Boost Your Yoga Practice: Yogis Share Their Best Tips
Looking to improve your yoga practice? Experts share their advice on yoga for beginners
1. Strengthen your wrists, even when you’re not doing yoga
Yoga can improve joint strength, especially in the wrists. Working on your wrist strength between practices can help maintain that strength and improve upon it.
Yoga for beginners tip: Warm up the joint with a few wrist rolls (hands in fists, roll inward and outward, and flex them frontward and backward) and practice a few key yoga moves between classes. “Planks and down dog poses will improve wrist strength,” says yoga expert Beth Shaw, founder and president of YogaFit. Do these a few times throughout the week and you’ll notice an improvement in your yoga class. The good thing about these exercises is that they don’t require a lot of space or time. Do them at home before bed or first thing in the morning after you wake up.
2. Wear yoga-specific clothes
Appropriate tops and bottoms are worth the investment for yourself.
“I like to wear clothes that make me look and feel good,” admits Waka Yogi, creator of Yoga Body Secret. She likes HPE and Beyond Yoga brands.
Lolë White Tour ambassador and yoga teacher, Grace Dubery admits to being discerning when choosing yoga wear. And that has led her to this fashion formula: full-length leggings and plain spaghetti strap tanks (no racer-backs). “My practice clothes have to be simple and need to be able to endure wear and tear. My go to pieces are Lolë’s Salutation Leggings and their Delicate Tank Top.”
And because you’re on your back and tummy throughout different poses, leave the complicated sports bras in the drawer. You don’t want bra hooks, multiple straps and rough seams digging in into your skin. And while you might think a baggy shirt is more flattering than a tight tank top, Dempsey Marks, certified fitness trainer, yoga instructor and author of PreGame Fit, disagrees: “I don’t like the way loose clothing hangs and gets caught on my limbs during practice.”
3. Eat light before class
All of the yogis we spoke with came back with a resounding “eat light” response when we asked if they had a meal before they practiced yoga. A belly full of food can make you very uncomfortable during various posture twists. Give yourself an hour or two to let the food digest before you head to class. Here is a list of what our favourite yogis love to eat before yoga (and check out our favourite yoga snack ideas):
• Two poached eggs on a slice of tomato, a glass of water, and a bok choy-banana-blueberry-lemon smoothie – Waka Yogi, creator of Yoga Body Secret
• A vegan protein smoothie or a Power Bar – Dashama, CEO and founder of Pranashama Yoga Institute and creator of 30-Day Yoga Challenge
• Green powders, like PaleoGreens, mixed with water – Tiffany Cruikshank, L.AC, MAOM, E-RYT, founder of Yoga Medicine
4. Drink flavoured water
We all know we need to drink more water, and it’s also good for the muscles, too. But yogis do it right by making their H20 tastier than regular old tap water. If it tastes good, you’ll naturally drink more.
• Dashama adds frozen berries or cucumber, but also recommends tea.
• Dubery likes it kept at room temperature with a bit of lemon or mint. Sometimes she’ll throw in a spoonful of chia seeds, honey or stevia.
• Marks opts for sips of coconut water.
5. Shut your mind off
Easier said than done, right? Well, we’ve got your back. Here are three ways to stop your mind from stressing and wandering:
• Slow down everything, including your breath and your body, and listen to the music, says Dubery of how she becomes more in the present for yoga. “There are times when I walk away absolutely exhilarated and with a sense of ecstasy following a practice.”
• Forget about the “idea of yoga,” says Marks. “When I first started practicing, I thought yoga was all about cool poses, looking athletic and being flexible. After I started practicing [regularly] was I able to recognize the mental benefits of yoga for my whole being and not just my body.” It’s not a competition, she adds. “I concentrate on letting go of all self-judgment and self-criticism.”
• Think about your core muscles, says Cruikshank. Moving with ease from pose to pose and breathing with purpose and on cue comes from a deep awareness of these stabilizing muscles.
6. Have a yoga ritual
If you head out the studio with your mat under your arm and a Starbucks in your hand, you might be derailing the benefits you get from yoga. Skip the caffeine and create a new routine. For example:
• “I take a hot shower and wear a light essential oil before practice and I drink a hot green tea after practice” says Shaw.
• “Afterwards I love to meditate and visualize expansion of heart and mind, as well as integrate the practice with savasana,” says Dashama.
• “I always meditate in the morning, then I usually practice an hour or so after,” says Cruikshank. “Meditation prepares my mind for the day and my body takes a little bit to catch up. I’ve learned to appreciate my time on the mat and to use it to hopefully make me a more productive and a more compassionate person off my mat both to others and to myself.”
7. Study the pose names
If you want that a-ha moment of instinctually going from one pose to the other, without having to wait for the step-by-step directions from your yoga instructor, learn the pose names. “When I was first learning yoga, it was confusing for me to hear pose names in two languages – in English and in Sanskrit,” says Dashama. Although the instructions will help you keep your pace, knowing what’s coming next is always a big help.