Do you remember when you began practicing yoga, however many moons ago? How you most likely felt out of touch with your body, awkward in a room full of people who seemed to know exactly what they were doing, graceful and poised and just so not you? And after a while, when you could identify what pose the teacher called to move into without extreme panic, how your mind began to rest and your body could sink into each asana? You now had a foundation for your practice—but the most important layer was yet to come.
When the breath began color in the practice, it fed the rest of the body to relax, the mind to focus on one single thing, and there you had it: a taste of what yoga could really feel like. This was the moment when you began to innovate in your practice. The outline was there, and you got to decide how you wanted to color it in.
If you're still trying to get to this creative place in your practice, or if you've fallen into a rut since that initial spark of inspiration, here are 3 ways to be more innovative in your practice. Plus, read on for 3 ways to be more innovative in your life beyond the mat.
3 Ways to Be More Innovative in Your Yoga Practice
1. Take a one-week break from social media.
This might seem like it has nothing to do with your practice, but the constant train of comparison, even the "Oh, that’s a pose I want to recreate," adds to the mental chatter we experience. I tend to step back from social media pretty often, because when I do, I begin to value what I’m inspired to do over what other people think or want. Social media is a wonderful tool—one that I personally make a living on—but showing up to it with a little less attachment will give you a little bit more perspective.
2. Practice 'noting.'
Have you tried noting? To put it simply, it is noting what you are doing, while you are doing it. My favorite example is closing my eyes and as I breathe in, silently saying to myself, "I am breathing in," and as I’m breathing out, silently saying to myself, "I am breathing out." Try this, and you'll immediately experience a different depth to the action being performed. It works even better during yoga practice, perhaps as you step your foot through, or as you move through a vinyasa. Noting instantly transforms everyday actions into a mindful meditation, giving you a brand-new experience.
3. Broaden the spectrum.
One way of innovating my yoga practice that never fails is trying a new teacher, or a new studio. I’m a yoga teacher, and the classes I love give me exactly what I need, but that can also lead me to land in a mental rut. In the past, the longer I practiced yoga, the more I found myself vetoing something new for fear it would be “inadequate” (not in the slightest bit true, but the mind and ego do their jobs of keeping you where you are). Once I let that go, I opened up a world of possibility, along with lots of cool new things to show my students.
Here are 3 more tips to help you innovate in your life beyond the mat. While these are not necessarily "practice" tips, I guarantee you will feel their effects on the mat as well.
3 Ways to Be More Innovative in Your Life
1. Take inventory of your life (and meditate).
Look around in your life. You're most likely happy in some areas, while maybe some others need work. Before you can innovate and make changes for the better, you must be honest about how you feel about every aspect of your life. This is a great spot to begin a meditation practice. The act of being quiet has value, because often what you begin to hear is what you actually need. Who you are is located within the four walls of your body, and the most important thing you can do is get in touch with, and be able to hear that person. Just the ability to do that, over everything, would spark more innovation than you could imagine.
2. Figure out what you want to feel.
There are feelings that make each of us come alive. Each is very personal to the person who is holding them, so identifying what they are for you is the first step to finding more things that make you feel that way. Read The Desire Map: A Guide to Creating Goals with Soul by Danielle LaPorte. This is what she covers in her book, and for me personally, when I discovered this way of thinking, or rather feeling, everything began to change. The way I taught, the way I made dinner, the people I involved in my life ... it became really clear what lit me up, and what had the opposite effect. I re-read it every year.
3. Determine where you want to go (and make lists).
Whatever you have gone through in life, you are here now, and now you can decide where you want to go. When you begin to list things that you want, your brain begins to look for them. Start by making the following three lists:
Achieve these goals:
Learn how to:
Learn to play:
Keep these as running lists, and have them in a place where you can see them every day. Simple running tabs of the goals, hobbies, and attributes you’d like to incorporate into your life. The biggest goals, the most faraway wishes, any single thing that pulls on your heartstrings should be listed. Don't worry about how you could accomplish any of these. Not one single second spent on the how. The how is never your business, and no matter how you could construct a plan, the world around you can do it better, and way more magically. The more time you spend dreaming of where you’d like to go, the more likely you are to fast track yourself to where you want to be.
About Our Pro
Jacqueline Smyth is a Los Angeles-based yoga teacher and life coach. For Smyth, yoga was the direct tipping point that introduced her to the ability to create a life of magic, manifest forward motion and lean in to what's next, and explore a whole lot of movement in this world. She now guides others, through yoga, life coaching, and international retreats, to zero in on, create, and live out their very own adventure. Smyth completed her 200-hour and 300-hour teacher trainings through YogaWorks.