10 Things to Stop Doing to Yourself in your Yoga Class

I recently saw this wonderful article by Ann Pizer (About.com Guide) and thought it too good not to share.

Some of yoga’s best lessons are not about how to get all pretzeled up, but more about how to establish beneficial behaviours that will carry over into your life off the mat. Take a look at this list of 10 things to stop doing to yourself in yoga class and see if any of them sound a little too familiar.

1. Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

It can be hard to stay focused on your own practice without comparing yourself to the people around you, but that’s exactly what you should try to do. It really does not matter what anyone else can do, so stop feeling bad about the people who seem to be more advanced than you. Likewise, don’t let yourself get too excited if your poses seem “better” than a fellow student’s. We are all on our own paths here. Staying true to yours will keep your ego from getting involved and also reduce the likelihood that you’ll get hurt trying to keep up with the person next to you.

2. Stop Comparing Yourself to Yourself

Tricky, right? Thinking about what you can do right now compared to your expectations or your past performance can be just as troublesome, and possibly injurious, as competing with the person next to you. Each day offers us a different body, so don’t worry about that awesome pose you were able to do last week but seems elusive now. It’s all just experience, so labelling it as good or bad is a habit worth breaking.

3. Stop Being a Creature of Habit

Speaking of breaking habits, do you always put your mat in the exact same spot? Challenge yourself to try different places around the room, or even try a new class or studio if you’re feeling like you’re in a rut. Changing your physical perspective can help you change your mental perspective too. If you are in the habit of inwardly groaning when your teachers calls for ab work or parivrtta ardha chandrasana (speaking from experience here), see if you can change your ways there too.

4. Stop Listening to the Teacher

OK, you should listen to the teacher most of the time, but don’t forget who’s really in charge here: you. If your teacher instructs a pose with which you don’t feel comfortable, if it causes you pain or aggravates an injury, don’t do it. No one is inside your body but you, so you’re the one calling the shots. And if a teacher gives you a hard time about it, find a new teacher.

5. Stop Being Nervous About Speaking Up

If it’s your first yoga class, you have an injury, you are pregnant (congrats!), you are scared of handstands, speak up! Some teachers will go around the room asking everyone how they are at the beginning of class, others may not, but part of taking charge of your yoga experience is making sure your teachers have all the information they need to safely lead you. If it’s a private matter, tell them one-on-one before class. Likewise, many teachers invite students to stay and ask questions after class. Take advantage of this! Most teachers are thrilled to help you delve into your alignment or brush up your Sanskrit.

6. Stop Leaving Early

There may occasionally be times when you have to leave class early, but let’s not make a habit out of it. Yes, we are all busy people with places to go and people to see, but most of the time all that can wait an extra 10 minutes while you take savasana. Leaving early on a regular basis is not only rude, but robs you of your reward for all that hard work: a few minutes in your day to just do nothing. Also, you don’t want to end up on the pet peeves list, do you?

7. Stop Getting Ahead of Yourself

Speaking of pet peeves, here’s one of mine. The teacher is instructing a pose in which each successive variation builds upon the one before it. Though the teacher clearly states you should not continue to move forward through the variations until you can comfortably hold the previous step, half the class continues to move in forward in some kind of approximation of the pose, bringing them into greater risk for injury. I know I said not to listen to the teacher, but this is not one of those times! Listen to the teacher!

8. Stop Giving in to the Monkey Mind

What are you thinking about during yoga? Hopefully, you answered, “nothing.” One of the most positive things about doing yoga asana or meditation practice is that it gives us the change to take a little vacation from the constant nagging that is our thoughts, something that has nothing to do with your ability to do complicated physical manoeuvres. If you find yourself thinking a lot about the poses you can or can’t do, give yourself a break from that too.

