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Little Known Ways to Spice Up Your Yoga Practice

Have you lacked yoga motivation lately? Perhaps your favorite instructor switched studios, or your schedule has changed and you can’t make your favorite class anymore. Or maybe you’ve reached a plateau in your practice and your regular class feels stale all of a sudden. If you’re going through a period where getting yourself to the studio is more difficult, maybe a change of pace or a new outfit are what you need. Before you pack up all of your gear and head off to buy those cute new leggings you saw, you might consider that yoga itself is not the problem, but the type of yoga you’ve been focusing on is simply getting too repetitive. Maybe all you need is a change in your scenery.

The dramatic increase in popularity of yoga in recent years resulted in exciting new innovations of yoga practice, some less traditional than others. Provided you’re not a strict purist, trying a class from one of the following interpretations might be just the thing to jump start your dedication to the discipline.

Arial Yoga, also known as anti-gravity yoga, uses a soft fabric hammock to perform traditional asana, both on the ground and while suspended in the air. Arial yoga is recommended for all skill levels and uses gravity to reach further into poses than many yogis are capable of in traditional practice. People familiar with Arial yoga rave about it—claiming it is fun, exciting, and that the class time flies by (sorry).

Water Yoga takes a typical yoga session off the mat and places it in the water. The result is low-impact, gentle on the joints, and recommended for the elderly, pregnant women, and people with injuries.

Hip Hop Yoga is yoga set to hip hop instead of silence or new age music. Perhaps listening to Notorious B.I.G. sounds counterintuitive to many who practice yoga, but Hip Hop yoga has a considerable following among the young, hip, and famous crowd. Studios for Hip Hop Yoga generally forgo the typical full-length mirror wall for a wall stickers that read 99 PROBLEMS BUT A BRIDGE AIN’T ONE or A TRIBE CALLED SWEAT.

Doga, or Dog Yoga, allows the dog people among us to practice yoga along with their dogs. Not only are there instructional booklets for how to practice yoga with your dog at home, several studios have popped up around the country specifically for the purpose of allowing people to bring their dogs in to special yoga classes.

Naked yoga isn’t good naked, nor is it necessarily good yoga; and yet here we are. Evidently, there are a considerable number of people out there who aren’t afraid of bending over naked in front of a studio full of people. Maybe it’s more comfortable for them that way. Maybe they are afraid of pants. In any case, good for them! Naked yoga: it’s not for everyone, and that’s perfectly okay.

Have you tried an unusual form of yoga? What was your experience like?

How to Use the Yoga Drishti

Where should you look while in a yoga pose? Should we look at our reflection in the mirror and admire our hair or look at nothing and plan our grocery list? According to current yoga understanding, it is advised to gaze at a single point during the entire pose! This one-pointed focus, or point of gaze, is called a drishti. Drishti, in the Indian language of Sanskrit, literally means vision or gaze.

Ashtanga Yoga Master Sri K. Pattabhi Jois introduced the drishti technique.  

In this technique, Ashtanga students are taught to direct their gaze, drishti, to one of nine specific points.

Thumb (Angusthamadhye)

Tip of the nose (Nasagre)

Hand (Hastagre)

Sideways to the right (Parsva drishti)

See 4, to the left

Upward (Urdhva drishti)

Navel, (Nabhichakra)

Toes, or (Padayoragre)

The third eye (Bhrumadhye)

There are two types of drishtis with the same goal.

1.Ashtanga: The word and practice of Ashtanga, relates to the eight limbs of yoga. First, the drishti functions to control attention (), the 6th limb of yoga. It helps to further direct The pranic (energetic) body. Left unchecked we become scattered and unbalanced in our lives. Second, it relates the concept of withdrawing ones senses () the 5th limb of yoga. It also relates to the 7th level of Yoga because it prepares the practioner to enter meditation after they have gained full control over their focus.

2.Bhakti: to invoke a loving emotion toward Krishna, one of God’s forms, in order to transform the world.

How Drishti works

The Yoga drishti works by combining two elements to create true vision. As you stare intentionally at a point you are able to stop your normal habits of relating to things, places and people that you see in a very ego centered manner that we are usually not even aware of. It is like putting a magnifying glass on our thoughts and dissolving false thoughts that would otherwise hi-jack our mind.

It combines viveka (discrimination between true and false view) and vairagya (detachment from objects and the ego identification with these objects). This basic misidentification is called avidya (ignorance), and its counterpart, vidya, is our true identity.

3 Tips when Using Drishti

1. Gaze softly and focus on the quality of inner essence versus outer appearance. This also helps you remember to relax and deeply breathe.

2. Gaze at a comfortable point instead of forcing your body into a physically uncomfortable position. You can always modify from a gaze at the sky to a point a couple feet in front of you.

3. Know that you have the option to switch between gazing inward or at an outward point depending on your current state of your thoughts. If closing your eyes causes you to daydream, than opening your eyes will help you to concentrate.

Drishti with Pose Examples

Balancing poses: like  (Tree Pose).

Using Drishti helps you become stable and balanced matching the qualitaties of this balancing pose.

Common Pose:  (Downward-Facing Dog Pose), we use Nabhichakra.

This helps you focus on your navel chakra center, increasing energy and focus.

Seated forward bends,: Here you can gaze at the big toes.

This adds more energy and a grounding effect to the pose.

By using the drishti with the pose in your yoga practice, you gain many more benefits!