Learn How To Fall In Love With Yoga
Yoga might seem like a daunting prospect for you, particularly if you’re on Instagram and like me your feed is populated by photos of the uber flexible contorting their pretzel like bodies into any shape their spandex hearts desire. I take comfort in thinking that I might have been able to do that twenty years ago, but then twenty years ago I didn’t want to, so there you go. By far the biggest hurdle to walking into a yoga class for me was the worry that I might look silly in front of a lot of people I didn’t know. What if the teacher only used the Sanskrit names for the poses and I had no idea what they were! Of course I needn’t have worried. The teacher was wonderful and whilst I made mistakes, they didn’t matter and no one noticed as they were concentrating on their own practice. Fear can be such a barrier to our own progress, but getting past it needn’t be as difficult as you might think.
Change is not something that we should fear. Rather, is is something that we should welcome. For Without change nothing in the this world woudl ever grow or blossom, and no one in this world would ever move forward to become the person they're meant to be - B.K.S Iyengar
- Start slow, don’t feel like you have to do a full practice everyday. A yoga teacher of mine once said to me, sometimes we simply can’t find the time to get on our mats everyday, at those times just visualise yourself going through a simple 5-10 minute practice. You can do this whilst sitting on a train, on your way to work or in a taxi on the way to the airport. That can be enough. The transformative nature of the mind is amazing like that.
- Find a style that works for you: with so many styles and yoga variations to choose from there will be a style that best suits you. Classes can be worlds apart from each other – from the faster paces of Vinyasa yoga and Bikram yoga to the gentler pace of Hatha and Restorative yoga.
- Find your comfort zone: the mantra ‘no pain, no gain’ does not apply to yoga. You should feel comfortable with everything that you do in a yoga class and throughout your practice. Rather than pushing yourself to your physical limits think about presenting the best version of yourself in that moment and on that day. My flexibility in the evening is significantly better than it is in the morning. I can do more in the evening because my ligaments have stretched throughout the natural course of my day. Pushing myself to stretch beyond what’s comfortable in the morning will only result in my injury, so I don’t do it unless it’s available to me – after all everyday is different.
- Find a teacher you like: Your relationship with your yoga teacher is like any other relationship in your life and its important that you feel comfortable enough to talk to your teacher freely about any concerns you might have. I regularly attend the classes of three different yoga teachers, all of whom have very different styles of teaching but all of whom I feel relaxed and comfortable around. That said, about 4 years ago a friend and I attended a local Hatha yoga class, after a few sessions I realised I wasn’t enjoying it so I made the decision to leave the class. I didn’t tell the teacher that I felt we hadn’t clicked as there was nothing constructive to be gained from doing so, instead I said just didn’t work with my schedule anymore and we happily went our separate ways. My friend carried on with the class and continued to go for a few years, proving that what doesn’t work for one person can be perfect for another.
- Go to a yoga studio: if only just the once! In my experience there can be a huge difference between classes held in a studio and those held in a gym. This doesn’t really relate to the calibre of teaching (as you’ll probably find the same teacher in both settings), this is more about setting the scene. Yoga studios are set up to provide relaxing environments with low level lighting, the correct equipment, ambient temperature, and subtle music whereas gyms are designed to encourage people to work out harder and for longer with bright oxygenated environments which can seem jarring in comparison. If relaxation is a goal of your yoga practice then the right environment is key to achieving that.
- Use any yoga accessories made available to you; it’s not cheating I promise! I actively encourage my students to use yoga equipment and weave their use into the class structure. Alignment is so important when practicing yoga and if you can achieve better alignment using a block than placing your hand on your knee or on your shin then all arguments to the contrary are redundant. Injuries occur when student’s over extend, , I would prefer that my students feel the full benefit of the pose, working all the intended muscle groups so that they achieve a good balance between strength and flexibility.
- Its ok to say no! If something doesn’t feel good, you don’t have to do it. Classes are composed of a wide range of abilities and not every pose (or modification of that pose) will be right for you, particularly if the teacher doesn’t know you and understand what range of movement is available to you. You are encouraged to bring yourself back to a comfortable resting posture (like Child’s pose) when anything feels uncomfortable. Your yoga teacher wants you to be in it for the long haul, not just one class, and that means protecting your body when you need to.
- Remember to have fun! Take it from someone who isn’t a gym bunny, yoga brings me a lot of enjoyment, relaxing me at times and energising me at others, which is why I practice yoga as often as I can.