Cheers to yoga! This ancient practice has voyaged across the world, evolving as needed in order to offer it’s gifts to men and women of all shapes and sizes, from all walks of life.
If you have body tension and discomfort, trouble sleeping, mounting stress or budding overwhelm: yoga can help. Yoga creates more space in our body and mind; it helps us learn to let go.
Over 20 years ago, I stepped into my first yoga class, not realizing the ride it would take me on. As to be expected, with or without yoga, my life has changed in many ways since then. Despite my aging, I feel more strength as well as comfort in my body and mind than I ever have before.
When I first started out with yoga I wanted to be able to do the poses in the book I had; obviously these were challenging postures yet the people performing them were clearly demonstrating grace and ease.
Unknowingly, I think that on a deeper level, I was craving to face the challenging situations in life with a similar grace and ease.
As a 20 year old those challenges looked like: dissatisfaction with my body and choices, worrying that others weren’t pleased with me and uncertainty about the future. My challenges are different now but there’s still a vain of similarity; the grooves of habits run deep.
Like a good friend, yoga has been there through it all and she continues to show up, every single time I invite her to join me. Yoga is a tool for better living.
With careful instruction and guidance, yoga is a highly adaptable practice that can accommodate most everybody. It’s a physical activity that we can maintain through all stages of our life.
If you’re ready to get started with yoga or to commit to the practice at a stronger level, here’s a few tips to building a fantastic foundation:
CHOOSE A BEGINNING LEVEL CLASS
It’s tough to be a beginner in an “all levels” type drop in class and frankly it can be discouraging for the student. Chances are the teacher would love to have you, and you’re not holding the class back, so don’t worry about those things. But you’ll make it easier on yourself and you’ll learn at an accelerated rate if you choose a class that’s specifically designed to teach the foundations of yoga.
I love teaching the basics to folks who are fairly new to yoga. The steep growth curve is exciting to watch; it’s lovely to see the changes in their bodies and confidence from week to week, not to mention the delight of hearing their reports of less tension and stiffness but greater well being.
Being able to witness people connecting to their breath and body sensations so deeply is a huge privilege.
BUILD COMMITMENT AND THEREFORE MOMENTUM
Look for a series that is at the same day of the week, at the same time of day, at the same location. Be willing to commit so that your work and efforts can be progressive. If you are continually starting and stopping your momentum you won’t be building on what you know with the same amount of impact. Choosing classes here and there that happen to work for your schedule won’t offer much by the way of developing your congruence and rhythm.
LOOK FIRST THEN LISTEN
When learning yoga we move from relying on visual instruction to relying on auditory instruction.
When an instructor gives you a chance to be still and watch them do the pose then asks you to do the pose you have a very different experience than if you are trying to watch the instructor doing the pose while doing it yourself as well.
Many classes are not taught in this way; this is a huge asset for your learning curve, look for a teacher that offers visual demonstrations of the poses they are asking you to perform. Interview them before you begin to ask them about their teaching style.
If you are given this opportunity to “watch then try” you learn how the pose feels in your body faster. As you gain confidence you will move from needing to see the pose to simply listening for the verbal directions. Based on the verbal instructions you’ll be able to make your own internal adjustments accordingly. It’s a balance between listening to what the teacher is asking of you and listening to your body.
START A HOME PRACTICE RIGHT AWAY
Classes with a knowledgeable teacher are paramount to building a sure foundation; couple that with a short daily routine at home and you’ll be off to an incredible start. Start super small with this, 5 minutes each day is all you need.
Don’t be tempted to think that 5 minutes isn’t enough, it’s huge! When it comes to building habits it’s important to start very small, make the activity so easy that you can’t say no.
It’s about the long run. First, stabilize 5 minutes. When that is stabilized, then you can make it 6 minutes for a few weeks, so on and so forth. Imagine what you will have created a year down the road.
Your 5 minutes of yoga each day doesn’t have to look like formal time on the mat either; here are some options for creatively weaving it into your day:
- desk yoga – set a timer to remind yourself
- after workout yoga
- first thing in the morning while your tea water is boiling yoga
- before bed to relax and get a good night’s sleep yoga
BUILD AND REBUILD IT FROM THE GROUND UP
Your foundation is yours, you get to keep it, be thorough, build it strong and stable!
Beyond being an actual beginner at any new endeavor, beginner’s mind is a skill we can all benefit from. It’s always a good time to sure up our foundation. Every time I revisit the basics my practice gets stronger and I know my body more deeply.
NEED SUPPORT TO GET GOING WITH THIS
Whether you’re near or far, I invite you to reach out to me here. Let’s have a conversation, perhaps I can help you to get rolling with the changes you seek.
EXPAND YOUR IMPACT
When I started, “doing yoga” it was a way that I could explore doing challenging physical postures while staying calm and purposeful in my effort. But then yoga taught me that my time on my mat, as rewarding as it was, was really just practice for life.
It’s true that because of yoga I have less tension in my neck and shoulders and more core strength. It’s true that I can do the splits and balance on one leg. These things are fabulous; I want to enjoy the sensuous experience of being in this body for years to come so I’ll keep doing yoga to help.
However, after having some years of this practice under my belt, I can confidently say, the best part about my yoga practice is the impact it has on my relationship with myself and therefore my relationships with others.
I’m a better mother because of yoga. I’m a better friend because of yoga. I’m a better adversary because of yoga. I’m a better community member too.
At the root of all that, is the fact that yoga teaches me to listen and be kind to myself, which in turn, allows me to be kind in my actions.