I have blown my own mind on the Yoga mat on more than several occasions. Thanks to years of practice I have confidence in my ability to perform the postures, so now I get to focus on really cool stuff like elevating my frequency and altering my consciousness through Yoga Asanas (postures), Pranayama (breathing) and meditation.
Don't worry if you are still a beginner, this list is still applicable to you, but it also gives you a little glimpse of what is to come if you stick with your practice!
1. Tap in to the Power of Your Breath
It is not enough just to say you should breath smoothly and continuously. It is so much more than just doing it. If you really want to have a mind-blowing, totally amaze-balls, Yoga experience you have to really feel it, man.
How do you do this? Well, paying attention to what the breath is doing is a great place to start. When your mind starts to wander on your Yoga mat that's a sure sign that you need to really tune in to what's going on in the present moment, and the breath is always only happening here and now.
The next time you sit down to your practice, try this awesome breathing meditation from Yogi Bhajan:
(Inhale deeply and hold the breath.) "Oh my breath, give me life, give me strength, give me peace. Delightfully enlighten me." (Let the breath go.) (Inhale deeply again and hold.) Oh my breath, give me love, give me the sight to feel all in me, within me, and around me. Give me the power not to hate, but to love and love alone. (Let it go.) (Inhale deeply and hold.) Oh my love breath, my sweet breath, oh my breath of my life, my friend, my guardian, my sensitivity, give me peace of mind, healthy, happy, and holy. Make me bountiful, beautiful, and bright. Bless me." (Let it go.)
2. Don't Force It, Use the Force
I have been known to tell kids (and adults who I think are playful enough to respond with a smile) that Yoga is like Jedi training. Why not? The Yogi's aim is to unite with something greater than the senses offer us. We are striving for enlightenment, total spiritual union with the cosmic energy that creates and sustains all life in the Universe, and we are strong, flexible and balanced. I mean...how are we NOT like Jedis-in-training?
So many people complain about Yoga being hard or painful as if that's a reason to avoid the practice altogether. Yes, it's true, sometimes Yoga is really, really uncomfortable, challenging, awkward and weird. That's because we feel vulnerable when we are in our growth zone. Your comfort zone is where you feel safe, but if you stay there it eventually becomes a place of stagnation.
It may feel like you are forcing yourself into it at first, but once you master your first challenging posture (like Downward Facing Dog or Plank Pose) things really start to click. You unlock more strength and energy than you previously thought you had in you. You start to explore your limits and slowly but surely push beyond them until one day you realize you are a completely different person than you were only a few short months ago.
The "force" I am talking about is your own connection to Source Energy. When you learn how to tap into it and how to stop draining energy from other people it's the most amazing, beautiful and empowering thing. If you aren't aware of your control dramas yet, I suggest you learn about them, because drawing energy from Source is so, SO much better.
3. Honor Where You Are
This is a really important part of having a truly incredible Yoga experience. This means letting go of your Egoic ideas about where you should be or how you should feel in a particular posture.
Work gently and thoughtfully. Ease into it they way you might get into a nice hot bath. If you jump in to fast you'll get burned, but if you take your time and breathe consciously through it, you can sink right in and let all the warm goodness surround you and wash away your tension.
Respect your body's abilities and limitations. Not everyone can put their heals down in Downward Facing Dog or put their foot on the back of their head in Dancer Pose (as if!). Honor where YOU are. That means showing yourself kindness, love, gentleness and understanding.
Your body is the temple of your soul. You should love both equally and give them the respect they deserve. The fact that you exist is a freaking MIRACLE and it should not be disregarded as anything lesser. Your Yoga practice should reflect your desire to get in touch with your soul and honor the body it dwells in.
4. Find Your Flow
There are lots of things I do to help me find my flow. One, is setting an intention before I practice to do just that. Setting an intention is like choosing a destination before you start driving your car somewhere. It helps you navigate and choose a course if you know where you want to end up!
I set an intention before every practice. In the morning it's simple, I want to wake my body up and get my energy moving so I can start my day from my center. Sometimes my intention is more specific: "I will release the tension I am holding in my shoulders."
Music is another great way to get into a flow. Find an artist that really speaks to your soul and is easy for you to loosen up with. I love the song Hayling by FC Kahuna. I practice moving meditation to this song using Sun Salutations and the Dancing Warrior sequence. It's a totally TRIP, dude. If you know how to do these flows and have a good sound system it will take you to another level of consciousness.
I also use essential oils, breathing meditation (Pranayama) and Reiki to help me find my flow. Finding your flow is a personal experience, and it takes time to understand what that really means. Once you find it though...well, you'll want to go back again and again, because nothing feels shitty when you are in that groove, baby.
5. Remember to Rest When You're Done
Conscious relaxation is an important aspect of Yoga. You can't just do some Tree Pose and expect everything to be hunk dory all of the sudden. A decent practice takes at least 30 - 90 minutes. Time to warm up, stretch, relax and meditate. The final relaxation is really important and should not be skipped.
There are quite a few physical benefits to conscious relaxation. It lowers blood pressure, aids digestion, and allows the body to restore homeostasis after the exercises (or your busy, messy day). But let's get real, we aren't just hoping for a few physical benefits, we want to have our MINDS BLOWN!
The resting part of the practice is time to turn on the receptive part of your consciousness. It's like download time for your higher self, and also play time for your imagination. This is your chance to really surrender all the bullshit and let go of what's bothering you and just BE for a few minutes.
During Savasana, which is usually the last pose taught in a Yoga class, I have heard reports from students who say they have had out-of-body experiences, visions, and deep, almost sleep-like rest. It's beautiful! So, please don't cheat yourself out of this experience!