You do your sun salutations. You breathe deeply. You try to clear your thoughts and feel the burn in your legs as you deepen your lunge in warrior I. But are you really getting the most out of your yoga practice, both physically and mentally? In honor of National Yoga Month, celebrity yoga instructor and CoachClub.com resident trainer Kristin McGee—who's trained Tina Fey, Bethenny Frankel, LeAnn Rimes Cibrian, and others—offers five tips to help you get the results you want.
1. Know the basics. To get the most from each yoga pose, you need to do them properly. Whether that's by getting extra attention in class or watching a yoga DVD, pay attention to your form and the positioning of your body. This will help you avoid injury and boost results. If you're not sure where to start, CoachClub.com, which has free membership through mid-September, offers McGee's “technical module” pose gallery to get your form down pat.
2. Breathe like Darth Vadar. Embrace your inner Star Wars geek! Proper breathing can help you not only tone your body, but also develop your mental focus, release negative energy, and reduce stress. "In yoga we breathe in and out through the nose," McGee says. "I often tell my students to imagine they are holding a seashell up to their ear and to let their breathing sound like the ocean waves. It is very calming, soothing, and meditative. We call the breath Ujayii, and you can also imagine you're trying to sound like Darth Vader when you breathe!"
3. Create a space. A comfortable environment will help you strengthen your mind, body, and spirit, as well as deepen your sense of well-being, McGee says. All you need is a yoga mat, enough room to move, and some accessories! "It's also nice to have yoga blocks and a strap, especially if your muscles are tight or you are a beginner," she says. "If you want to get a meditation cushion or pillow as well, you can. You can also play soothing music if you like, light candles, or do anything else that helps you step into a zen yoga zone and leave the outer world behind for an hour or so."
4. Progress though the poses. If you regularly do yoga, you may be tempted to skip the basic poses and go straight into the more advanced ones. But not so fast, McGee says. Some of the simpler moves help you warm up and open your body for more challenging moves. She suggests doing cat/cow, which is a great way to start linking the breath to the movement and to open the spine. Then you can progress to downward facing dog and upward facing dog and standing poses such as tree, triangle, and the warriors, she recommends.
5. Don't compare yourself to others. Yoga isn't about being the best in the room. It's about being your best, including becoming your own best friend, McGee says. "Have fun and be open to constantly growing," she says. "Yoga isn't a result-oriented practice; it's a lifelong practice that you'll benefit from every time you do it. Try not to compare yourself to anyone else or judge your progress. It's about the process and learning more and more about yourself every day."
How do you get the most from your yoga workouts? Do you have your Darth Vadar breathing down? Anything you could improve upon? Would love to hear it!
Jennipher Walters is the CEO and co-founder of the healthy living websites FitBottomedGirls.com and FitBottomedMamas.com. A certified personal trainer, lifestyle and weight management coach and group exercise instructor, she also holds an MA in health journalism and regularly writes about all things fitness and wellness for various online publications.