Former newbie Emma, shares her learnings that provide great foundations for beginners to yoga
The idea of starting yoga might spark fears of inadequacy and self-doubt, so much so that so that you give up before you even start. It’s a difficult mental hurdle, stepping out of our warm, cushy comfort zone and trying something for the first time. But equipping yourself with some tips from others who have already been down this road can help knock down some common misconceptions and barriers that prevent people from taking their first step onto the yoga mat.
1. You don’t have to be flexible to start
Of course, you’re not going to do a full split in your first class. Some people have this misconception that ‘I’m not flexible enough for yoga’…ummm how do you think your yoga teacher got so flexible? It’s like learning any new skill, you start with the foundations and work up from there. The best way to start yoga is…to start yoga.
2. Get in the right mindset. And ask why you’re doing it…
This is very personal and isn’t really anyone else’s business but your own. But having a purpose behind choosing to start yoga will help fuel your motivation to continue and develop your practice. So, take a moment, and think, ‘why have I chosen to start this?’ Now, write it down. Refer to this often.
3. What is all this yoga terminology?
Some people have heard of the term Savasana, AKA, Corpse Pose, AKA The Best Pose. But Sukhasana? Padangusthasana? Huh, what? Some people are well educated in traditional Sanskrit, however, most of us are not! Do teachers use these terms? Yes. Do you need to know these terms? NOPE! Most teachers will use both Sanskrit and English names for postures, plus, monkey see, monkey do! (that’s not a yoga pose by the way). If in doubt, always signal to the teacher that you’d like some tips.
4. Choose the right mat
So you’ve finally made it to your first yoga class. You pop up into your first Downward-Facing Dog. Your core is on, your heels are somewhere near the floor and your hands are strongly planted on the Earth…wait, nope, they’re sliding, away from your toes and your Downward Dog is swiftly turning into a Lying-Down Dog.
You’re cursing yourself for not looking like a rigid triangle like the rest of the class. Suddenly, you’re less in the zone and feeling flustered and wishing for this pose to finish!
While there are definitely techniques involved to improve grip strength to stay on your mat, if you have a dodgy mat, it’s going to be tricky. When purchasing a mat, you really do get what you pay for. And you won’t regret investing in a decent mat. Choose something sustainable, with a textured grip surface.
5. Live in the Moment
Ah, finally, you’re on your mat and the world is still. Actually, just your body is on your mat. But where is your mind? It’s managed to escape out the doors and is playing with remnants from the past and possibilities of the future. Part of the benefits of yoga practice is training your mind to be in the moment. Making your mind stay put and be an observer of the sensations you’re experiencing. This is not an easy task. But it’s definitely worth it and you WILL get better at it.
6. Yoga is not just the ASANA
Sure, if you’re going through the motions of the asana flows, you are building muscular strength, flexibility, and endurance. But yoga embodies more than just the physical. Gifting yourself time for body, mind and if you like, spirit is something that is so underrated today. We spend so much time giving our time to others – our boss, our partners, our kids, our friends, social media… but we rarely spend the time to refill our own mental-emotional cups.
7. Don’t forget to breathe
What do you do after you stub your toe? …I’m not talking about spitting out expletives…you take a deep breath and you let it out slowly, and repeat this until the pain subsides. This is with good reason. Deep breathing increases oxygen levels, slows your heart rate and triggers your brain to stimulate the rest and digest response, telling you ‘you’re safe’. By deep breathing throughout your yoga practice, you’re staying in a state of calmness and letting your (overused) stress hormones take a back seat and have a rest. Breathing through poses also helps to stretch and release further into postures. So remember to inhale and exhale through your poses and reap the benefits.
8. Don’t go beyond your limits
After your first yoga class, you’ll realise that yoga is actually a lot more challenging than external appearance – that’s if you’re trying work to someone else’s challenge level, and not your own. In yoga, you make your own level of challenge. Going beyond something that is safe for your body, isn’t challenging yourself, it’s silly. Truly reconnecting your mind to your body is when we can actually feel what we need and want. Disconnection happens when we treat our bodies like a machine, not considering the consequences of overexertion. We’re aiming to grow our bodies, not punish them.
9. You never get ‘good’ at yoga
That’s not to say you never get better at yoga…because you definitely do! And with regular practice, quite quickly. Like the aforementioned ‘challenging’ aspect, there is always going to be something that challenges you. And by weaving yoga into your lifestyle, it will walk with you and be there to help you grow or softly realign you if you’ve lost your way.
- By Emma English – a former new student of Bend + Fly, and now a yoga teacher at B+F