READ ME: 5 yoga hacks to create a great practice
This week we’re delighted to invite onto the blog Heidi Benham from The Form - a carbon-negative fitness brand based in England aiming to make sustainable thinking the standard to share her yoga hacks with us.
Summer is fast approaching and whether you’ve booked a retreat, a summer holiday with your family or even planned out your perfect ‘staycation’ you can enhance those summer months with a yoga practice that will leave you feeling, refreshed and full of energy.
Yoga is a great way to stay grounded, taking a holistic approach to your health and wellbeing by considering both your mental and physical health.
Whether you’re new to yoga or a seasoned pro, follow these 5 top tips that give you a little support in some of the key aspects of yoga: balance, focus, flexibility, breath and strength.
1. Mastering Balance
As with many things in life, a calm mind can help you to focus on what is required to balance. We recommend spending 10 minutes meditating before your practice begins: try it and see what a difference it can make.
Once you start your yoga practice, focus on being mindful of these 3 things:
Breathing: breathe deeply and steadily throughout the practice focusing on the sensations of each breath;
Focus: set your gaze on a fixed point in the room; retaining a soft focus on a point can help act as an anchor to steady yourself from. If your mat has a Form Grid, try focusing on an intersection of 2 or more lines;
Focus on your head position: the inner ear is key for balance so focus which way ‘feels’ like up or down. By being more in-tune to these signals, the easier we find it to maintain balance.
2. Finding Focus
Perhaps the easiest and the most practical way to achieve focus is by concentrating on your breathing.
As you breathe in and out, notice how it affects your body, the sensations it creates, the rise and fall of your chest or stomach and the feeling of the air on your upper lip or the end of your nose.
Try counting as you breathe and see how far you can count before your mind wanders. A quick exercise to try is to count your breath in for 4 counts, hold for 7 counts and breathe out for 8 counts. This technique can be utilised throughout your day and can lower your heart rate and reduce anxiety.
3. Improving Flexibility
No matter how flexible you are, there’s always room for improvement. Improved flexibility brings with it a host of benefits to both your health and yoga practice, including:
Protection from injury;
Reduced pain, including back pain;
Greater range of movement;
Decreased muscle soreness after workout allowing you to get back on the mat and in the gym quicker;
Improved circulation, helping nutrients and oxygen get round the body;
Reduced stress and promotion of relaxation
Stretching before and after your workouts is one of the most important approaches to improve flexibility. Set aside 5 minutes before and after any exercise, stretching all muscles, no matter the focus area of your workout. Be sure to warm up the body before you start to increase the movement of the muscles.
4. Breathing Deeply
Breathing is something we all do naturally, we do it on autopilot, but when we are mindful of our breathing we can use it to make our lives a whole lot better. It is something that yogis have known all along and has now been confirmed through scientific research, mindful breathing is one of the most beneficial and effective methods you can use to lower stress levels, improve metabolism, mood and reduce anxiety.
Mindful breathing simply means being aware and paying attention to your breath and understanding how you can manipulate it to your advantage.
When your breathing changes, this tells you that something is happening in the mind or body. Either you are becoming more calm as your breath slows and deepens; or more stressed as your breath becomes more rapid.
Focus on how fast and deep your breath is; it will help you to stay present and fully engaged in your yoga practice, taking in every movement and experience.
5. Building Strength
Good muscle strength can supercharge your yoga practice, providing a huge number of benefits such as enabling you to hold those tricky poses with better form and for longer.
Look to switch up your exercise routine on a regular basis: a good yoga teacher will take you through a programme that works different parts of your body in different ways each week. If you do additional weights or cardio, hit your muscles in different ways each week and try alternating between HIIT and LISS cardio.
For more top tips on how to enhance your yoga practice, then take advantage of our free yoga hacks e-book, available now at: theform.co.uk