8. Learn to sound out Sanskrit words (if you like languages).
Sanskrit is an elegant language and it contains technical terms as well as historical names that have been associated with yoga for millennia. It’s an orderly language too, and once you have learned the basics of pronunciation your days of mumbling the sounds will be over. Most Sanskrit syllables begin with a consonant (or two) and end with a vowel. All Sanskrit letters have a fixed pronunciation (unlike English c’s, g’s, a’s, and so on), so once you can pronounce the letter you can sound out the word. This will also make it possible to accurately pronounce the many mantras found in meditation practices.
9. Take breathing breaks.
Breathing is a powerful tool for managing stress. And while a few moments of breath awareness can definitely short-circuit a fit of anger or a moment of anxiety, you might consider extending your breathing breaks and using them on a more regular basis—refreshing yourself for a few minutes or longer once or twice every day. During your break you can close your eyes and count your breaths, or you can simply relax the tensions that have crept into the respiratory muscles. You’ll find that a five-minute period of breath awareness will soothe the subtle strain of daily thinking and recharge your mind. Place reminders (Brake for Breathing!) at one or two key places in your home or office. Better yet, don’t let an afternoon go by without using five minutes for this sort of mini-meditation.
10. Let the practices do their work.
In the midst of a posture or relaxation exercise it’s easy to feel you should be doing something. And certainly it’s important to make the effort to master a practice. But trying too hard can get in the way just as much as not giving enough effort. So a good question to ask in the middle of any practice is “Am I letting the posture (breathing exercise, meditation focus) do its work?” Try it the next time you practice the relaxation posture, shavasana. Let the posture do its work.
11. Go to bed on time.
That romantic dream of getting up early for a long asana and meditation practice followed by whole-wheat waffles and a stroll around the block won’t happen unless you work on the other end of the equation: going to bed on time. Once you have whittled your late-night activities and moved your bedtime to a reasonable hour you can consider making changes in your morning schedule. But give yourself plenty of time for adjustments—months rather than days or weeks. Expect to feel better when you’re done.
Related: Why You Should Become an Early Bird
12. Quiet the critics.
You know the ones—the voices in your head that tell you that you aren’t likely to accomplish much or that you’re really not suited for yoga. Everyone has some doubts about themselves. But if those doubts become a naysaying chorus, they’ve gone too far. Trust that your interest in and appreciation for yoga are really a kind of devotion—a sentiment of greater value than any technical skill you can muster. And remember Krishna’s words in the Bhagavad Gita: “Those who come for shelter, no matter how humble they may be, reach the Path supreme.”
Rolf Sovik, PsyD, is the author of Moving Inward: The Journey to Meditation. He is the president of the Himalayan Institute, and serves as the director of the Institute’s branch center in Buffalo, New York.