If you want to enhance your yoga practice and dive deeper into this philosophy, join us for our upcoming 21-day Yoga Challenge.   

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