Ok so there is a lot of text here, but these are points that so many new yogis are asking about that I didn’t feel like I could leave anything out.
Yoga often seems to conjure up an image of someone doing an impossibly difficult and beautiful contortion of their body against a picturesque backdrop, these photos while potentially inspiring lead some people to give up before they even start. If you fall into that category, read on to see our beginners tips, to set you on your way to becoming someone else’s yoga inspiration!
1. Yoga is not about touching your toes! It’s the process of using your breath, to unite body and the mind. Often we equate yoga with some tough, limb-twisting poses, in fact many people have said to me “I can’t even touch my toes, how can I possibly do yoga?” So don’t worry if you’re not Mr/Ms Flexible. Whatever your age, weight, or injuries are this is a path to self acceptance and self love! You don’t have to prove anything to anyone other than yourself – so just relax and enjoy the journey.
2. Follow the tradition: Although self practice is an essential part for many yoga practitioners, if you are a beginner it is best to start learning under the guidance of a qualified Yoga Instructor, who can teach you to use the correct technique and alignment. This will maximise the benefits, and help you to avoid possible injuries in way that a video may not be able to. Some of the philosophies or techniques taught in yoga may be new to you, and will inevitably differ from teacher to teacher. Keep an open mind to new ideas, as it will help broaden and enhance your yoga experience.
3. Medical Conditions: Always inform your Yoga Instructor if you have a medical conditions, or any current/past injuries before starting a new class. While you may experience some soreness in the muscles during the initial days of the practice (just as with any new exercise) it is not good if the joints are hurting so also inform your teacher if anything new is causing pain.
4. What to wear? Use comfortable clothing while practicing Yoga, anything that restricts movement by being too tight or too loose is not going to allow you to fully enjoy your practice. Yoga does not need to be a fashion parade, avoid judging others and yourself for not looking like ‘x’ celebrity, this is an inner journey. Also whenever possible remove belts, jewellery, and glasses as they may get in the way of your practice.
5. 5a.m. Start? Although it is advised to practice yoga at dawn (before the mind has had time to fill up with the hectic-ness of the day), don’t let sleeping in be an excuse to not practice yoga at all! You can do it any time, however you may need to allow a little extra time for creating calmness at the beginning.
6. Lighter stomach: It is also advised to practice yoga on an empty stomach (at least 2-3 hours after your last meal). This is to allow for easier movement and so that the energy rather than being focused on digestion will be fully concentrated on the practice. Also try to drink sufficient water throughout the day (3 litres approx) to keep the body hydrated, but avoid (when possible) drinking during your practice as it will cool the body down.
7. Set the tone right before you start: Sukshma Vyayam or gentle warm-up exercises help loosen up the body and/or calming breaths will help to prepare the body for the yoga postures coming ahead.
8. Smile! See the difference for yourself. Keeping a gentle smile relaxes the body and mind and helps you to enjoy the yoga postures much more. If you find yourself frowning and straining in any posture relax the face and see how the rest of the body will follow.
9. There should not be pain in your practice! In the ancient yogic text, Patanjali Yoga Sutra, it is said that to release the body we need ‘Sthira Sukham Asanam’ or comfortable, sturdy, posture. Try to extend only to about 85% of your limit, so that you feel the stretch but not pain. It can be hard to know where that point is, so you can use your breath as a reference point. Keep the breaths light and long as soon as you are finding it difficult to breathe fluidly ease out of the posture slightly.
10. Every Yoga Posture is unique, just like every Yogi: Avoid comparing yourself to other students in the yoga class, there will always be things you find easy, and things you find hard, trust me they are different for everyone. Remember that this is your journey. Don’t feel pressured to compete. Regular practice and patience, accepting your body and exploring its potential. Just like any other discipline it will take its own time.
11. Savasana (Corpse Posture) As you complete yoga posture practice, don’t be in a great hurry to get on with your to-do list for the day. Proper relaxation is an essential part of Yoga. It helps cool down the body and consolidate the energy produced through yoga posture practice completely relaxing the mind and body, do not skip this.
12. Benefits. While some of the physical benefits may become apparent quickly, it is likely that you will only experience the deeper spiritual benefits after practicing yoga regularly over an extended period of time. This is practice made up not only of asana or postures, but a combination of philosophy, pranayama, (breathing techniques) meditation, and asana (posture) designed to take you ‘beyond the body’, and bring you to the bliss state. While enlightenment might not be everyone’s goal having a clearer and calmer mind certainly seems like a good idea.
So give yourself time and be patient. The rewards of regular practice will unfold in ways you can’t imagine. Happy practicing!