We’ve all felt it before. Perhaps it’s a new posture, or you’re new to yoga, and you have no idea if you’re doing it right. How can you make sure?

Take it back to the Beginning

Many people started yoga with drop-in classes or from a video; in doing so, they missed feedback from a teacher. This feedback and attention is important so that each student can learn in a supported environment and at an appropriate pace.

The traditional way of learning yoga was from a guru (teacher) in the Gurukula system, where students would live with their teacher, learning progressively about the philosophy, theory, and practice of yoga.

This is unrealistic for most people, but whether you’re a seasoned yogi or relatively new, it never hurts to take a step back and attend a beginner’s course. You’ll learn the basics and progress from easier exercises and poses to more challenging ones, and pick up some new things.

Having the same teacher over a period of time means personalized instruction and feedback based on where you are at that point in time. This attention is invaluable and will set you on the right path for your journey.

Update your Asana Practice

From a physical perspective, it’s important to practice in a way that gently challenges us and doesn’t cause any pain or strain. Awareness is a key element of yoga and guidance from a teacher can help you build awareness.

Since the goal of yoga is to know yourself better, you must really pay attention. Move slowly so you can observe the sensations in your body, notice if there are any changes in your breath, and be aware of the thoughts that go through your mind.

Injury can happen suddenly, but it can also happen slowly through time by pushing too hard for too long. Observing the subtle sensations in your body is critical in preventing these types of injuries.

Shift your weight, reposition yourself, relax a muscle, or take rest; by listening to the body instead of the mind, you can do what is right at that particular moment in time.

Being aware of your body and surroundings, you’ll also be able to incorporate instructions given by the teacher. Your teacher provides insight into things you’re not aware of. Ever notice how the teacher repeats the same instructions over and over again? What if the instructions were actually for you?

The Never-Ending Journey

Regular practice is important. Sporadic practice is tough on the body and the mind often gets too excited when getting back into the practice. In order to know how you really feel, it takes time and training to settle the mind and get the body to good condition.

Practicing regularly allows you to compare how you feel from one session to another. In this way you’ll discover what works and what doesn’t work. Through long periods of practice, you also become aware of yoga’s subtle effects and how it affects your mental and emotional state.

Keep up with both a home practice and classes so that you can get the best of both worlds. Focus your mind and pay attention to what happens physically and mentally when you practice. Without consciousness, it’s not yoga, it’s just exercise.

Deborah Lim is an internationally certified yoga instructor currently based in Toronto and loves that wearing comfortable clothes is required in her profession. She unleashes her creativity through cooking, crafts and DIY - take a peek into her tasty recipes and uplifting messages in her blog.