5 Lessons That Changed My Practice

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1. No Judging Allowed. My yoga sessions never turn out exactly how I expect them to--I never know what I'm going to get until I get on my mat. So, for me, it's important to leave my expectations at the door and be present with whatever happens. Approaching each experience as an interested observer and not allowing it to affect my perception of myself and/or my abilities has been key in my yoga practice.

2. Keep Trying (and Failing). Perseverance is an important part of the practice. In fact, it might be one of the most valuable life lessons I've learned from my time on the mat. Getting discouraged or frustrated doesn't help--and trying again and again is a sign a strength on the yoga mat and in life.

3. Give Yourself Permission to Be Different from Everyone Else. When I realized that yoga is an individual practice, it totally gave me permission to modify poses, use props, and take care of myself. What other people in the studio were doing, even my teachers at times, became irrelevant. Yoga is my own personal refuge and my practice time is too precious to spend it looking over my shoulder at that amazing pose on the other side of the room.

4. Relax, But Not Too Much. As a beginner, I was drawn to the laid back, do-what-you-feel-like vibe. But the more I practice, the more I realize how important discipline is. It takes a lot of discipline to come to the mat over and over again--and it takes even more to keep trying even when things are tough. There are plenty of times to back off, slow down, and be easy on yourself--but there are also times to challenge yourself. Finding that middle ground is an art form that I'm still perfecting.

5. Don't Take Yourself Too Seriously. It's easy to get caught up in the seriousness of the practice sometimes. The yamas and niyamas, for example, are serious business. But, like the poses themselves, the philosophy is a practice. There will be many failures along the way. Learning to see the humor in it all has been a saving grace.

Erica Rodefer is a writer and yoga enthusiast in Charleston, SC. Visit her blog, Spoiledyogi.com, follow her on Twitter, or like her on Facebook.