Below some ideas around the practice. Hope these support and channel your efforts on the yoga mat.
Work with the breath, not in spite of it.
The heart, the juice of the Ashtanga yoga practice, is in the breath. Everything revolves around it. As such, it makes sense for a committed practitioner to spend some time in understanding what the breath is about.
Just thinking of breathing is not enough. Being subtle as it is, the workings of the breath are rather elusive. Nevertheless, deepening one’s understanding makes a big difference when it comes to exploring the mind, the body and the practice itself.
So see if you can put some time into understanding when you inhale and when you inhale, why certain moves are better done on the inhale, while others are performed on the exhale. Led classes are a good first approach to this.
Taking things further, becoming familiar with the internal, subtle movements of the inhale and of the exhale will open up a world of exploration and depth. There is a reason for the Vinyasa (breath and movement linked together), and that is the wealth of the practice.
Even though extremely valuable, this type of instruction is surprisingly hard to find.
In particular, I have come to find Richard Freeman’s instruction life-changing and full of substance. Also, Santina Giardina-Chard’s competence and insight won’t leave you indifferent. She will be visiting the school in May, which I highly recommend if you wish to keep growing in your understanding of the practice.
Sometimes I see people stretching before practice. There is really no need. The Sun Salutations are our way to get in touch with the body. Do the first few ones in a slower fashion, shanti shanti. Then pick up the pace.
Also, if you slow down on the first Sun Salutations, you are giving yourself the opportunity to explore the essence of the practice. Everything you need is in the Sun Salutations. Rushing through them and then repeating the posture you are stuck in a million times is not the most efficient approach, even if common.
Less is More
It is nice to get in touch with the body. Also, sometimes we need to spend some extra time in preparing those postures that require a bit more from us. However, try to avoid over preparing and cutting the natural flow of the practice. Limit distractions, such as holding on to the use of props or to those little tricks that you learnt as a beginner but that probably aren’t needed anymore.
Be intentional in your ways. Be meaningful. Choose Quality over Quantity.
Keep it Light!
Do not take yourself too seriously. Do not take the practice too seriously. Keep the discipline and the daily commitment, but loosen up a bit, or else you’ll lose the Joy, the Spark, the Freshness that will get you coming back to the mat!
Enjoy each practice, appreciate it, savor it. Let go of the habit of judging how “good” it is was based on what you could or couldn’t do. Expand. Evolve from a merely athletic approach into something more meaningful. This practice is a Tool for Life. Love it and cherish it. It will ask a lot from you, but it will give you so much more in return.
And remember, it is in the relationship with ourselves where the Wholeness that we seek is to be found. Once we understand this, deep transformation is possible.
Happy Holidays :)