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Saturday, June 4, 2016

Tip of the Week: Mental Tricks to Push Yourself in Class

1 Practice Mindfulness

It is easy to become daunted when you start feeling tired or stiff at the beginning of class and know you have 90 minutes to complete. Try practicing mindfulness by focusing on the posture at hand without thinking of the rest of the postures you know are coming. Be present to the body, aware of the breath, and non-judgmental about the asanas, the mind chatter, the instructor's voice... 

2 Have a reason for practicing yoga other than wanting to look good. 

Sure, having a great looking body is a nice side effect of Bikram Yoga, but for a lot people, “wanting to look hot” isn’t something that they’re actually emotionally connected to. For many people struggling with poor body image, thinking about how good they are trying to look can bring up negative thoughts that actually stop them in their tracks when trying to push themselves harder. Try focusing instead on reasons for exercising that genuinely make you feel good about yourself, like wanting to get stronger or to test your own limits. This is the kind of thinking that will help you power through when your muscles are shaking and you’re pretty sure you can feel your heart in your esophagus.

3 Find a mantra.

Having a mantra of some kind will keep you focused … and keep you going in the toughest stretches of a posture. It will also help keep your mind occupied and away from thoughts that will slow you down: “Is this over yet?” “I’m so stiff.”
Start mentally saying some short, rhythmic phrases to yourself until you have a few that work for you. You don’t have to tell anyone what they are, or even that you’re using them. Some ideas are: "I am present". "I am strong". "Lock the knee". "A tight muscle is a light muscle". For more on mantras, read "Tip of the Week: Yoga Mantras".

4 Set your intention for something specific in class

It’s fine and good to say you’re going to work really hard in class today, but the reality is that working hard is, well, hard. It’s only natural that, as soon as you hit that first wall, you’ll decide that you’ve done enough and then want to lay down on your mat for the rest of class. Setting your intention at the beginning of class for something specific to work on such as breathing only through your nose, keeping your knee locked in the balancing postures, or pushing your hips forward in camel pose will help to keep a goal in mind to push you when you otherwise would want to give up. For  more on setting your intention, read "Tip of the Week: Set Your Intention".

5 Find something specific you like about the sensations you're experiencing.

This may come as a shock, but nobody is actually making you do Bikram Yoga. You’re doing this because on some level, you enjoy it. Remember that. Consider what you “like” about a hard, sweaty practice. Try to appreciate the sensation of shaking muscles during Awkward Pose, knowing this will cause your muscles to grow stronger. Enjoy the way your muscles feel when they are stretching to their maximum edge in Head to Knee and Stretching Pose rather than thinking of it as "stiffness and pain". Maybe this is the one time in your day when you’ll be away from your computer, kids, and all the craziness in your cluttered mind, and you enjoy the feeling of a calm and emptied mind during savasana. Think of how good you feel after you've "sweat it all out" for 90 minutes in a hot room.

6 Feel grateful for your practice.

It’s easy to forget, when you’re exhausted after class, that practicing yoga is a privilege. Some people have physical limitations that keep them from being able to move and stretch their body the way you can. Some people aren't able to stand or walk, let alone balance on leg. You are so lucky you get to hold Locust Pose for so long and get to do Roxanne's 2 minute Camel Challenge!

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