Yoga offers a lot of amazing benefits: a healthy body, a calm mind, and a positive self-image to name just a few. But many wannabe yogis are sabotaging the potential for a powerful practice by committing these three common mistakes. Make sure you’re not one of them.

Mistake 1: Huffing and Puffing

The physical side of yoga is a dance between challenging ourselves and honoring the limitations of the body. Deep, rhythmic yogic breathing signifies that we’ve mastered this dance. On the other end of the spectrum, huffing and puffing are telltale signs that we’ve pushed ourselves too far.

The breath serves as a perfect system to measure our level of exertion; whether in a yoga class or during any other form of exercise. Is it smooth, causing the belly to expand, and flowing through the nose? Great. Then we haven’t pushed too hard. But if we have to inhale forcefully, if the breath is only reaching the upper body, or if we have to breath through our mouth, then we’ve overexerted ourselves.

If we don’t heed to our huffing and puffing and instead push on, we’re missing the whole point of asanas (yoga postures). Patanjali, the great forefather of classical yoga, taught yogis in his Yoga Sutras that “perfection in an asana is achieved when the effort to perform it becomes effortless and the infinite being within is reached.” The ability to relax in an asana develops steadiness of mind, and steadiness of mind is exactly what we need to progress in our yoga practice.

The second we fall into bad breathing habits we need to back off. Balasana (child’s pose) and savasana (corpse pose) are two perfect postures for giving the body a mid-class mini-rest. Pausing in these poses allows the breath and heart rate to return to normal, and gives the body a chance to pay back oxygen debt.

Mistake 2: Competing in Class

When we’re surrounded by other yogis it’s easy to get caught up in the ego’s drama. If the girl next to us is in a gravity-defying arm balance while we can barely touch our toes, it’s hard not to compare ourselves. Add all of the bendy bikini-clad yoga beauties on social media into the picture, and yoga feels more like a competition to weave ourselves into pretzels than a spiritual mission.

But this is certainly not the spirit of yoga. Yoga has absolutely nothing to do with competition. It’s about one person only: yourself.

Yoga is a tool for self-betterment. It’s a practice that’s meant to be individualized because we all progress at a different rate. It’s not about how many advanced poses we can do or how good our booty looks in yoga pants. It’s not about who in class can hold the longest handstand, either.

Instead, it’s about taming the ego. Getting over competition. Understanding that we are doing this practice to grow; physically, mentally and spiritually.

We can overcome the temptation to compare by accepting other yogis as our technical teachers. If they’re in an arm balance that we’ve yet to figure out, we can observe their method to emulate later rather than perceiving their dexterity as competition. And if this is too difficult, we can simply keep our eyes on our own mat, or close them altogether.

As we grow, our competitive edge gradually fades and we appreciate yoga for what it really is.

Mistake 3: Skipping Savasana

Savasana (corpse pose) is arguably the most important yoga posture. Cutting class early or even just mentally skipping out during savasana robs us of all its yummy benefits, rendering our yoga practice incomplete.

Resting in savasana has a few main purposes: it gives the heart and breath rate a chance to return to normal, it allows lactic acid buildup to be released, it enables newly unblocked prana to free-flow throughout the body, and it relieves any physical stress that we’ve acquired during practice (especially if we’ve been huffing and puffing!) In matters of the mind, savasana improves our focus and concentration, which makes for better meditation.

Savasana is not a yoga nap time but a chance to seal in all the benefits of our practice. Although many students make this mistake, we shouldn’t cut class as soon as the teacher dims the lights and puts on her mellow savasana music.

This is our cue to get comfortable and relax. It’s our chance to give the body and mind much-needed rest by observing and releasing tension and simply watching the breath. A few solid minutes here and our yoga practice is officially complete.

Check in every now and again to see if you’re making any of these three common yoga mistakes. Are you huffing and puffing, comparing yourself to the yogi next to you, or letting your mind drift in savasana? Stopping these bad habits will transform your yoga practice into one that is beautifully beneficial.

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