Finding the Next Step in Your Yoga Journey
There comes a time in every yogi’s life where you find yourself craving more—more growth, more knowledge, more experience. Even though you may love your time on the mat and have seen how regular yoga practice benefits your life, perhaps you’re starting to feel…comfortable. For many yogis, this feeling of comfort or stagnation may be a signal that you’re ready for something new. Does this mean you need to throw in the towel on your current practice? Absolutely not. But it may indicate that you’re ready to further your practice by exploring different yoga disciplines, skill sets, and instructors.
Whether you’re a teacher or a dedicated yoga student, there are always things you can do to take your practice to the next level. Wondering what next steps may be right for you? Keep reading to explore your options when it comes to furthering your yoga practice and get tips on how to choose what to work on next.
Trying a New Discipline
For many yogis suffering from “boredom” in class or who aren’t feeling challenged like they used to be, trying a new yoga discipline can be a great solution. Even though there are always ways you can continue to advance your practice within your current discipline, exploring a new type of yoga can bring back that same excitement and energy you felt during your first time on the mat.
For all the yoga teachers out there, being well-versed in multiple yoga disciplines makes you more versatile and attractive to studios and students. Each discipline is a different perspective. Exploring multiple perspectives leads to a broader understanding and often appreciation.
So when it comes to choosing a new discipline to explore, you may be wondering - what are my options?
If you’re a long-time yogi, maybe you’re thinking, “Come on Yoga Society! I already know all the yoga disciplines.” If that is you, that’s awesome! Even so, we’ve found that reading the core principles of each discipline in succession can help you find direction and give you insight as to what you’d like to do next.
As you read through each discipline, pay attention to your breath and your emotional state. Remain open and stay aware of what excites you, intrigues you, and even what scares you. All of these reactions can serve as clues and may propel you towards a new discipline that may not have resonated with you before in the way it does now.
Hatha is an ancient practice that incorporates yoga poses, or asanas, with breathing exercises called pranayama. Hatha is typically a gentler practice meant to bring peace and calmness to the mind and body. Hatha is great for beginners, but even advanced yogis can benefit from coming back to this slower-paced style. If you’re looking to get back in touch with your breath, want to bring more inner peace to your practice, or are looking for a yoga discipline that supports a meditation practice (Hatha yoga can help prepare the mind and body for meditation) Hatha yoga may be the next right choice for you.
Based on ancient yoga teachings, Ashtanga yoga is a rigorous, physically-demanding practice that aims to connect every movement to a breath. In this practice, you’ll gain both strength and flexibility while also increasing breath awareness. In Ashtanga, poses are always performed in the same order without any motivating or calming background music, which is great for increasing mental discipline and working to perfect and deepen each posture in the sequence. If you’re craving more structure in your yoga practice, want to increase your mental discipline, or would like to connect to traditional, ancient yoga teachings, Ashtanga could be a great fit.
Like Ashtanga, Vinyasa yoga aims to connect every movement to a breath and is also a physically demanding workout that boosts strength and increases flexibility. The difference between the two practices is that, while Ashtanga sticks to a strict routine, Vinyasa instructors can make each class and sequence their own (like “freestyle”). Many teachers also include background music as part of the experience, allowing you to incorporate all of your senses into your practice. If you’re looking for more joy, fun, and spontaneity in your yoga practice, Vinyasa yoga may be just the ticket.
Iyengar yoga is focused on finding and maintaining proper body alignment in each pose. Depending on skill level and flexibility, some students may need to utilize props such as chairs, blocks, or straps to ensure their alignment is correct throughout the practice. Although Iyengar may seem more passive than other yoga disciplines, poses are held for longer periods of time, giving you new physical and mental challenges to engage with. This discipline is also wonderful if you’re working through an injury, as it is more gentle but still focuses on increasing muscle strength and promoting proper posture.
If you’re looking to tone your body, burn fat, and boost your metabolism, Power yoga may be just what you’re looking for. An intense, full-body workout, this type of yoga challenges the cardiovascular system by flowing seamlessly from one pose to the next without any pauses. In addition to being a great physical workout, Power yoga also challenges your mental endurance and concentration, as some poses are held much longer in this practice than in others. What’s more, many poses in Power yoga are designed to increase flexibility, which can help ease muscle tightness and joint pain.
Bikram yoga consists of 26 poses performed in a room heated to 105 degrees. Some yoga teachers who want to keep the heat but ditch the Bikram routine may call themselves hot yoga instructors. Bikram and hot yoga not only help you sweat out toxins, but the heat increases flexibility and can allow you to sink more deeply into poses. What’s more, the mental discipline required to relax in this type of intense heat can be a unique challenge. If you want to focus on increasing your flexibility while exploring yoga in a new environment, Bikram or hot yoga may be a good fit.
