Once you’re no longer a beginner making rookie yoga mistakes, it doesn’t mean yoga gets easier, necessarily. After practicing yoga for 20 years, I’ve learned that it’s sometimes challenging to stay committed to the practice and to keep improving. The beautiful thing about yoga is there is no end goal—it’s a process. Remember to stay in your own practice and really pay attention to all of the little gains you make daily, on and off the mat.
That said, if you feel like you’re really not making any progress lately, one of these 5 things could be holding you back.
Trying to show off
It’s all too common to think that yoga is about flying arm balances, crazy split poses, and contortionist stretches, but the exact opposite is true. Sometimes the simplest postures are the ones that require the most concentration and skill. When I see a student trying too hard to master all of the show-off poses, it makes me laugh a little. Remember that you’re not trying to perform for anyone. If you think of yoga as performance based, chances are you’ll injure yourself or push too hard to try a complicated pose without getting the correct foundation.
It always makes me so sad when my students leave class early before taking final relaxation. Corpse pose, savasana in Sanskrit, is truly one of the most important poses in yoga. I know that we all have busy schedule and things to do, but you must give yourself time to reap the rewards of your practice. Lie still for a minute and let it all soak in. If you have to leave class early, stop a few minutes beforehand and do your own relaxation. In savasana, your body absorbs everything you’ve done in your practice and can improve, grow, and repair itself.
Moving too fast
Many flow-style classes like Ashtanga can go at a very rapid pace. I think it’s fun to flow freely and move through the sun salutations; but not at the expense of improper form. If you find that you can’t keep your shoulders from rounding forward in chaturanga or your knee from rolling inward during warrior 2, you may be going to fast or doing too much. You need to be able to link your breath to the movement and stay connected to your breathing throughout the practice. If you can’t keep up with your breath, slow down and find a pace that works for you. Move mindfully and use your practice to work on the posture—and do your cardio elsewhere.
Checking your cell phone
I know you’re thinking “who on earth would check their phone during yoga?” But I’ve seen it time and again. Yoga is when you put everything else aside and focus on your mind, body, and breath. Try to truly leave the gadgets at the front door. Imagine you’re at the theater: You would never disrupt an amazing play or movie to check your phone. Do yourself the same kind of favor and respect your time in your yoga practice by making it distraction-free. I even prefer not to use any music in my classes and just be with the breath.
Not listening to your body
Even the most advanced practitioners often try to ignore that nagging hamstring or inflamed shoulder. It’s so important to listen to what your body is telling you and adjust your practice accordingly. Pay attention to when you’re overly tired or when you have a lot of energy to expend and tailor your practice to fit your needs. And just because a teacher is telling you to do something doesn’t mean you have to do it. It’s always your own practice, and you should speak up if you’re getting an adjustment that feels too intense. The longer you practice the more in touch you’ll be with yourself and you’ll build the confidence to make it all about you!
Don’t judge yourself or compare yourself to anyone and know that you will continue to make progress daily, yearly, and throughout your life. Yoga isn’t a sprint it’s more of a marathon and you will reap the most rewards if you stay connected to yourself and take it day by day.
Kristin McGee is a leading yoga and Pilates instructor and healthy lifestyle expert based in New York City. She is an ACE certified personal trainer who regularly trains celebrity clients in New York and Los Angeles. She serves as Health’s contributing fitness editor and is frequently seen on national TV. Her latest in a large collection of fitness DVDs is YogaSlim. Follow her on Twitter @KristinMcGee and like her page on Facebook.