In my ten years as a yoga instructor I hear many of the same questions from people who want to start doing yoga. The following are a few tips that you can use if you are a beginner, or pass them along to friends and family that would like to incorporate a yoga practice into their lives.
I can’t do yoga, I’m not flexible.
Practicing asana (yoga poses) helps to create flexibility, you do not have to already be flexible to start doing yoga. Everyone begins their yoga practice with strengths and weaknesses. Many people are very flexible but have limited strength, while others are very strong and tight with limited flexibility. Sometimes people are limited in both. An asana practice promotes balanced strength and flexibility. Everytime a new student attends a class, they progress a little further to building a stronger and more supple body. Which leads me to the next part…
Yoga is NOT just physical exercise.
There are many benefits of a yoga practice. Asana builds a strong, flexible and healthy body but this is not the only benefit. What distinguishes yoga from other forms of exercise is it’s emphasis on breath and mindfulness. Breathing mindfully and maintaining an inward focus as we move through a yoga class brings us mental and emotional benefits on top of a healthy and fit body.
Yoga is not a competitive sport.
Many times beginners come to yoga and try to force their way into postures without breathing. This is how people get hurt in yoga. Many of us grew up playing competitive sports so it feels natural to push ourselves into the “perfect pose” or try to mimic the people around you that seem to be doing everything “right.” Everyone is going to look different in yoga postures – there is no right, there is no wrong. There is no need to compare yourself to the students around you – your focus should be internal, on the breath. If you are breathing smoothly and deeply, than it will be very difficult to get hurt. Let go of your competitive nature and embrace one of the many wonderful lessons that yoga teaches us: be in the moment, let go of the need to achieve.
There are so many yoga styles – which one do I choose?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions when you sign up for classes at a yoga studio. Ask which classes are best for beginners and they should point you in the right direction. Stay tuned for an article outlining all the different styles. If you can afford it, taking a few private lessons is a wonderful way to begin your yoga practice because you can ask specific questions and learn modifications catered to your needs.
Everyone is going to be looking at me and I’m going to look silly.
I hear this all the time! Trust me – no one is looking at you! Everyone is focused on themselves and is absorbed in their own experience. No one is judging you. I promise.
Try to attend classes at least twice a week.
If you really want to create change in both body and mind, it is best to attend classes at least twice a week. Three times per week is ideal. Once you find a studio that you like, commit to going as often as possible. Purchasing a membership for unlimited classes is a great idea. You’ve made a financial commitment and it will make you more likely to go to class.
Just breathe, and the rest will come.
Remember that breath is the most important part of this practice. Don’t feel like you have to do everything that the teacher says. Your breath is the ultimate teacher. Learn to establish a connection with your breathing, keep it smooth and deep throughout the class, and again – don’t worry about what you look like doing the postures. Yoga class is a time to let go of everything on your mind and find some stillness and peace. Your body will feel more free and open, and you will also experience many mental and emotional benefits as well. Once you incorporate this practice into your life, you will always have it – that’s why yoga is not just another trend. It is truly a lifestyle that we incorporate into our lives…one day at a time.