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Are you new to Yoga? Have you been thinking about checking out what the whole yoga craze is about, but not know where to start? Well, my friend, you’ve found your people.
Yoga can be done anytime or anywhere. Seriously. Check out my series on the 8 limbs of Yoga as described by Patanjali . It goes so far beyond the classes and sticky mat. It promotes balance, calmness, and grace, which is something we ALL need these days.
Today we’re talking about the posture (asana) practice.
Now, I suggest attending a class if you’re a beginner. But when I first learned Yoga, my freshman year in college, I learned from books~spread on the floor of my dorm room. It was slow going, but exciting. It was 100% what I needed to step into the new chapter of my life. It seems we all have a story about how we come to yoga, and each story is special.
I’m a huge fan of www.gaia.com or www.yogainternational.com for an amazing collection of beginner yoga videos. You can filter by the type of yoga you are interested in, time, teacher, difficulty level and focus. This is a great, inexpensive way to get your feet wet in the yoga world if you don’t have a yoga studio nearby
The most important think about starting a Yoga practice, is just DOING it. Just get on a mat in class, or at home and dive right in. You don’t need much, just gravity and a sticky mat. The yoga mat is a must, so your feet don’t slide around and injure yourself.
Here are my tips for starting a beginner Yoga practice!
1. Be easy
Be easy on yourself! Yoga can be hard. It’s difficult to develop a new habit of exercise. Be nice to yourself, and give yourself some credit for beginning a new journey. If you skip a day, or a week, or a month. Give yourself a self-hug and get your ass back on your mat. It’s normal and you’re probably doing the best you can. You’re amazing…keep being amazing. Be gentle. You don’t have to buy the most expensive yoga gear or clothes. Some days I practice at beautiful, hot springs in my fancy yoga clothes, and other days I practice in my pajamas. It’s all good. You don’t need to push yourself too hard.
2. Go crazy
On the other hand, you can go crazy with yoga too and it’s all good too. Go ahead and buy all the yoga gear. Wrap a prayer mala around your wrist and plant a Buddha statue on your desk. Carry around your copy of the Bhagavad Gita and be proud. Dive in deep to the lessons of yoga and don’t give a damn about what others think. This is your journey. Get on your mat three times a day. Hell, drag it into your closet so the kids can’t find you for 10 minutes….go as deep as you want.
3. If it hurts, don’t do it
Never ever let someone else tell you what to do with your body. Your yoga teacher should be a gentle guide through a series of yoga postures. If you find a posture that genuinely physically hurts you. Lay off of that pose. Ask for an easier variation of the pose, or just drop down into a child’s pose. If you feel light-headed, just get down on the ground. If a teacher engages with guilt or forces you into something that you know isn’t right, they’re probably not the right teacher for you. If it causes physical pain, don’t do it.
4. If it’s hard, keep doing it.
Now. There’s a difference between pain and a posture just being too damn hard right? Again, if it’s impossible for you, ask for an adjustment or easier variation. Work your way up to the harder pose gently. If you find that it’s hard, or you just don’t like a particular pose. Well, yogic tradition says that you need to spend MORE time with that pose. Keep at it, until you master it.
Does a certain pose elicit a significant emotional reaction? Then I HIGHLY encourage you to spend some time in that pose, exploring those feelings. You don’t have to go through that process during a yoga class with other people if you don’t want to. But get back into that pose at home. There is something there that is worthwhile to explore.
5. Lose your expectations
Think you’re going to be bored in a yoga practice? Are you expecting that you’re going to lose 50 pounds in one month with yoga? Do you think you’re not flexible enough? Do you think that yoga class is too “religious” or “goes against my religion?” Chances are your assumptions are not the reality of what you will experience. Practice mindfulness and be present in the moment. You WILL be surprised at what you will find in the practice.
6. Be consistent
Whether you are committed to a daily or weekly yoga practice you will see the benefit. But only if you’re consistent. Commit to what you are comfortable with. If you overschedule, scale it back. If you love it so much you want more, add some more practice sessions to your schedule. A yoga practice should support you, not drain you. But be consistent even if your practice is just 10 minutes a day. You will see amazing benefits no matter how often you practice.
7. Don’t judge.
Don’t judge what other people are doing in class. Don’t compare your own expression of the pose to the chick who’s been practicing for 20 years. Every person in a class will be at a different experience level, and that’s great. You can totally check people out in class (you’re going to anyway right?), but don’t negatively compare yourself to them. Send them good energy, a silent thank you, for being an inspiration, then focus on your own damn self. 🙂 And no judging yourself either!
8. NEVER skip Savasana
Savasana is the ending corpse pose, when you lay on your back, fully relaxed and passively integrate the yoga practice into your body. Resting. It is the most important yoga posture there is. I know in the beginning I would get so fidgety during Savasana, that I would pop up as soon as the teacher mentioned wiggling my fingers and toes, and get myself out the door first. Now…I’m addicted to restorative yoga, where the whole class is practically Savasana.
Rest. It’s what all of us need to balance out our busy daily schedules and chaos. It rejuvenates us, gives our brains a little break and our nervous system some much-needed downtime. Don’t skip this. EVER.
Starting a new practice is an exciting time and you will totally love it! An asana practice will benefit you by increasing calmness, improving fitness and make you a better person. It true! Don’t get caught up in any “shoulds” or “musts” of the practice. Just enjoy the journey, and let us know how it goes!