32 Unusual ways to improve yoga practice

I came up with these 32 based on a series developed on my Spanish blog which is still in progress, it is mostly tips that I use here and there, not meant to be taken all at once, but that if taken, say, one at the time, or choosing one a day, can result in a deeper experience of the asana practice and the whole of yoga.
  1. Saturday practice, or a Castor oil bath
  2. Learning the opening and closing chants.  I know, a bit Ashtanga centered.
  3. Slowing down, taking five counts for the in-breath and five for the out breath. I tried this for a couple of weeks and brought me a lot more in touch with the body I ever imagined it would
  4. Taking a led class.  Again, bit leaning on the ashtanga side here as if you take another type of yoga you are always in led classes, then again, even then, the DVD of Sharath's led class is always a good challenge.
  5. Reading the Yoga Sutras, or even better, and introductory commentary, this one (by David Hurwitz) is the best I have found so far after a recommendation from Grimmly.
  6. Checking on nutrition.  Are you getting enough nutrients? greens? salads? juices?  I wrote a post about what I am looking into these days including supplements, you can see it here.
  7. Savasana.  Iyengar recommends 5 minutes of savasana for every half hour of practice.  Are you giving your body enough time to rest and cool down after practice?  Are you giving it too much time?
  8. Learning the names of all the poses of the primary series (to begin with).  In Thailand we chanted them to learn them in a more didactic way. It is helpful even if not in the Ashtanga tradition.
  9. Reading Yoga Mala by Sri K. 
  10. Focusing on inversions.  Learning about them, their benefits, their power.
  11. Attending a workshop.  I find that when I attend a workshop I return energized, with lots of good ideas and refocused.  I have not taken one in a while, but remember the one with Manju Jois which completely turned me into going to India and going down the rabbit hole. He teaches throughout the world.
  12. Vipassana meditation, learning about it
  13. Incorporating meditation into the daily routine.  Even if for 10 minutes a day, meditation is transformational,  must be experienced before judged.
  14. Pranayama.  Learning and practicing basic breathing techniques or full blown pranayama is a treat, extending and learning to work with the breath is one of the most deepening experiences out there.  It helps with practice, with focus, with meditation.  It is always of course better to learn from a teacher but this book  by Swami Rama is one of the best I have found out there when it comes to telling the whole
  15. Cleansing.  Here are five easy methods, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika names all of them, including the really advanced ones
  16. Food fast. When I visited Mysore the thing that called my attention the most about advanced practitioners is how little they ate, and how some attended indian treatments from the ayurvedic school that recommended fasting.  Of course this is not to be taken lightly and must be done with full awareness and under close experienced supervision.  It is a suggestion here, as in something to investigate further.  I hope to be doing some experiments in the future so I can tell stories, but that has not happened yet.
  17. Media  fast.  The title says it all, no news, for a week.  Refreshing.
  18. Listening to podcasts from good teachers. Free suggestions here by the Boston Vedanta Society, here by Richard Freeman, here  Kino MacGregor, and here by the Insight Meditation Center.
  19. I-pad apps.  If you practice a type of yoga that is not Ashtanga, some apps have good sequencing and can help with creating a class when you cannot attend a studio.  Here are my 6 favorite ones.
  20. Blogging.  I find that there is a wealth of very giving and generous people out there who like to share and listen, it is almost like a cyber shala of sorts, I have found countless pieces of little advice by reading blogs and sharing my experience.
  21. Salt baths.  I take some of this in the cold months.  Pre-practice they have the effect of loosening up the body and preparing it.
  22. Talking to a teacher
  23. Cleaning up your series of choice.  At the moment I am working at cleaning up primary series, really following the vinyasas and the breaths.  Led classes help, reading and studying too.
  24. Working on the last four limbs.  This is not very encouraged in schools in the west, but there are very matter of fact ways of working with the last for limbs (sense withdrawal, concentration, meditation and samadhi or happiness).  Attending a Vipassana course is one of the most effective ways I have found to do so.
  25. Going to Mysore (Or a city of your choice in India).  I am looking forward to returning to Shiva's country, it cannot be put in words what it does to a person, must be experienced.
  26. Mantras.  Learning and chanting them is very powerful, but I can again only speak from my own experience. In Thailand while at teacher training they had us learn some from the Vedas like the Gayatri.  It is a trip in itself to learn what it means and chant it.
  27. Making a list of things that we are grateful for about the practice, and keeping it where we can see it, remembering it often.
  28. Offering our practice for the benefit of all beings
  29. Getting a massage.  I am very fond of massages, especially the deep tissue ones.  Once a while back I had one that was really strong, I had to take a nap after it, but it did release things, it worked.
  30. Reading The Mirror of Yoga.
  31. Sharing - brunch with other yogis is a great way to get re-focused for me.  Learning how others are doing on the path is a treat, and a way to practice off the mat.
  32. Surrendering.  To the practice, to doing it every day, to the commitment it takes, to gratitude for having found a practice.

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6 comments:

  1. Claudia, You're killing me...Please talk to a publisher, These lists you make are SO good. It could be entitled The Guide To A Lifelong Practice, or How To Begin A Yoga Practice, or How to Fall In Love With Yoga. Unfortunately I could go on and on.....

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  2. Wonderful list, Claudia. I especially like taking 5 counts for the in-breath and 5 for the out-breath. I try to do it whenever I can remember to, and it makes primary so much more a healing practice--which is what it's supposed to be, anyway, because Yoga Chikitsa means "yoga therapy." It'll be really cool if I can get to the point where I can do 5-in and 5-out in kapotasana.

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  3. FFT, thank you, I am so happy that you like it, and yes you are right perhaps they can be compiled into a book, it is a great idea, I am looking at ways :-) and please feel free to go on and on... I luuuuv it ;-)

    Nobel, hmmm, yes 5 in 5 out in kapotasana must be a huge challenge... I had not made the connection but it is true that primary can do better honor to its name with the long breathing, be really healing, that makes a lot of sense.

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  4. Another great blog post. Thanks Claudia. I'm a fan! bad_yogi.

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  5. Thank you bad_yogi :-) How come you are not a blogger yet?

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  6. Great tips here! Where do you study/practice in India? We'll be teaching/practicing/studying in India for a couple months in early 2014!

    http://www.theyoganomads.com/24-ways-to-supercharge-your-yoga-practice/

    Brandon

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