Do you practice yoga?
Why not? 20.4 million Americans do (as per a study released by Yoga Journal in December 2012). I’m not usually one to encourage going with the masses. I value individuality and freedom too much. But when it comes to yoga, I’d say these 20.4 million people have discovered something special that you should get in on. If you are concerned that you don’t have the flexibility, strength, or patience to give yoga a good shot, don’t be. You won’t be the only person in the class who is not limber, strong or focused enough to master all those poses from the get-go. Trust me on that. The great thing about yoga is, you don’t have to perfect the pose to reap the benefits. Just making the effort goes a long way.
Perhaps you are part of the 44.4 percent who call yourselves “aspirational yogis” – you are interested in trying yoga. I absolutely love that term. To me, it means you are half-way there, perhaps even more, you just need a little nudge to help you take that last step. Well, I say come on over to the light side. I was once an aspirational yogi, and remember it well. For years I was keen on learning yoga, but just didn’t know how to get started. And like everyone else, I worried about my abilities to keep up in class. But once I got myself into that yoga studio, I never turned back. So if you are teetering on that yoga scale, and want to make this the year you tip over to the yogi side, then maybe these pointers will help you get started:
Go studio hunting. Just like buying a house, you’d want to see a few before finding the perfect one. Same goes for a yoga studio. It’s important that you feel comfortable at the studio, and that the styles of yoga they teach meet your needs. Otherwise, you’ll find excuses not to go. Does the studio offer the calm, tranquil and soothing environment you need to de-stress and heal? Do they have friendly staff that are helpful and knowledgeable? Some studios have strict rules about being on time for class, and do not permit stragglers to enter once a class is in session. If this doesn’t fit your tendencies to be fashionably late, then find a studio that has an open door policy. Ask for a tour of the studio, what specials they have for new members, and which of their classes are suitable for newbies.
It’s all about the right teacher. Yes it is. Finding a good yoga teacher could mean the difference between becoming a yogi for life, or getting turned off of yoga for the rest of your life. Obviously, we want your experience to reflect the former. Look for a teacher that is knowledgeable, puts safety first, and personifies the yogi values. Do they understand yoga anatomy? Do they give clear instructions on how to get in and out of poses? Do they emphasize only going to your limits and leaving the ego at the door? Many studios offer new members a one week unlimited class pass for a reduced price. Take advantage of this offer to try out different classes and teachers so that you can find the one you connect with most.
Self-practice and practice regularly. The best way to get the hang of something, is to keep doing it. You might find your first yoga class to be somewhat challenging, but don’t let that scare you away. With time, and a regular routine, your tight joints will open up and you’ll start to flow easily through the poses, and feel great. Don’t wait a whole week or two before taking your next class. Get into the rhythm early on by having a regular practice of 3-4 times a week. And be sure to do some self-practice at home. It’ll help you become more aware of your body, and allow you to go deeper in your focus and concentration. If you’re thinking this is a lot of yoga, remember, it is called a yoga “practice” after all.
It’s just you and your mat. Get into your practice. Never mind what others around you are doing. Be open to accepting their positive energy, and using it to fuel your practice, but don’t get caught up in worrying about what others might be thinking of you. The truth is, everyone is too busy focusing on themselves, as they should be. The time on your mat is for you to rejuvenate, de-stress, strengthen your back, or whatever it is you feel you need that day. Set an intention at the beginning of your practice, and use that as your focal point to shut out distractions around you.
Listen to your body. This is by far the best piece of advice my yoga teacher could have given me. She would say it in every class, always encouraging us to only go as far into a pose as our body would allow us to that day. You should never feel pain in yoga. If you do, it’s your body’s way of telling you something is not right. Get out of the pose and do a modified version of it until you’ve built up the strength, flexibility or proper body alignment for it. Your teacher is there to help you with that. And if they don’t, then find another teacher. It’s easy to fall prey to our own ego, or to the pressure of peers and teachers. But safety always comes first, no matter what anyone else says.
Have a tip of your own to share, or perhaps an inspirational yoga experience? Leave a comment in the below comment box. I would love to hear them.