Yoga is gaining in popularity and rightfully so as there are so many benefits. However yoga isn’t one size fits all so when you start, it’s important to find a class that is suitable for you. Here are a few tips if you are just starting out on your yoga journey.
1. Yoga Should Never Hurt
Most important one first. There should never be any pain while practicing yoga.
If you have any existing injuries, illnesses or limitations, make sure you tell the teacher before the class. Having any of these does not mean that you can’t participate, it just means the teacher knows to give you a modification or extra guidance for any pose that may aggravate that condition or to maybe give you an alternative that may actually help.
Even if you have no existing conditions, you will probably find yourself moving the body in ways you have never tried before. This could mean that at some point, you feel something that indicates you should ease off. If that happens, do exactly that. Nothing should be forced when practicing yoga.
2. You Don’t Need To Be Flexible To Do Yoga
Yoga is not about being able to put your foot behind your head or any of the other extreme contortions of the body you may have come across on the internet. Yes, yoga does improve flexibility… as well as strength, focus, inner peace, and so on. It does not mean you need to already possess any of those qualities to attend a class. Yoga is a journey of discovery...
3. Not Everyone Will Look The Same In A Pose
This is why it is not a good idea to practice yoga using a book. Trying to look like the model in the photo is not going to work. The reason for this is everyone is different. We know that everyone looks different on the outside; we accept without question that everyone in the class will look different in terms of height, hair colour, eye colour, etc… but we don’t often think about the different ways our body can be structured.
We have different proportions and our joints will be shaped differently. This isn’t something we can visually compare, this is only something we may be able to feel within ourselves. In addition to this, we also have had different life experiences which can affect our range of movement, and yes, our flexibility too. All of this means that yoga students will look different when practicing a yoga pose.
A good rule of thumb is to listen to what the teacher is saying rather than trying to copy what the person next to you or the teacher looks like. A good yoga teacher will verbally guide you into a pose, telling you how to place the body to keep safe and offering alternatives to cater for the different bodies and experience levels in the class. This enables you to find the perfect fit for you.
4. A Yoga Class Is Not A Fitness Class
Many people come to yoga because of the physical benefits. Increasing flexibility being the most common reason. However a yoga class is not a fitness class; there is so much more than the physical side.
Yoga is primarily about the mind. The purpose of the physical practice has always been to create a healthy body that allows us to sit still and meditate without any niggles and twinges distracting us.
As well as the physical benefits of particular poses, there are also energetic effects. This can be loosely translated into ‘how do you feel while doing yoga?’. When you first start practicing yoga, you may be so concentrated on trying to follow what you are being asked to do, that you really only notice this at the end of the class but with time, you may start to become aware of it as you practice.
Yoga is a combination of physical poses, mental awareness, breath and energy and how they all combine to create a holistic experience. If you think yoga is a quick way to get a bikini-body for your holiday in a month’s time then you will be disappointed. However, stick with it for a while and maintain a regular practice and you may be surprised how much healthier you feel throughout your being.
5. Yoga Is A Personal Experience
Similar to the fact everyone will look different in a yoga pose, the chances are everyone will feel a little differently in a yoga class. This can be down to how each individual is feeling when they come into class (tired, energised, etc…), how their day has gone so far, what the traffic was like on the way to class and so on.
Yoga can also feel different each time you practice. You can do the exact same class multiple times and it can be a different experience each time. There is no right or wrong way to feel when practicing yoga.
Using a Prop Does Not Mean You Are Cheating
You may see a variety of props in a yoga class. In addition to a mat, there may also be blocks, bricks, bolsters, blankets, etc… I’m a big fan of props and encourage students in my class to use them if they are available (or improvise with what’s around them when they’re not!). However, there is sometimes some resistance to using props. This is often because some students see using a prop as cheating.
So dealing with the first reason… Using a prop allows a student to access the pose in a way that wouldn’t be possible without the prop and prevents strain in the body. It is a stepping stone on the path to practicing with ease which is the aim of a physical yoga practice. The body automatically compensates for a restriction in the one part of the body so if there is restriction or tightness somewhere, then another part of the body will work harder to compensate for this and you can end up introducing strain in that area and not getting any benefit from the pose.
Because everyone in the class will look different in a pose, each student may have different prop requirements. This does not mean that anyone is ‘better at yoga’ than anyone else.
7. One Style Does Not Fit All
The number of different styles of yoga can be a bit overwhelming, especially when you start. They all ultimately have the same aim, it’s just the journey that will differ.
Not all styles will be suitable for each individual. If you have never done yoga before, I would recommend going for a class that has ‘beginner’ in the title. Even then, there is no guarantee that it will be suitable for your needs or your personality. If you try a class and you don’t like it or you didn’t feel that you had a connection with the teacher, then try a different class. For some people, a beginners yoga course will be more suitable to begin with as you will learn in a more structured way from the ground up.
Even if it takes a little while to find the space that is right for you, it doesn’t mean that yoga isn’t for you or you can’t do yoga, it just means you haven’t found the right class or teacher yet. Yoga is for everyone! It’s just about finding the right fit.