9. Stop Pushing Through the Pain

“No pain, no gain” has no place in a yoga class. Pain comes in different flavours, and part of really getting to know your body is being able to differentiate between a muscular soreness kind of pain and something more serious. That ache in the belly during (and for several days after) the aforementioned ab work is the former, and the latter is to be avoided.

10. Stop Forgetting to Have Fun

There are so many things to take seriously in life, but your yoga practice doesn’t have to be one of them. I’m not suggesting that you goof off or take unnecessary risks, but that we do this thing with a light-hearted approach and a sense of fun. If you fall out of a pose, laugh it off. Take on that parivrtta ardha chandrasana with a smile on your face. It’s only yoga, after all.

My interview with Yoga Awakening Africa

YAA Interview: Nicci Annette

DECEMBER 1, 2011

1.       Name: Nicci Annette

2.       DOB: 3rd October 1973

3.       What style of yoga do you teach? I teach Hatha yoga in the Integral Vinyasa style.

4.       Where do you teach? At my studio in a beautiful leafy street in the centre of historic Stellenbosch.

5.       How long have you been practicing yoga? For almost fifteen years.

6.       How long have you been teaching yoga? I’ve taught informally friends and family for a number of years, but have been officially teaching since May this year.

7.       Who have you trained with and where? I attended an intensive Teachers’ Training Immersion course in Santa Monica in 2007 with Patti Quintero and Billy Asad, and after moving back to South Africa in 2008 and having my two beautiful children, I completed my 200 hours YTT with Anne and Martin Combrinck at Ananda Sanga in Somerset West earlier this year. I will have gained my certification for specialised prenatal yoga teachers’ training by the end of December, having just completed this course, once again with Anne Combrinck at Ananda Sanga.

8.       What lead you to teaching yoga and at what point did you decide that you wanted to teach? I have been inspired by a number of incredible teachers through the years and have been humbled by their wisdom, how much they could teach me, and what a difference they made to so many lives, on so many levels – physical, emotional, spiritual. I started toying with the idea of teaching when I lived in California, and it was after attending the Immersion Course with Billy and Patti that I knew for sure that this is what I wanted to do with my life.

9.       What do you love most about teaching? It’s hard to pick only one thing! I love being able to share my passion and to spread the word about how yoga can transform lives. But if I have to choose one thing, it would probably be the beautiful sense of peace and calm that fills the studio at the end of a class – the way that yoga has the ability to calm and restore even the most frazzled mind and body.

10.   What do you love most about yoga? I love the fact that it is such an ancient philosophy, yet is so relevant to modern life.

11.   What is the greatest challenge you have overcome with the help of yoga? I struggled for a long time to make peace with the idea of God, a greater force, the powers that be, call it what you will.  I was spiritual but didn’t want to label myself or put myself in a box. I felt uncomfortable with how judgemental orthodox religions could be. I felt confused as to what the ‘right’ answer was, and how to make sense of this niggling feeling that there must be more than the ‘here and now’, yet how it could possibly be just one answer or explanation when so many people believe such different things. Yoga gave me a way to understand that there is a spiritual unity behind all the diversities in the entire creation and that ultimately there is a way for all to live harmoniously as members of one universal family.

12.   What advice do you have for people who have never tried yoga? Take off your shoes, open your mind and just try it. It may be the best thing you ever do.

13.   Do you have a regular practice? With two very busy children under the age of 3, it’s sometimes a challenge to find a regular time, but I do my best to incorporate it into my daily life.

14.   Favourite Asana? Chakrasana

15.   Strongest Asana? Virabhadrasana II

16.   Least Favourite Asana? Padmasana

17.   What are your other interests? I’m an Infant Massage Instructor and the whole space of mums and babies is one of my great passions. I love reading, walking in the mountains, playing my guitar, spending time with my family and friends.

18.   Any thank yous? My wonderful husband who has supported me both practically and emotionally in following my dream of becoming a yoga teacher. My parents for selflessly offering me the space for my studio. And all the wise teachers who have gone before me and paved the way for me to continue my own journey.