Judith Lasater says, ~ Come to your mat into a new or challenging pose asking, "Is this pose healthy for me?" By asking this simple question you individualize your practice in a very loving way.
I recently had coffee with a fellow yoga teacher. We talked about staying healthy as teachers in our own practice. She opened up about a time in her training when she became complacent and injured herself doing repetitive chaturangas. (Chaturanga is a transition from plank to up dog repeated numerous times in an Ashtanga practice). She just simply lost focus and stopped listening to her body. She was distracted by her progress. She called it "going through the motions!"
As students, how can we be more present in our practice when we step on to our mat simply wanting to shut out the day, but inevitably it shows up? The busy-ness of the mind may be one of the most difficult things to tackle in a yoga practice. We think about what happened at work, compare ourselves to the ultra bendy person next to us or even what's for dinner! A distracted mind is something we all experience, even the most seasoned yogis. First, focus on your breath and when the mind wanders return to your breath. Even counting your breath can help you to remained focused. During the active part of the class, listen fully to your teacher. Hear the cues given. Look at your body and not the body next to you. It can also be helpful to close your eyes in some poses to redirect yourself back to your SELF. Finally, remember that yoga is your journey into self discovery. It is not to be rushed, but savored each time you step onto your mat. Don't judge a busy mind. We all have them at times. Just honor yourself and your practice and all that comes with the journey.