Sun Salutations, Warrior Poses, Downward Dog – every yogi has their favourite tried and tested poses and flows that they may be able to do with their eyes closed. As you move through your daily routine on the matt, you might notice your mind drifting. The flows that once took concentration and took your mind away from the humdrum day to day thoughts are now second nature, and you’ve lost your sense of zen. It’s easy to get into a rut if you stick to your comfort zones in life – and your yoga practice is no different. This week we’re challenging you to try a new class every day for two weeks.
Here are four key benefits that branching out in your yoga practice can bring you.
1. Keep your brain active
Did you know that learning a new skill, such as a different language or something creative like a musical instrument can help your brain form new connections? The same applies when you learn a new yoga flow or try a challenging pose. Stimulating your brain in this way can increase your memory skills, concentration and even your creativity levels. Learning something new, like figuring out a new yoga challenge can create neural pathways in the brain, increasing brain power.
2. Relieves stress
There’s no question that modern life has led to stress being an almost unavoidable part of our day-to-day. Whether it's demanding at work, kids acting up, or getting stuck in traffic when you just need to be on time – stress can cause your heart rate to rise and lead to anxiety and an increase in stress hormones in the body. Stress can be hard to manage, and many of us aren’t equipped to handle those kinds of responses.
Challenging yourself in yoga can help train your brain to handle stress responses better. Putting yourself in a controlled environment and pushing your boundaries in yoga can help you deal with stress. This is because putting your body into a new or uncomfortable posture forces you to use the part of your brain that suppresses your stress and emotional reactions. This means when you encounter stress away from the matt you’re well equipped to deal with it. Trying new things in life can also broaden our minds and allow us to handle stress better.
3. Discover new poses
If you never tried new things in yoga, you’d never discover the flows and poses that you already know and love. Trying something new not only fires up your brain synapses but gives you a feeling of euphoria and relief. Learning and kick-starting those brain connections releases feel-good hormones like serotonin, giving us that boost of happiness. Trying new flows and types of yoga you don’t usually practice can open your mind to something new, and you might fall in love with a different type of practice!
4. Get in the flow
Using your brain, whether it’s on the mat or off, can put you in a peak performance state called ‘flow’. This is where your brain is focused on the task at hand and you’re flooded with energy. This state can help increase creativity levels, productivity and even make you happier! But this doesn’t happen unless we’re fully focused on the task at hand, and aren’t challenging ourselves.
Pushing yourself to branch out in your yoga practice can allow you to incorporate challenge in your life – but it’s also important to have realistic goals. Don’t expect to master a new pose straight away – it’s the brainpower, time and practice spent getting there that gets us in the ‘flow.
So now you know the benefits of branching out in your yoga practice, how can you challenge yourself.
Here are two other ways you can push yourself and branch out in your day to day practice.
Push yourself to the edge
When you’re holding a yoga pose, even the ones you’re as familiar with as the back of your hand, try to push yourself to your edge. This is the place where you feel your body deeply stretch and work it hard – but without going to the point where you injure yourself or overwork your body.
Everyone has a different edge, so it’s important to listen to your body and stop when you feel pain or like it’s too much. Let your mind clear of any distracting thoughts or feelings, and take it slow. By listening to your body as you deepen into each pose, you can slowly ease your way to your edge, and remember to breathe into the stretch.
Incorporate challenging postures
An easy way to branch out in your daily yoga practice is to incorporate postures you find challenging. Start off your practice with the postures that make you feel confident and bring strength to your body to warm up. You can then move on to add a posture or two that you’ve always struggled with or feel like you can’t do. Remember to move slowly into these poses focusing on your breathing and listening to your body. It’s important to remember you can stop at any time if your body is saying no. If you try to push out those thoughts that tell you that you ‘can’t’ do it. Trying something new can bring up lots of emotions, so it’s key to keep a calm and open mind.
By Amy Cavill
Are you inspired to branch out in your yoga practice? Try our free two-week yoga challenge and see for yourself how trying new yoga postures and teacher can benefit you.
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