My favorite thing about yoga is that it will always be a practice. Just that: a practice.
I'll never perfect yoga. I'll never know everything. I'll never be able to do everything. I'll never stop being curious, or stop trying, or stop creating or stop doing yoga. It's a practice, and that is all.
I love that.
I've had a lot of people ask me questions about how to develop their physical practice so that they can access the fun arm balances and more advanced postures and things like that.
While there's no set recipe for developing your own practice, mine went something like this:
1. I started practicing regularly. And by regularly, I mean like.... 5-7+ times a week. What's that? Sometimes I practiced more than 7x a week? You can blame the amazing GoYoga for that... during their monthly or summer-long challenges, I'd go nuts and double up classes some days... (hashtag type A) ... I know, I'm a sick freak (don't worry, there were deep stretches balanced in with power classes -- in fact, check out Amy K's Deep Stretch Tuesday/Thursday nights and Hope's on Sunday nights). But really, having a consistent, daily (or almost daily) practice is where it all begins.
It begins with a commitment and a dedication to the practice, and to showing up consistently.
2. I got my geek on. When living in NYC the summer of 2012, a wonderful yoga instructor named Amber at Crunch Gym taught me my first arm balance beyond crow pose: eka pada koundinyasana II. That's where I really got hooked. From there my curiosity started spinning: what other poses could I get into? How do I build strength and flexibility to make them happen? That's when I started googling and YouTubing. The cool thing these days is that sites like Yoga Journal online, Yoga International, YogaGlo and Cody App make it super easy to access some pretty awesome yoga... which leads to my next step...
3. I developed a home practice. During public classes, I rarely got a chance to play in things like arm balances - for the typical class, it's often beyond the scope of the class description (unless you go to a class taught by Melissa P, she's a master at building classes that build up to an apex pose). That meant I just had to figure shit out on my own. So after getting my geek on and researching stuff, I started playing on my mat at home. A lot. And I'd set yoga pose goals and have some fun. And I'd fall... often. But I'd always keep trying.
4. WORKSHOPS AND SERIES CLASSES. YES PLEASE AND THANK YOU. Workshops, and even better... a series class... is where the true magic happens in terms of learning how to access postures in a safe and powerful way. See, when you only go to group classes, the teacher rarely has the time to truly adjust and give you feedback... after all, he/she has a classroom full of bodies to keep moving, and often quickly so!
Workshops offer the opportunity for you to go to a class specifically geared towards a technique you want to become better at or learn more about. Workshops allow you to dive deep, and often get more personalized attention or time to ask questions and really explore.
Series classes are REALLY the tits, because they're like a workshop on crack. Workshops are AMAZING, but you can only learn and gain so much in one class... series classes are basically just extended workshops. Week after week you get to return to the same class with the same people and the same teacher with the same topic. You get to learn more and grow your practice in a whole new way.
Lucky for us in Columbus, OH, we have a truly incredible yoga community that includes tons of awesome classes, workshops, and series.
Specifically, I've been to some fantastic workshops at GoYoga. They're constantly bringing in some really accomplished (and even "instafamous" lolz) yogis. Last year I went to an inversions workshop with Patrick Beach and Carling Harps... and you better believe I've already reserved my spot for his April 29th workshop this year. I also got to practice with the inspiring Bryan Kest, who is known as the founder of Power Yoga. Then they have workshops taught by their own fabulous staff. My girl Amy K recently taught a handstand workshop that I only missed because I had yoga teacher training (drat!). Michelle B, another baller, gave me tips in one of her workshops that have forever strengthened my headstand and forearm stand, too. This summer my sister and I have already scheduled her birthday weekend: a Kino MacGregor workshop at Yoga on High (SCORE), another studio that is constantly brining the best of the yoga world to our corner of Columbus.
Speaking of Yoga on High, perhaps one of the greatest things about that studio (and there are MANY, like their million fantastic workshops) is that they offer an ABUNDANCE of series classes on the regular. If you're a beginner, the BEST way to start your practice is with a beginner's series. This will allow you the tools and knowledge to build a strong and safe foundation, so that you don't end up practicing a misaligned chatauranga for years that will likely end up shredding your shoulders (ouch).
And for the more advanced yogi.... let me GEEK OUT TO YOU ON LARA FALBERG for a quick second. So way back last year, my yoga/cycle soul sister, Kati (also another rockin Cbus yoga instructor, check her out at GoYoga), told me about this badass yoga chick who teaches at Balanced and YoHi. She was all, 'oh my gosh Julie, you need to take her series class with me.' And I was all, 'well ok then, let's call it a yoga date!'
So we did.
We signed up for Lara's Advanced Vinyasa Series that met for six weeks.
AH-MAZING. I mean seriously, six weeks of pure magic.
Lara is a genius. She even has her own super cool new website: www.iworkbarefoot.com that every yogi should check out.
Her sequences are truly beautiful and intelligent and unpredictable. Her intentions for class and cueing gives you those chill-bump moments, and her humor keeps everything real. Lara is one of those teachers I look to and think, damn, if I could be even a fraction like her... I'll be psyched. Did I mention she's also humble and sweet as can be? Yeah. She is. She really rocks.
The beauty of her class lies in the little adjustments. She gave me so many little golden nuggets to incorporate into my practice that totally changed the way I moved. She gave me pointers about transitions and my lunges and warriors that no teacher had ever given to me before. She made all these minor adjustments that made major impact. That's what the advanced practice is often about: fine tuning. Getting into the details, making small changes here, engaging that muscle there, tilting the pelvic floor like so. Lara's class does all of that. And the best part was, I got to keep going back and learning more every week for six weeks. Not one workshop... SIX.
And she teaches this series all the time. In fact I've already signed up for her next series that starts May 9!
So if you're looking to grow the physical part of your yoga practice, simply decide you want to do it. Get dedicated. Get curious. Explore all that this city has to offer and go workshop/series crazy ... and have a shit ton of fun.
Namaste, yall ;)