What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of yoga?
Some of the common responses I hear as an instructor are “I’m not flexible, I can’t do yoga” or “I don’t think my mind can relax enough for that” and even “I like to do cardio workouts instead.” Well I am here to tell you that yoga can actually help you with all of the above responses. If you need to become more flexible, try yoga. If you want to learn to relax, try yoga. If you want a good cardio workout, try yoga. It can become the answer to many of your questions! Finding the best yoga class for you and figuring out how to get started, now that can be tough!
What is yoga?
First let’s define yoga. It comes from the Sanskrit language and is translated as meaning “union”. By definition alone, you are bringing your body into union. Creating harmony between mind, body and spirit. Something that can so easily be lost in our fast paced culture. It’s not a common occurrence to sit and be still with our thoughts and yoga can teach us to find balance and really learn how our bodies work. It’s about learning to breathe intentionally and find a safe space to really explore who you are while conditioning your body in a gentle and effective way.
Yoga is an ancient practice that first began in eastern cultures approximately 5,000 years ago. The way modern society views yoga now is vastly different from the way it began. When we think of yoga now, we think poses or postures, but in fact yoga has an 8 part path that incorporates more than just movement. Yoga includes not only poses, breath work, and meditation but a consciousness of self, others, and the spiritual universe. In simplest of terms, you’re connected and aware of the world around you and your place in it.
How to find a class that fits
There are literally hundreds of different kinds of yoga. Every teacher has been taught a little differently and has a style of their own so it is important to try a few classes with a few different teachers to make sure you find a style that fits for you. As a beginner I recommend taking a class designed for beginners so that you can learn the foundational poses that will be used in most classes. You’ll feel much more successful if you have a basic understanding of the poses before you advance your practice. Yoga can be done by anyone, no matter your age, body type, and physical condition; there is a place for you in yoga. You just have to be willing to take a chance and find what works best for you!
Often I hear stories of students who practiced yoga once a few years ago but quickly decided it wasn’t for them. When in fact I believe they just didn’t find the right yoga class for them. For example, when you’re at a restaurant and deciding what meal to enjoy, there are multiple options to choose from, but one time you had a steak that was undercooked. Does this mean you’ll never eat another steak? Probably not, but you’ll find a place that makes it just the way you like it. Be willing to experience different styles and teachings to find your favorite. A restorative class, a vigorous energetic class, or a slow flow class can all be great options depending on how your body is feeling that specific day. Don’t let one experience a few years ago hold you back from finding your inner peace with a yoga class that makes both your mind and body feel marvelous.
Let go of expectations
Yoga is all about connecting with your own body and mind. Its very premise is to guide you to a better understanding of yourself and you can’t do that if you’re worried about how you look or who is next to you. There will be days when you feel confident in your practice because you nailed that balance pose and days when you wonder where on earth the balance you had yesterday went. It’s part of enjoying the journey. Yoga is simply a practice, no one is ever going to be perfect, the ebb and flow of your rhythm and thoughts is completely normal, so embrace it! Letting go of expectations is often times one of the harder parts of a yoga practice, but I can promise you, if you settle the mental chatter within, you will get much more out of your experience!
Respect yourself first
In keeping with the age old traditions of the 8 part path to yoga, respecting and honoring yourself is of primacy. Making sure you’re safe in your yoga practice is and always should be the number one priority of instructors. But only you know your body. So make sure that you are respecting your body’s limitations at all times. If you can’t get into a pose today, accept that and choose a modification and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. There are a vast variety of ways to get the same benefits from a pose in a different way.
Anatomically speaking, every single body is different and every day brings a different challenge so there is no point in trying to perfect a posture when your body says no. Don’t lose sight of why you are doing yoga in the first place, creating that space for your mind and body to connect is of utmost importance. Finding strength and balance can be difficult at first, but you are ultimately in control of your practice and your instructor is only there to guide you on your path.
Remember your goals
When you are first beginning on your journey to building your yoga practice remember that it’s exactly that, a journey, that will take twists and turns and have hills and valleys. Take each moment just as it is. Spend some time reflecting on what exactly your goals are for practicing yoga and enjoying finding the right path to reach those goals. You may be surprised at what you uncover about yourself along the way. I hope that you will be able to find the balance, the strength, the flexibility and the relaxation that your body needs and don’t forget to leave it all on the mat. Every day is a new chance to learn and grow, enjoy the journey!
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