6 Things Professional Yogis Always Do (That You Don't)
Whether you're well on your way to yogic enlightenment or only hit up the studio for an occasional stretch, yoga means many things to many people. As a fitness discipline it's unique in that it focuses on the mind as well as the body (amongst other things), but it does have something in common with, say, spin: the more you go, the better you get. Well... that's what's *supposed* to happen. The troubling truth is that if you're not being adequately coached as you learn, all that practice can actually promote and compound bad habits.
With this in mind we reached out to two of our favourite yogis for a crash course in the things professional yogis always do that beginners don't. Grab your mat (we can't go past these from Yoga Everywhere ($129)—they're printed with aerial photographs) and keep scrolling for your best practice yet.
"Yoga is all about the breath. Professional yogis bang on about breathing all the time. They practice deep breathing in every pose, every step of the way. This is the key to deepening and improving your practice across all facets i.e. balancing, strengthening, holding, flowing, or relaxing, but is often neglected by casual yogis."—Jacinta McDonell, founder of Urban Yoga
"Professional yogis know the key to balance is in engaging the help of all twenty digits by spreading your fingers and toes in (almost) every pose. In down dog, tree, crescent lunge, and arm balances, you've got to keep rooting down into your toes, and energising your fingertips. This will help spread your weight and balance across your whole hand or foot to ensure you're getting strength and length throughout the rest of your limb. Casual yogis are often more focused on the larger limbs and muscles, unaware that it all starts from the foundation."—McDonell
"Proper relaxation is as important as turning up for a yoga class. Never skip or flake out on getting some relaxation, rather indulge in it. Casual yogis might feel like they are being lazy, or not fully appreciate that without relaxation of the body, breath and mind in savasana ('corpse pose'), they miss out on the benefit that separates yoga and other exercise—conscious relaxation and self-reflection."—McDonell
"Your teacher may have told this is a 'resting pose', but the reality is a lot of muscles should be working here if you’re in the correct positioning. There’s more to this pose than just the shape! To really get the benefits, position the wrist creases parallel with the top of your mat, fingers spread wide at shoulder width apart. Try firming the outer arms in, move your shoulder blades down your back, and imagine creating length and space from your fingertips all the way to your sit bones, which are pointing to the ceiling. Your head is in line with your arms (not hanging loose) and thighs should be engaged, pressing to the back of the room. Finally, check that feet are hip-width distance apart and press the heels towards the floor as far as you can go. Don’t forget to breathe!"—Sally O'Neil, The Fit Foodie
"Yoga means 'union'. It’s a moving meditation that comes with poses and breath that are connected together to create a flow of energy through the body. Often I see people holding their breath or labouring in a complex pose. Linking your inhales and exhales to the movements will actually help you to take your poses further and relax into them. It also helps to quieten the mind and calm the sympathetic nervous system - your body’s natural fight or flight response. Next time you're in class, keep coming back to your breath and try to maintain this focus throughout until you hit Corpse Pose (Savasana). It surprising how much this will change your practice!"—O'Neil
"Yoga isn’t just about the asanas (poses) you learn in class. Yoga’s goal is to settle the waves of the mind into stillness, and encompasses not only the asanas, but the breath (pranayama) and meditation too. Try to carry the peacefulness this creates within your body and mind when you leave the studio—the more you practice, the easier this becomes. Remember to take deep breaths when you feel stressed or anxious, be kind, humble and grateful. Yoga is a journey, and you are exactly where you need to be right now. It’s not about comparison or who can get into the prettiest shapes for the perfect insta shot, it’s called yoga practice for a reason."—O'Neil
Do you have any other tips for yoga beginners? Share them with us in the comments below.