Most yoga classes last an hour and include people from many walks of life, all with different abilities and backgrounds. This makes it challenging for the teacher to ensure everyone is able to follow and for the students to keep up without compromising on the quality of their practice. The teachers should, of course, be on hand to guide the students through the sequence but it’s not likely that they’ll get to cover every relevant alignment cue, breathing technique and modification in such a short amount of time. Thankfully, however, there are several universal principles we could utilize to ensure that we get the most out of our mat each time we practice.
Individual Differences It may be a led group class but it’s still a personal practice. Follow the rhythm of your own body and take a rest (in childs pose, for example) whenever you need one. Feel free to take lighter (or advanced) variations when it feels appropriate and you are confident in your technique.
Awareness Yoga is an internal practice and it will help immensely if you keep your awareness within: gaze fixed on single static point and the mind focused on breath throughout the poses without looking around too much. I’ve noticed a huge difference in how I feel after class if my practice was a little more distracted in comparison to previously keeping focus.
Mindfulness Dissolve expectations and continually use your intuition (rather than listening to the ego) to determine how far, if at all, you should be pushing yourself. Be aware that there may be differences between the two sides of the body and what worked for you previously, may not do so in the current moment. Take your time with transitions and aim to keep the movement graceful, rather than rushed, all throughout the lesson.
Breath Utilize your breath. Aim to keep it controlled, slow and full; deeper breathing will result in greater release of carbon dioxide and pollutants such as dust and chemicals that may be stuck in the respiratory track. It is also calming for the nervous system and a good indicator for determining whether a pose is right for you or not. If you are struggling to breathe freely, chances are you’ve maybe gone a little too far; there should be steadiness and ease in every movement made.
Muscular Control Engage your muscles to safely support your practice and build up their strength. Keep the contraction of the pelvic floor & lower abdomen all throughout the class (or when you can remember) as that means you are continually strengthening them. Engaging core muscles will also make it easier to hold more challenging poses such as high plank or headstand while protecting the lower back from injury.
Have an amazing class!