When I first started yoga (and I’m still learning), I wanted to get better at it as fast as possible. I think that's especially the case for someone who joins a yoga class and sees everyone doing great. Yoga is about the process, the flow, feeling in harmony with your own body and mind. Never forget that! Thus, you should enjoy every bit of it. But, if you want to learn how to get better at yoga, that's perfectly fine.
How to Get Better at Yoga?
Here are some tips that will help you to get better at yoga. These are just suggestions that I have personally found to be very useful.
1. Decide What You Want to Accomplish
It's important to ask yourself why you're doing yoga in the first place. Or why do you even want to get better at it? Do you have a painful back? Perhaps you just want to be more flexible? Your goals should be reasonable and yet motivate you.
My main goal in yoga has always been to spend more time with myself. To feel my body and get more control over it. Yoga has helped me with my mental health in that sense. But, I'm still not there but surely I'll get there. Thus, just ask yourself why you're doing yoga in the first place.
2. Stretch and Exercise
While stretching will help you with most yoga poses, doing exercises to strengthen muscles is very useful too. I've actually written a whole post on yoga poses for flexibility. Here are some of the poses you might want to consider trying to gain more flexibility:
Poses that are especially useful if you suffer from back pain - Cobra, Upward-Facing Dog, Bow Pose.
Start with Cobra, Upward-Facing Dog poses and progressing to Bow Pose.
Some of the poses for you hamstrings - forward fold, half split, head-to-knee forward bend.
Forward folds are also very good for your back. If you generally like to do some exercises for abs, always begin with forward folds to stretch the back and avoid injuries. Your hamstrings will be happy too!
Here are some of the most common questions when it comes to stretching that you might have too.
How Often Should You Stretch?
If yoga is truly something you want to get better at fast – stretch every day. Otherwise, 3-4 times a week works. If you’re exercising on the side, stretch after each workout to avoid muscle pain caused by lactic acid build-up. Stretching simply helps to release it (source).
How Long Should You Hold a Stretch?
That’s a very common question that I ever had in the beginning. I don’t think it’s very easy to answer either. However, when it comes to stretching, make sure you’re actually holding it for at least 25-30 seconds. Bouncing while stretching isn’t useful. The key is to really hold that stretch. Increase the time as you progress. It might be a good idea to note these numbers down to see how much you’ve improved.
How Far Should You Stretch?
Stretching should feel fairly comfortable. If you’re in a lot of pain, you’re probably going too far. Don’t get me wrong, you should feel some tension but it should never get to the level where it’s very uncomfortable.
3. Track Progress
Next time you’re doing a yoga pose, ask someone to take a picture. Repeat that after a month. If you want to stay motivated and feel proud of yourself, you need to see where you have come. I think sometimes we get lost in the progress, and can no longer see the improvements. It’s important to look back. At the end of the day, seeing how you have got better even at an easy pose is rewarding.
4. Do It While Watching TV
While yoga is all about being present and feeling the control over your body, doing a few stretches here and there can get boring. Sometimes I like to turn my favorite series on and do a few stretches. That somehow helps to hold a stretch for longer too. It most definitely has something to do with the fact that my mind is somewhere else. I think that helps with overall physical improvement. However, it doesn’t mean that yoga is just about that.
5. Be Present
At the end of the day, yoga is not only for your body but for your soul too. It has a spiritual quality to it. Yoga is not only about getting the pose right, it’s about the harmony that you can achieve with it. It’s about focusing on your breath, clearing your mind and flowing with your body. While it’s certainly good to be motivated and want to improve, the very reason why we do yoga is not only for getting advanced at it. We do it to clear our minds and stay present for a moment. Don’t forget that! Next time you’re doing your 20-minute morning yoga workout, focus on your breathing and balance.
6. Don't Overdo It
If your goal is to do a one-handed tree pose or handstand scorpion or any other crazy yoga pose, you have to be extra careful. The practice of yoga causes injuries, especially for elderly. While we might get lost in our goals and needs, it’s important to not push yourself too hard. Yoga is not a sport. But, just like sports, it can cause injuries. My personal suggestion – if you want to become advanced, get some professional help. Having someone by your side can protect you from injuring yourself.
I hope these tips will help you with getting better at yoga. At the end of the day, you need to remember that it takes time. Practicing probably helps the most. It might also help to join a class to meet other yoga lovers and boost your motivation. It’s much easier to achieve your goals if you have friends who have similar ones. Other than that, please comment below if you have any other suggestions on how to get better at yoga! I’d love to hear them!