How To Get Better At Yoga Faster (It’s not what you think)
“How can I get better faster?”
As a teacher, I think this is a great question because it tells me the student is serious about their practice.
Most students are eager to improve and get to the next level.
It’s normal for everyone to feel this way.
But sometimes in our pursuit for greatness, we get lost. We get consumed with “shiny objects”. We get discouraged. We begin to think, “Would’ve, could’ve, and should’ve.” We look for shortcuts or the latest “hack” to get us what we want … fast!
We forget why we began to practice in the first place.
I’ve got good news. There’s a way to get what you want from your yoga practice. And if you apply a few, simple principles, you’ll have it faster than you think.
Shall I share them with you now?
Begin at the Beginning
It’s a cliche, but it fits … You have to crawl before you can run.
The same thing goes for your yoga practice.
Back in February 2017, I decided to learn to play jazz guitar.
Of course, I wanted to play a lot of complex songs, I wanted to play fast, and I wanted to sound good. It’s a tall order, for sure. And – by the way – I wanted it all by my second lesson.
It sounds crazy, right? Who would put that kind of pressure on themselves to be so good so fast? I mean, everyone knows it takes years to learn how to play jazz guitar. And the greatest players in the world have invested hours and hours of practice to hone their craft. And even then, there will be years of refinement and constant learning.
But me? I should know it all in 48 hours… maybe less!
A lot of yoga students fall into the same trap. They expect to be “perfect” on their first class. But it ain’t gonna happen because learning yoga (like any other skill) takes practice.
And that’s a good thing because all you have to do is show up and do your part. In fact, that’s the same thing every yoga student has done since the beginning of time. It’s a proven strategy that works.
A music teacher once said to me, “If you want to play fast, play slow.”
It was truly a moment of Zen. I had to meditate on that one for a while.
But I figured out what he meant. I’ll do my best to explain…
Every time you learn something new, a signal is sent to your brain. The signal is there, but it’s not super clear. But if you do the new thing again and again and again, the signal gets clearer and clearer.
Pavel Tsatsouline calls this synaptic facilitation.
Basically it means the more you do something correctly, the more it sticks in your brain, and the more it sticks in your brain, the easier it becomes.
Imagine the first time you played a scale on the piano. It was probably pretty clunky, right? But the more you practiced it slowly and correctly, the easier it became. Probably so easy, you began playing it “automatically”.
It’s the same thing for your yoga practice … slow down!
By slowing down you:
- Increase your awareness and that keeps you safe because you know if you’re over stretching it or not.
- Increase your strength because it requires your muscles to do the work instead of leverage or speed.
- Increase the safety of your joints because your muscle contractions prevent you from overextending your knees, elbows, spine, fingers, etc.
- Increase your ability to improve rapidly because you can catch your mistakes as you go.
This tip isn’t super popular these days because a lot of media and hype suggest a “Go! Go! Go!” type of attitude. But if you swim against the current and slow down, your practice will soar.
Remember Your Why
Have you heard of “shiny object” syndrome?
Basically, you get distracted because you shift your focus to other cool things instead of what you set out to do in the first place.
For example, my goal to learn jazz guitar is for my brain health. That’s it. And an easy and powerful way to keep your brain healthy is to learn new skills. It could be to learn a new language. I could be to learn math. I chose jazz guitar.
But, sometimes, I get distracted. I’ll hear a guitarist do something really cool and think, “Wow! I’ve gotta learn that.” And there I go, down a rabbit hole, wasting time and energy on something that has nothing to do with my original goal.
Instead of focusing in the basics, and gradually developing my jazz guitar skills, I veer off the path into distraction and frustration.
It happens to everyone.
The thing that brings me back is my WHY. I have to remember I am learning jazz guitar to keep my mind healthy … not to perform some ridiculous guitar riff.
It can be the same thing with your yoga practice because it’s easy to lose focus when you see a “cool yoga pose.” Now, more than ever, because of social media’s influence.
So, if you’re ever feeling stuck, or if you’re ever feeling frustrated, remember your WHY. And let that center you and bring you back to your practice.
Getting better at yoga is a normal feeling that every student shares… teachers have it, too.
The key is to take your time and let your skill develop naturally.
Don’t rush the process.
Could you imagine forcing a flower to bloom before it was ready? Could you imagine making a child run before they could crawl?
Treat your yoga practice with the same level compassion and patience.
Save this blog so you can refer to it often. It will help keep you on track. And before you know, you’ll be better and yoga … and faster.
You’ve got this!