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Reaching Your Yoga Goals the Sensible Way {updated...again!}

Updated: Aug 20, 2021

{I updated this blog again this February (2021) because I wanted it to focus more on you, the yoga student/practitioner.}

As students, many of us come into yoga through the physical aspect – as an exercise or weight loss program. Some come to de-stress and some don’t even know why they are drawn to yoga.

Whatever your initial reasons are, I hope this topic helps in your journey.

*Side note, there is a podcast episode on this coming soon!

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Reaching Your Yoga Goals - for yoga practitioners and teachers

Reaching Your Yoga Goals, for Students

…or Practitioners, as I prefer to say, over students. I’ll circle back to this later.

Be an “Empty Cup”

Regardless of whether you are an absolute yoga beginner or someone with years of experience, it is essential that you let go of your preconceptions and expectations because this leads to you judging yourself, your yoga teacher and your practice. This throws shade on a practice that isn’t even really there yet and does yourself a dis-service.

But this is different from goals-setting. Have a goal in mind but having a preconceived notion of how and when to get there or how to do it can lead to a feeling of frustration and disillusionment.

There is also a tendency to start competing with yourself, your fellow yoga practitioners and even with your teacher when you come to yoga full of preconceived ideas of how things ought to be. You’ll be telling yourself “why can’t I do that”, “I can never do that”, “the pose should/shouldn’t be like this” – all of which are forms of judgement and a hindrance to your growth.

Find a Studio (live or online), a Style or a Teacher that Suits You!

Don’t force-fit yourself into the latest, most modern or hottest yoga studio, live or online, to pop-up. Hatha Yoga, the branch of Yoga that helps through physical disciplines is by far the most common type of yoga available. Under this are all of the styles we see around – Vinyasa Flow, Astanga, Kundilini, Anusara, Iyengar, Bikram, Jivamukti, Power Yoga, Sivananda, Slow Flow, Power Flow, Dynamic, Yin and many more.

Do your research and find out which yoga type best fits you not just on a physical level, but physiologically (meaning health-wise), psychologically and emotionally.

Don’t forget as well that while yoga is not a religion, most classes will always have a spiritual aspect no matter which yoga style you choose, so take that into consideration as well. There are teachers like me who offer classes without the spirituality, so there’s something for everyone, you just need to invest the time to find them and try them out.

Another thing to consider is the yoga studio itself, live or online. How do you feel when you enter the studio? Do you like big and busy yoga classes, or would you prefer a more intimate setting? Is the user experience of the website good or do you feel lost getting around it? Is there good value on the website or do you need to pay for each and everything on it?

Shop around for the one that best resonates with you. But once you’ve decided on a studio and yoga teacher, stay a while and immerse yourself in the experience.

Communicate Your Goals to Your Yoga Teacher

Granted that it takes a while to build up a good rapport, much more for trust, with anybody; it is important to tell your teacher what it is you are looking to gain from your yoga practice.

For this reason, find a yoga teacher who resonates with you – your values, your beliefs and your general personality. Whether your goals are physical, emotional, mental, general health, spiritual, non-spiritual mindset shifts, or the practicality of yoga - it will help your teacher in guiding you through your yoga journey if they know the reasons for you being there.

In this way, the practice becomes a partnership between you and your yoga teacher.

Give Yourself and Your Yoga Practice Time to Grow

Yoga, much like any exercise or life-style change, has short-term and long-term benefits. Yoga flows or the physical practice, for example, will yield short term benefits, but will give you more and better muscular strength, flexibility, and cardiopulmonary endurance only when there is a consistent and dedicated practice; that’s the long-term benefit.

Yoga is a vast and complex system of philosophies and practices and it takes time for its benefits to be felt, even for the non-spiritual mindset work, breath-work or mindfulness.

You need to invest time and energy in getting to know its many aspects. But even if you are interested in only one aspect – let’s say, the physical, it will still take time to fully benefit from it.

Goals Are Not Set in Stone

There is numerous anecdotal evidence to suggest that one’s initial reasons for taking up yoga changes after some time; we covered this in the 10 Mindsets of a Modern Yogi.

Whether this happens or not, it is important that you do not judge yourself; honour where you are in that space and time while keeping an open mind and heart, try new challenges and listen and learn from the lessons that come your way.

You may not even realise if, how or when your reasons for practicing yoga changes, it may simply mean that yoga has become part of how you live your life, and that is a good thing.

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Reaching Your Yoga Goals - for yoga practitioners and teachers

Remember: One Size Does Not Fit All

Anatomically and physiologically, we are all the same – heads, torsos, arm, legs, hearts, lungs and all the rest. But we are also all different, unique individuals, pardon the redundant terms.

Science has already determined the human body’s general functions and range of motion but our individual joint articulation, muscle action and general health are something both you and your yoga teacher should take into consideration.

For example, in vinyasa flows - sometimes a sequence works well for you, sometimes it won’t even if it’s the same sequence. There could be a number of reasons for this - the influence of the seasons (is it hot, warm, chilly, humid, etc.) the time of day or something unnameable: a “just is” feeling on top of more personal issues that may be affecting your current health, emotional or mental state. It could also be your unique body structure.

Try to find a yoga teacher who will listen to your needs and is capable of adjusting the class accordingly. This can mean anything from being able to give options or modifications during the class as general instructions, especially for tough poses OR be able to give specific modifications for your needs.

Find someone who hasn’t lost their Humility and Compassion.

As practitioners, we pick up on the energies our yoga teachers put out. I’ve seen teachers on an attitude scale of - can’t be bothered to putting themselves on a pedestal. Let’s be honest, there are teachers on that scale and beyond; those who give the practice of yoga an elitist, esoteric image. This is not the spirit and intention of yoga.

We come into yoga because of a need, whatever that it, and we are looking to our yoga teacher for help. Remember that rapport-building we were talking about? This is when it becomes really important. It’s kind of hard to open up to someone who shows disinterest in your needs or rattles off soundbites and isn’t really listening or has an air of knowing everything and you don’t know anything – this is someone who has forgotten how it is to be a beginner.

Do you know the Dunning-Kruger Effect? Look it up. After that, know that everybody is susceptible to it, even yoga teachers.

That’s why it’s important that you find a yoga teacher who is still grounded, humble, compassionate and who will listen to you to help you reach your goals.

Maintain Your Own Yoga Practice

All the benefits of yoga stacks; they accumulate over the short term and long term. But, like everything that goes through a learning process, it requires investment in time and effort.

So, invest in yourself and establish a home yoga practice. Look around for online yoga classes, there are freebies all over the place, and applying everything else we’ve talked about, find some you can do at home.

You might even find that online yoga suits you better because most are unlimited access, so you can really customise your practice to how you need it to be.

It’s a Two-way Street.

Remember that the axiom “to be true to ourselves” applies to everybody – yourself and your yoga teacher.

Essentially, you don’t have to bend over backwards, pun intended, just to accommodate something that doesn’t align with your values. For example, if you are being asked something that you don’t want to do or know isn’t good for you, or for that moment, doesn’t feel good for you, then don’t. Or if your teacher doesn’t offer something, say crystal healing and you’re into that, you can’t really expect it from your teacher if they are not.

Last word…

To wrap up this topic up, yoga goals, much like any other goals in our life is a journey that has many turns, many mini-goals, many changes. We’ll need support for some parts and go it alone in some. And we can apply everything we learn from reaching our yoga goals – self-accountability, resilience, self-care, non-judgement, compassion, humility and not a small amount of humour – to all aspects of our lives.


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