Between holiday travel聽and crunch time at work, it鈥檚 more important than ever聽to hit the mat this time of year. Whether you鈥檙e a seasoned yogi or a newbie just buying her first piece of Kate Spade yoga gear, everyone can benefit from a little expert advice. So we reached out to top instructors to get them to spill their best yoga聽secret.聽Here are their top seven words of wisdom.


1. Focus on the Basics.聽Sure, it鈥檚 normal to get classroom envy of the lady or fella who鈥檚 holding a headstand like it ain鈥檛 no thang, but mastering the fundamentals and devoting your energy to honing in on the simple poses is key. 鈥淚t鈥檚 a yoga practice, not a performance!鈥 Gina Marciano, yoga instructor at Studio Three in Chicago, reminds us. 鈥淚t鈥檚 not about perfection, it鈥檚 about progress. Oftentimes, yoga poses are most beneficial when you go back to the basics and strip away the fancy variations,鈥 Marciano adds. If you aren鈥檛 ready for certain poses in class, don鈥檛 be shy about grabbing a block to prop you up or other aids like foot bands. 鈥淭his will not only make a posture more accessible, but will also allow your breath to deepen and for both your body and mind to be more responsive and less reactive to tension,鈥 explains Marciano.

2. Try and Fail: It鈥檚 Okay!聽鈥淓ven if a pose looks super crazy or impossible, give it a try. You may surprise yourself, but even if you don鈥檛, every time you try, it builds strength and confidence,鈥 offers聽Rebecca Weible, Director and Founder of Yo Yoga! in New York City. Perfect example: You know that time your instructor tells you to have faith and let go and throw your feet into the air for crane pose? Trust yourself and just count 鈥1-2-3鈥 and then go. Hey, the worst that can happen is you teeter over and try again.

3. Connect With Your Breath.聽The secret? Well, it鈥檚 right under your nose and happening without you even noticing. 鈥淚t鈥檚 your breath!鈥 exclaims Karen Verechia, Yoga Instructor at Hilton Head Health, a wellness retreat in South Carolina. If you鈥檙e feeling stressed or frustrated, the yogi principle of connecting with your breath is key. 鈥淔ocus on slowing down your breath. You can switch from your sympathetic nervous system (aka, the 鈥榝ight or flight鈥 system) to the parasympathetic system (aka, the 鈥榬est and digest鈥 system), by simply taking the time for a fuller breath. You鈥檒l emerge more relaxed and focused,鈥 explains聽Verechia. Some important notes: Make sure your exhale is longer than your inhale by about two times. First count your inhale, and then double that count as you exhale. Verechia suggests trying for聽five to seven breath cycles in a minute, with a cycle of an inhale and exhale counting as one.聽When coffee cravings strike at work and you鈥檙e feeling sluggish, fatigued and like you totally can鈥檛 concentrate, try this 鈥渂reath of fire鈥 technique first, suggests聽Verechia: 鈥淓xhale strongly out of your month and pull your stomach in (like panting). Inhales just happen. Focus on the exhale and get a rhythm going. Aim for聽60 counts, then rest. Notice. Repeat if necessary.

4.聽Choose a Mantra.聽鈥淏efore class, I say to myself, 鈥業 picked this choice. I did this for a reason. I don鈥檛 hate being in the brutal heat and humidity. I鈥檓 feeling fine.鈥 then I wish myself good luck and knock it out like a champ,鈥 advises Patrick Mason, a聽TruFusion聽Yoga Instructor聽in Las Vegas. Whitney Owens, also a Yoga Instructor at TruFusion, shares聽鈥淚 like to begin my yoga practice in child鈥檚 pose to ground myself into the room and get present to listening to my body throughout the practice. I use the mantra, 鈥楲isten and trust your body.鈥 That way, I am working to stay away from injury, but finding my edge in each practice.鈥 For you, your mantra might be as simple as 鈥淚 am enough鈥 or 鈥淟et go.鈥 Use the quote to motivate and guide you throughout the whole class, particularly when you鈥檙e trying to hold a tough pose or find yourself struggling with a move. Check out these motivational posters for some inspiration.

5. Let Things Evolve Naturally.聽You鈥檝e powered your way through planning and pulling off the perfect Friendsgiving聽and are a rock star when it comes to acing your cycling class. So, why are you having such a hard time nailing that Chaturanga in sync with the rest of your class? Don鈥檛 be discouraged. 鈥淵oga is meant to be a lifetime practice, so there鈥檚 no sense in attempting to master every posture in the first week, six months or even year. Allow this to be the one part of your life that isn鈥檛 goal- or task-oriented and enjoy the freedom and ease that comes from that,鈥 comforts Gina Marciano, yoga instructor at Studio Three in Chicago. 鈥淔orget about the destination and embrace every moment of the journey to self-discovery and abundant peace,鈥 reflects Marciano.

6. Ditch the Mat Envy.聽You know the drill: Arrive in class, cool and confident. Until you realize you are next to the world鈥檚 most limber yogi who manages to have perfect hair and clothes and goes through class without a bead of sweat on her forehead. Instead of being jealous, remember this: 鈥淒on鈥檛 compare yourself to others while practicing yoga! Easier said than done, right? When we compare, we automatically focus our attention outward rather than inward and lose our connection to the breath and the present moment. As soon as you observe your thoughts starting to wander, bring yourself back to your breath. Take a deep inhale, exhale and bring your attention back to your own body and mind,鈥 says Katie Manbachi, Yoga Instructor at Yo Yoga! in New York City.

7. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate All Day Long, Especially Before Hot Yoga.聽You might think sipping on good ol鈥 H2O during class is enough, but yoga pros know better: 鈥淗ydrate well聽with聽electrolytic water throughout the day. If you are fully hydrated before class, you should not need water during class.聽Once class starts,聽it鈥檚 too late to gain the benefits of the hydration and聽drinking water becomes simply a psychosomatic crutch,鈥 says聽Mark Balfe-Taylor, Director of Yoga at TruFusion. 鈥淗owever, for those who struggle with the temperature of聽heated classes,聽ice water will reduce your internal temperature, enabling you to cope better,鈥 Balfe-Taylor advises. Bottom line: Sip on water throughout the day (here鈥檚聽another reason to raise your glass, in case you need it), and still bring a bottle along to class.

Do you have a favorite yoga pose?聽Tweet us at聽@BritandCo!

(Photo via Getty)聽