8 tips to starting a yoga practice
A few friends have asked me lately about the best way to get into yoga. I think that yoga can be a very intimidating and challenging practice to start. I also think that It’s every bit worth it - I benefit everyday from my yoga practice, whether that’s from remembering to: pay attention to my breath, move through my feelings, practice compassion, love my body because it is my body, or simply feeling at ease in my physical body because of my mobility. It was important for me to ease my way into yoga and let my mind and body adjust to the practice naturally. That did not mean going to hour long classes and feeling uncomfortable the entire time. It meant doing 15 minute online classes alone at home, which eventually turned into 30 minute classes… into 60 minute classes… into 90 minute classes… into classes around the community. These are my suggestions:
Start small. There’s no need to push it with hour long classes at the gym. There are plenty of free online programs and videos that can teach you the basics, to help you prepare for the longer, public classes.
Remember to breathe. You can practice this anywhere. You don’t need a class, you don’t need a mat, you don’t need fancy yoga pants. Any time you think about it, take a deep breath in through your nose, and exhale slowly.
Find a teacher that you connect with. Your yoga teacher will teach you to practice the way that he or she practices, so it is very important that you like your yoga teacher. It’s okay to shop around and try different teachers. There are teachers of every kind. Keep looking until you find one who speaks to you.
Experiment with different styles of yoga. There are an incredible variety of yoga classes around. Some follow strict routines that date back ages; others are fresh and westernized. It doesn’t matter which class you like, it just matters that you like it. Just as finding a teacher who speaks to you is important, so is finding a flow that speaks to you important. Experiment! Try different things. You might be surprised what you like.
Be really, really, really patient with yourself. Yoga has a really beautiful way of showing you what you’re struggling with in life, and if you’re struggling with patience, then you will know it, quickly. Patience is key to yoga. You won’t be able to do every move your instructor tells you to do. (And a good instructor will offer easier variations for more challenging moves. See number 3.) That’s both okay and normal. It means you have a lot of room for improvement - and that’s a really fun thing to explore. Celebrate where you are, and give yourself the time and space you need to improve.
Show up. When you’re starting a new practice, there can be a lot of resistance to it. Make the commitment to yourself to show up when you say you’re going to show up. You don’t have to promise yourself to kill it every class. Give yourself permission to stay in child’s pose the entire class if you need to - just show up. Be there. On the mat. With your self. With your body. With your feelings. Practicing this discipline will set you free.
Release expectations. Forget about perfecting the pose. Forget about touching your toes. It’s not about what the person next to you can do. It’s about you, your breath, your body, your practice, your mat. Let go of expectations. One day down the road you’ll be mid pose and think to yourself “holy shit! I never thought I’d be able to do this pose!” It’s a nice surprise.
Forgive yourself. Didn’t show up last week? That’s fine. Just show up this week. Today. Now. Breathe.
Here are some of the resources I used when starting out. Please feel free to comment below or contact me with any questions - I’m happy to share the love.
http://www.doyouyoga.com/course/the-30-day-yoga-challenge/ -- the classes are short, she teaches you the basics, and she’s really sweet.
https://www.yogaglo.com/ -- they offer a free 15 day trial, and memberships are only $18 a month (which is about the price of one class at most studios). They offer introductory classes with a huge range of yoga types and teachers. My favorite part? The teachers. These teachers are some of the best in the business. My personal favorites are Elena Brower, Kathryn Budig, and Claudine Lafond.