What do I want to focus on in my yoga practice?
Let’s talk about goals for a minute. In yoga, we often talk about how it’s a practice, not a performance. Many teachers spin the age old phrase “practice makes perfect” into “practice makes practice,” meaning we’re always growing and working with what’s available to us in the present moment, not pushing ourselves to reach this image of perfection. So what do we do when we want to focus on a specific pose, style or even mantra during our practice?
Set out your goal. Take some time to set out what your goal is andwhy it is your goal in the first place. Are you working on dancer’s pose so that you can nail it for an Instagram picture? Or do you want to work on opening your chest and hips? Maybe you just really like the way the pose feels when you do it, or find it a challenge and want to find some peace while in that posture. Figuring out thewhy can be harder but often more telling. It lets us know what’s driving our practice, and may help us to change our mentality from an image-based approach to a thought process aimed at inner harmony.
Listen to your body. When you’re working on a pose, or even breath work or chanting, listen to what you’re body is telling you. If you’re balance is off one day and you’re having a harder time than usual with your focus pose, that’s one thing. But pushing your body into shapes that it’s not ready to be in is another thing. Yoga helps us be more in tune with our bodies, so listen to what it’s saying to you; she knows more than you think.
Be kind to yourself. This is a big one. We often get caught up with standards we set for ourselves, and beat ourselves up if we don’t meet our goals or aren’t right on the progress schedule we laid out. But it’s okay! There’s a reason why things develop the way they do, and we need to trust that they will all end up working out for the best in the end. If you’re having a hard week with a pose, maybe set it aside and focus on some other postures that will help open up those areas of your body. For example, if you’re having a rough go with dancer’s pose, try working on low lunge and low lunge with a thigh stretch and twist. Add in some backbends like locus or camel, and you’re well on your way to improving your dancer’s pose without even doing the pose itself!
When setting goals, be realistic with yourself. Don’t put a two week time limit on the splits if you’re still six inches off the ground. Give yourself and your body time to adjust, to open up and work into the practice in a natural way. Instead of setting time limits, try setting a goal to work on a pose every day. Without the time limit, there’s less pressure to accomplish the pose or reach a point of “perfection”, but rather just work on the pose one day at a time, just like a practice.