Hello and welcome.
As you have decided to read this post, you are either new to yoga and would like to know more about it, or you are just generally interested in yoga and find my articles stimulating.
Either way, I would like to share a couple of tips with you, that I gathered from my personal experience on how to make the most of your practice and to make sure that you will leave the class with new energy and positive feelings.
In my previous yoga post, I mentioned that when I initially tried yoga, I did not enjoy it. On the contrary, I found the practice boring and could not understand why people loved it so much. My issue was not really related to flexibility, being an ex-gymnast meant that I could bend just a bit more easily than my fellow yogis. The problem was that I went to the class mentally unprepared and with wrong expectations.
Yoga for me was just another class to join, a different workout and way to stretch my muscles. I remember, during my first class, I kept looking at my neighbours not sure if what I was doing was right and I wanted to look amazingly chilled in the poses (asanas) that I probably pushed and bent in the worst possible way. Naturally, at the end of the class, I left more anxious than before.
As I am now writing about yoga it is obvious to say that I have tried a second time, a third and so on. I have joined a different studio, have followed other teachers and have experimented with new yoga styles. I tried different options before understanding that yoga is not just another workout and it is not about how beautiful you look in difficult asanas, even though it is pretty amazing to see what our body can do. Yoga is about self-discovery; it is movement made to find stillness in our minds. Our practice is a way to connect within, to search for our essence and understand ourselves. Yoga is not something that stays on the mat or at the gym, it is a lifestyle, a journey that we take to change our lives for the better, to lighten our minds and clear our paths.
That being said, don’t be misguided into thinking that once yoga is incorporated into our lives, we move in an isolate place, meditate 24 hours a day, drop our non-yogi friends and start eating vegan.
From my prospective, yoga can be easily integrated into our daily routine, without contort or drastically transform it. What will change is our prospective to life and the way we live it.
So, what should we do to leave the struggle behind and fully enjoy our yoga practice?
- Forget the sentence “I am not flexible; I cannot do yoga”.
Yoga is not about flexibility, on the contrary, being “stiff” will save your joints from hyper-extension, doing more harm than good to yourself. Flexibility will come step-by-step.
According to one interpretation of the word “Yoga” by T.Krishnamacharya, this practice is a tool “to reach a point we have not reached before”, therefore to find our edge, our limits and play with them. Ideally, we should stretch just enough to feel our muscles extend but not be in pain. If there is pain, it is not a good sign and means that we are crossing our safety net/edge.
Don’t worry if your neighbour can bend in unthinkable ways and you are struggling; everybody started as a beginner. We have all been new to yoga at a certain point in our lives. Focusing on our own practice is much more important than amaze others. Imagine you are driving a shiny, new car and all you care about is the outside world’s reaction, but there is no attention on the road in front of you. Eventually, you will crash, damaging the car and yourself. A good driver is proud of the car he owns, without losing stability or focus on the way ahead.
- Let go: worries, meetings, deadlines.
The reasons that push you into joining a yoga class might be different, but I am more that certain that one of those is to enjoy a bit of alone time. Leave your doubts and fears outside; how can balancing or strength be tested if worries keep coming to you? They will disturb your practice. Instead of being calm and relaxed, you would have the opposite effect leaving the studio nervous and unbalanced. This minutes or hour that we take are for us, we use them to recharge and focus, let’s not waste our precious time.
- Listen to your inner instincts.
Those are the most powerful guides accessible to us, we just need to listen to them. Listening is not easy, especially in a society where rushing and getting things done is more important. As yoga is a self-centred practice, an instrument to create the inward peace, let the instincts grow stronger and be heard, let them guide you towards new edges and overcome fears and obstacles, let THEM lead your practice.
- Last but not least, give it another try.
There is still a lot to think about during a yoga class, especially if it’s the first one for you: the teacher that is speaking, the instructions to be followed, matching the breath with the movements, and in the meantime trying to stay focused, present and relaxed.
So sometimes, a wise idea is to take things slowly, concentrating on tiny part of the practice. Maybe just listen to the teacher’s instructions first, then incorporate the breathing, then follow your energy, and in no time your inner yogi will flourish.
I hope that my advice will help you start your yoga practice, or continue with it, having more awareness and confidence. Feel free to share experiences and feedback, I am always happy to connect with yoga-minded people.