Imagine this: you make it to yoga class, you’ve settled into the correct position on your mat, and your instructor urges you to relax and loosen up. Then your mind starts racing - am I doing this right? Are my yoga pants transparent? Did I remember to turn off the oven? If this sounds familiar, you aren’t alone.
The truth is that every person in your yoga class has struggled with this at one point or another. Unfortunately, humans aren’t born with the ability to relax on demand! Just like yoga, being able to relax takes time and practice. But there is hope. If you’re struggling to turn your brain off during yoga, here are five tips to help you relax more during your next class.
Remember to breathe.
Breathing is one of the best relaxation techniques around, period. It’s why people with anxiety are urged to “breathe in and breathe out!” But since it’s involuntary, it’s easy for us to forget about it -- especially when we’re moving our bodies or struggling to get into a certain yoga position. So as you move through your yoga poses, concentrate on your breathing. Make sure you’re loosening your shoulders, lengthening your exhalation, pausing after each exhalation, and breathing with your entire body.
Your yoga instructor should be able to help you with your breathwork -- don’t be afraid to ask!
A quiet mind isn’t the point.
Too many yoga students stress out about “quieting their mind” and expect it to happen right away. As previously mentioned, humans don’t have an on or off switch for relaxation. Observe the flow of your thoughts but don’t try to block them out. Pay attention to what your mind and body are trying to tell you, and try focusing more on your breathwork. If you are truly focused on your breath, your mind won’t have time to plan dinner or think about that job interview tomorrow.
Plus, it’s important to remember that a quiet mind is the outcome of yoga and doesn’t happen instantly.
Practice makes perfect.
Like any form of training, the more you do it the better you will be. This applies to relaxation, too! The next time you take a break from the computer screen, instead of doom scrolling through Instagram, set a timer for five minutes and practice relaxing instead. Sit comfortably with your spine tall. Close your eyes. Breathe in and breathe out, concentrating on the rise and fall of your chest. Feel your body relax from the top of your head to the bottom of your toes. Be mindful of what’s happening.
Do this regularly, and the next time you’re in the yoga studio, it should be easier and easier to relax.
Be patient with yourself.
Being able to relax during yoga is a worthy endeavor, but it shouldn’t be an additional source of stress in your life. There will be good days and bad days, so be patient with yourself and understand that it’s an ongoing process. Treat yourself with the same love, respect, and kindness as you would a good friend. Celebrate the wins but don’t dwell on the losses. If you’ve tried everything on this list, have spoken to your yoga instructor, and still can’t seem to relax, maybe yoga just isn’t for you! Fortunately, there are other ways to relax; you can try meditation, getting a massage, or taking a hot bath.
For more relaxation tips, click here.
Find a cannabis-friendly studio.
Yoga requires total focus on one’s mind and body. Cannabis is a plant that can allow users to more fully access their mind and body. So, it should come as no surprise that there are a growing number of yoga practitioners and students who incorporate cannabis into their yoga sessions to facilitate greater relaxation and mindfulness. If you live in a state where cannabis is legalized for medical or recreational use, you may even be able to find a cannabis-friendly yoga studio.
If you live in Maryland, check out our friend Melanie B at Maryland Medicinal Yoga. She was kind enough to put together this guide for our patients who want to incorporate cannabis into their yoga sessions.