Starting out with yoga (or even thinking about trying it) can be overwhelming. I know, we've all been there! I remember trying to navigate my very first yoga class, so different than the aerobics class I took earlier that week. I could tell that I was supposed to be relaxing, but was I really breathing right? Was I doing the poses perfectly? Could other people tell it was my first class? I felt like it was glaringly obvious that I was a newbie. I had so much to learn and even more to unlearn. :)
Even in a loving and welcoming yoga community, you still might think those things at first. But it probably won't take you long to realize that all the pressure you're putting on yourself is unnecessary. Take a look at my following tips to discover how awesome yoga really is:
1.) Inherent flexibility will not give you any advantage. In fact, many times, it's much more difficult for a flexible body to learn how to integrate all the appropriate muscles within a posture than it is for someone who is stiff to find more space. Flexibility, limber muscles and mobility are just some of many goals and results of a regular physical yoga practice, but everyone's body is different. There will always be certain postures that some people can do easily and others take time to develop, regardless of however you define "flexibility."
2.) Pay attention to your body. It's important to learn how to become aware of each and every muscle and joint in your body. If your attention is constantly on the teacher or other students during your practice, it will be more challenging to pay attention to what you're actually feeling. Allow yourself to take the time to turn your attention inward to just yourself.
3.) Everyone mixes up right and left. No worries! There are just some days that you, your neighbor or your teacher cannot seem to delineate left from right. Just be sure to visit both sides for asymmetrical poses to keep your body in balance.
4.) Let go of self-judgement. If you trip, forget to breathe or can't figure out a posture, just do your best, keep going and accept it as part of your beautiful journey. This is all part of learning how to appropriately deal with stress or mistakes in life. We take a few focused breaths and slowly try again or take a break.
5.) Don't worry about advanced poses. It might be tempting to turn your yoga into something it's not: a platform to show-off your athletic prowess. It's okay to have a goal pose and be proud of your achievements, but never be ashamed to rest or skip any posture you're not comfortable with. That's part of the point. Your practice will naturally build over time.
6.) Take a few minutes a day for yoga. A few postures, 5 minutes of meditation or just some breathing practice will help your mind and body more than 1 long class once or twice a week. Give yourself peace and quiet to just tune-in to your body, mind and emotions for the day. Every little bit counts.
7.) No judging. You might hear gentle reminders in your yoga class to "leave the ego at the door," "stay present in your own practice" or reassurance that "no one is judging you." In yoga philosophy, ahimsa—often translated as "non-violence" or "non-harming"—is a very important practice of cultivating an attitude of loving kindness, contentment, or non-judgment toward ourselves and others. We use this to create a welcoming atmosphere in the studio, but it's meant to be part of daily life as well.
8.) Ask questions and make requests! Your yoga teacher really loves yoga and only serves to suggest poses and facilitate your learning. If something doesn't feel right, you have an idea or you're curious about why we do certain things we do, please let your teacher know so that he/she can help you improve your practice! If you do not practice with a teacher, I would encourage you to seek one out in your area that gets you excited about yoga.
Hopefully these tips are encouraging for your yoga practice. Use them to deepen your understanding of real acceptance among the yoga culture. Save them think about them or meditate on any that challenge you. We could all use occasional little reminders for the simple things sometimes, so don't forget these basics! Namaste <3