Restorative yoga is a gentle practice that utilizes blankets, bolsters, blocks, and straps to help ease students into passive poses without a great deal of effort. In Restorative yoga, poses are held for five minutes or more, giving students time to truly relax and release into each pose. Though Restorative yoga is more passive, meaning you won’t necessarily work up a sweat, you’ll still gain flexibility with each deep stretch and learn to quiet the mind throughout the practice. Restorative yoga is wonderful for people with injuries, who want to relieve stress, or even for those who may be recovering from trauma.
Forrest yoga focuses on cultivating the four pillars: breath, strength, integrity, and spirit. Poses are modified to address common ailments, such as back pain, neck and shoulder issues, and intestinal disorders, that spring from our “modern,” more sedentary lifestyle. Forrest yoga is great for any yogi looking to marry ancient yoga practices with 21st century modifications. This discipline is both intensely physical and meant to allow each yogi to delve more deeply into their authentic emotional life. Forrest yoga is a great choice for those who are looking to modernize their yoga practice, relieve common physiological issues, challenge themselves physically, and heal emotionally.
Kundalini yoga is designed to awaken the energy at the bottom of the spine and draw it up through the body’s seven chakras. Instead of holding poses for extended periods, Kundalini yoga involves a series of rapid, repetitive movements along with chanting, meditation, and breathing exercises. If you’re looking to really lean in to the spiritual side of yoga, want to increase your sense of determination, or are seeking a completely different kind of physical and mental challenge, Kundalini yoga could be for you.
Partner yoga can take many forms, but is primarily designed to help yogis expand physically and emotionally within their practice. Many poses allow one person in the partnership to sink deeply into a certain position while the other person provides resistance to support their partner. With this yin-yang format, partner yoga gives you the opportunity to increase your flexibility while also building strength. This is also a wonderful practice to engage in if you want to work on trust, teamwork, or romantic bonding.
If you’re currently pregnant and are looking for a new yoga discipline that works with your changing body or are a teacher interested in working with women through pregnancy, practicing prenatal yoga may be for you. Prenatal yoga involves postures that can help reduce stress, strengthen and stretch areas of the body that may feel strained during pregnancy (such as the low back), and teach women to get in touch with their breath to help during the birthing process.
Learning a New Skill Set
In addition to practicing a new discipline, another way to further your yoga practice is to learn a new skill set. For many yogis, this means working toward more advanced postures, such as inversions, balance poses, and poses that require intense flexibility.
For many yogis, mastering inversions is a key part of furthering their yoga practice. In addition to looking impressive, inversions require core strength and mental discipline. What’s more, inversions also stimulate the nervous system, helping to both energize and relax the body and mind. Common inversions you’ll find in advanced practices include:
- Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand)
- Pincha Mayurasana (Forearm Balance)
- Sirsasana (Headstand)
- Sirsasana Pada Padmasana (Headstand with Lotus Legs)
- Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Handstand)
You can also further your yoga practice without (or in addition to!) going upside down. Advanced balance poses also require core and arm strength, as well as mental discipline and focus on the breath. These poses are known to increase confidence and help you find balance in the body and mind. Some balance poses to aim for include:
- Bakasana (Crow Pose)
- Astavakrasana (Eight-Angle Pose)
- Tittibhasana (Firefly Pose)
- Mayurasana (Peacock Pose)
- Parsva Bakasana (Side Crow Pose)
Finally, as all yogis know, yoga is not just about strength. Flexibility in mind, body, and spirit is also key. Many advanced flexibility postures require a mix of balance, strength, and inner focus, as well as deep flexibility in the back and hips. As you begin to further your yoga practice, have some advanced flexibility poses in mind that you’d like to word towards. These could include:
- Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana (Upward Facing Two-Foot Staff Pose)
- Urdhva Dhanurasana (Wheel Pose)
- Kapotasana (King Pigeon Pose)
- Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (One Legged King Pigeon Pose)
Choosing What to Work on Next
With a plethora of disciplines to choose from and skill sets to work on, how do you decide which ones are right for you? First off, take some time to sit in stillness and listen to your body. Then, ask yourself these questions:
- What are you craving in your life right now?
- Would you benefit most from cultivating discipline, ease, or joy?
- Do you want to focus on strength or flexibility?
- Is your body in a state of change like pregnancy or working through an injury?
- Are you in need of a good workout or would you prefer a practice focused on stress relief?
Remember, there are no right or wrong answers here. Furthering your yoga practice is all about exploration. One of the beautiful things about at-home yoga is how easy it is to try various disciplines and decide which ones are best for you.
As you begin your next step in your yoga journey, Yoga Society is here to support you along the way. With world-class instructors with expertise in a variety of disciplines, Yoga Society gives you the tools to break out of monotony and reignite your passion for yoga. Explore our courses and envision the the next step in your yoga journey.
What are you thinking you would like to try next? We want to hear from you! Let us know in the comments below.