by Gina Tomaine: If you’re putting the time and effort into showing up for your yoga practice on a daily basis…
you want to make sure you’re not accidentally doing anything to sabotage all that goodness.
After all, there are countless little things many of us don’t even think about that can throw off an otherwise lovely, consistent yoga practice: say, rushing out of class to immediately grab a cocktail (or worse, go back to your stressful job), being too harsh and rigid with yourself about practicing certain poses every time, or being glued to your phone the moment you step out of class (guilty, sigh).
Here, we unpack common yoga missteps and how to sidestep them to develop your most beneficial, healing, consistent yoga practice.
Mistake No. 1: Being too rigid.
When it comes to yoga, you should be going with the flow. (Get it?) That means everything from your practice schedule to whether you take a Wheel Pose or a Supported Bridge. “It’s called a practice because it’s meant to have natural ebbs and flows,” says Los Angeles-based yoga instructor Alexis Novak. “If someone misses a day or is low energy and skips a few chaturangas, that is part of the practice. Sometimes I see yogis using their need to rest or even skip a day of yoga as another way to beat themselves up.”
Mistake No. 2: Not taking some time to revel in yoga’s after-glow.
You definitely don’t want to rush right back to the office (or to whatever your next task is) as soon as you finish Savasana. The whole purpose of yoga, after all, is to stretch the body in order to sit comfortably in meditation. “Rushing from one thing to the next without letting your practice sink in means you can’t really enjoy the benefits of the space you carved out during the session,” says Novak. “Another way people sabotage their yoga practice is by hopping on their phone immediately after they walk out of class,” says Jen Wendowski, owner of Yoga Habit in Philadelphia. “Give yourself a ten-minute rule (even 5 minutes!) of no technology right after class. Let all of the benefits of your class settle in for a bit before you jump right back into life. Your texts and emails will still be there.”
Mistake No. 3: Not valuing your rest days.
If you’re running all the time trying to squeeze in classes (or other workouts) just so you don’t miss a day, odds are you’re not practicing as mindfully as you could be—and that you’re also not comfortable with giving your practice a rest sometimes. Rest days are important! They let you collect yourself and relax, catch up on other errands and tasks that can distract you if they’re not done, and give your body a much-needed day off.
Mistake No. 4: Checking your wearable tech during class.
“Our lives are full of sounds, technology, conversation, distraction, and music, and some of these things are great,” says Wendowski. “But it’s healthy to take a break from all of this, too. When I see people in class and they are breathing, sweating, moving, and connecting with their body—and then all of the sudden their Apple watch lights up—game over. It can take them right out of their practice. All of that space they were creating in their mind can get filled up again.”
Mistake No. 5: Treating yoga like an obligation.
It’s OK to schedule your practice—we all lead busy lives, and sometimes you just need to reserve a space in class. But it shouldn’t feel like something you’re doing out of obligation—ever, says Wendowski. If you still feel that way at the end of class, maybe it’s time to take a step back and remember why you practice yoga in the first place, and what you’re trying to cultivate in your life.
Mistake No. 6: Not getting enough sleep.
When I hit my mat in the morning after a night of not enough sleep, I really do seem to hit it— like a heavy load of bricks,” says Cicilee Chapelle, a yoga instructor in Philadelphia. “It’s like I’m dragging my body through quicksand. This does not make for a good physical practice.”
Mistake No. 7: Over-hydrating or eating right before practice.
You want to eat healthfully and drink enough water—but you don’t want to go overboard or you’re going to struggle throughout your practice. “Having a belly full of liquid can get in the way during your yoga practice—literally, your distended belly could get in the way when you’re twisting and forward folding,” says Chapelle.
About the Author
Gina Tomaine is a Philadelphia-based writer and editor. She is currently Deputy Lifestyle Editor of Philadelphia magazine, and previously served as Associate Deputy Editor of Rodale’s Organic Life. Her work can be seen in Women’s Health, Runner’s World, Prevention and elsewhere. Learn more at ginatomaine.com.