MYndful Musings | 15th July 2020
Advice for a yoga newbie..
“Start simply, simply start”
If you are thinking about coming to classes or wondering where to begin, I wanted to offer my own personal experience and thoughts to you about what it is to be a ‘beginner’ in a yoga class. And why it is good to check in with your own mindset towards what yoga is all about.
Firstly.. lets clear something up. It’s impossible to learn everything there is to know about yoga, or even just about one single yoga pose, in 6 classes. After 7 years of consistently getting on my mat, there is still a learning process in all poses and there are still subtitles in all aspects of this practice which i’m slowly unravelling. How you interpret the poses, the concepts changes over time meaning there is always more to explore- I love that about it! With this in mind I feel for most of us with busy lives it’s best not to worry too much about the details.
Relax, enjoy the ride and the rest will come!
So if you are curious or drawn to yoga, just jump in and try some classes. And be more than OK with where you are. Actively embrace the joy of knowing nothing and how much there is to explore. This kind of child-like mindset in yoga will serve you well.
Top-tip // Always read the class descriptions and see what you feel drawn to. Different styles serve different purposes.
Next, when you first start going to yoga classes.. don’t worry so much about perfect techniques & shapes. Yoga is mindful movement right? So the perfect approach is just to enjoy the experience of your class and getting out of your head and into your body you moves. Welcoming all of the sensations you feel-without negative talk like ‘I’m so stiff’.. instead be curious about what you feel, and how your breath changes with a whole new awareness of it. It’s OK that you won’t fully feel all the subtitles and techniques straight away. You wont have the perfect pose with the perfect breathing.. because actually, those things don’t exist. Part of yoga is acceptance of the nature of our imperfections, getting to know all your uniqueness, and then eventually developing your own version of the practice. The version which helps you create space & develop strength where you need it.
This is not to say that will always be easy or comfortable, human nature makes it a challenge, Especially for those who are perfectionists, or of naturally competitive nature. Letting go of the need to achieve and strive isn’t easy for our modern minds. But that is the true value of Yoga, as a practice. That it’s not about being good at something tangible-like a pose. But rather about being disciplined in how you show up (your approach); and improving less tangible things like body awareness, breath control (and ultimately lack of when you are reminded you are only human), and the ability to concentrate and be present with yourself without distractions.
Learn to be OK with challenges & things you can’t do yet..
Not one person I know who really loves & lives yoga, most teachers included, started off by going to a ‘Beginners Yoga’. For me, I went to quite challenging classes.. because they inspired me, I loved to see what other people could do with their bodies, and I loved to move & be challenged as it allowed me to get out of my own head. That just worked me for at first.
You also realise that it’s different to a gym class. Nobody is expecting or pressuring you to do the ‘harder’ version of a pose or judging you if you don’t. In classes where progressions are offered-sticking with the simpler version of a pose is just as valid as going for a more challenging one (which usually requires strength and mobility which both take TIME & PRACTICE to build). It’s all about inviting your body into things with respect for where you are at-both physically & energetically at any given moment! More experienced yogi’s will often be the ones resting or taking the modification.
Try different things..
I also think there is real value in experiencing different things. When I first joined a studio I started trying out lots of different classes with different teachers, to figure out my own path and to explore everything which yoga had to offer. I recommend this all the time to people who ask me what style of yoga they should do.
Your needs and preferences might change over time. There is a yoga to serve you-whatever your needs are on the day, month or time of your life. The more you have experienced, the more you can lean into that knowledge and be guided by your own body and intuition. Read descriptions and see what resonates, and don’t be afraid to try out different classes.
Is it about being flexible?
Ahh the age old statement I’ve heard so many times,
“I can’t do yoga, I’m not flexible”
If that’s you let me stop you there.. and counter that with,
“It’s like saying you are too dirty to take a bath”
Stay with me.. let’s actually break down what that ‘tightness’ you feel is likely to be..
To simplify things, what you think of as your ‘flexibility’, or lack of, actually has a LOT to do with your nervous system. You see, your nervous system and your muscles and tissues are very closely connected, almost intertwined. It is basically your brain that control the range of your movement, largely.
Next, the health and mobility of your joints is determined by how well those joints are moved. Whether they are used in their full ROM (range of motion) regularly.. and that will largely depend on your lifestyle.
If you create a lifestyle which regularly includes something which moves your joints well, and works with your nervous system to give information to your muscles, aka- yoga, then you will train your body to give you more space without any huge effort to ‘lengthen your hamstrings’.
In yoga we are using mindfulness to create greater awareness of our breath. We use the breath as the tool to communicate with the nervous system and the brain. Then that communicates to the muscles that they can release tension and give you greater range, or mobility as I like to term it. Hence the phrase,
“The breath is the tool which connects the body & the mind”
.. it literally does! It’s science.
This idea of neurological tolerance is central to any good physiotherapists approach to treatment, including of pain.#
So, what are you waiting for?
See you in class 🙂
When you plant a seed, that seed doesn’t worry about whether or not it should grow. Nor does it worry about being small or ‘not enough’ when it begins it’s journey.