How do you keep your mind and body united when doing triangle pose for the thousandth time? After years of yoga, what is left to pay attention to? When you are in yoga class listening to a teacher, it is easy to stay focused, paying attention to the actions of the pose and the body’s response, but yoga practice is different when we are on our own. Without effort and persistence, our home practice can become stale and less effective.
Turn to the Mind
After you have learned all the physical actions of a particular asana, much of the effort becomes mental. To keep the mind fresh so the pose does not become routine, it helps to approach each yoga asana like a beginner. This does not mean doing the pose as if you don’t yet know the correct form or actions, but to stay open to exploration and discovery.
There is always something new to learn about a yoga asana when you practice. How long you hold a pose, where you put the focus of your effort and how you are feeling on a particular day are examples of factors that change a pose. There are many variables; all of them will change the outcome and effects of an asana, even though the differences may be subtle. They are all chances to observe something new.
This beginner’s mind, open to learning and discovery, can also lead you deeper into a pose. After exploring how the body’s actions change a pose, see how the mind can change a pose. If the mind becomes quieter, is there more ease in the pose? Do you feel like your awareness has moved to a deeper level? See if you can slow down the mind, decreasing the number of active thoughts. Observe whether the asana feels different for both the body and mind.
The breath can refresh the mind and body when practicing. Begin to explore how your breath changes the nature of mind and body in particular postures. Allow your breath to become quieter and softer, even as it continues to support the pose. You may find a new sense of ease, that less effort is required to hold the asana.
There is always new territory to explore in yoga. When your overall practice or a particular asana feels stale, change your approach. Approach the pose as if it was new; see what you can discover about it. Turn your attention to the actions of the mind and the movement of the breath. See if they can slow down, spread throughout the body, and lead you to a new place in yoga.