Begin Your Yoga Journey

22 09 2009

beginner-yoga

So you want to practice Yoga?  Get ready for the ride of your life.  It never ends really.  I’ve been practicing for over 5 years.  Not long at all.  I’m just scratching the surface of this whole thing we call YOGA.  It has such a profound depth that it may take me many many lifetimes to understand and become “one” with it.

AND thats AMAZING to me….now.  Really!  In the beginning it down right frustrated me.  I wanted to get super flexible, and do all the crazy poses out there. I was gonna be a head standing, crane posing, lotus flower in a year!

But I learned, rather quickly this isn’t the name of the yoga game.  It took awhile to learn I needed to PULL BACK.  To really approach each pose with newness of mind. A clean slate so to speak. AND that is a REAL CHALLENGE.  Just when I thought I new the pose inside and out, I realized there WAS SO MUCH MORE!

My OMG! moments

I pulled out my hair, cursed when I didn’t get it right, and whined like a baby  to my teacher after not “completing” the pose.  Well GUESS what ? The pose is never complete.  I learned patience.  I reached an AHA!  moment where I could ACCEPT where I was at any given moment, any given day or time I practiced. I accepted my own present situation. Once I did that, BOY did my practice become a whole new AMAZING experience.

I slowed down, I stayed longer in the pose, with just enough effort.  I literally saw changes I couldn’t see when I frantically wanted to get my legs over my head.

I began to learn about “AWARENESS”.  Aware of how my body moves, how my breath feels and changes in my body and how EVERYDAY is a new experience and what worked yesterday may not flow so well today.

This then taught me RESPECT.  Initally SELF respect then respect for all else in my life.  You begin to respect how your body functions, the brillance of the organ and bodily systems and respect for that inner GUIDANCE system that always COMMUNICATES to you what is best and most SERVING.

I now have so much more gratitude for my physical being.  Like most women in the west, I kept focusing on the flaws, or the perceived things that I felt were wrong with my body. That is not a good place to live.  YOGA taught me to value my whole life.  Regardless of what my MIND kept badgering me with, I slowly let it go. Let the mind GO and you become FREE.  You liberate your self from that negative slave master- the EGO and mind bullshit that keeps pouring out day in and day out.

yoga%20woman%20stretching%20by%20beach

I’ve been asked by many who don’t formally practice physically how to go about beginning a practice.  So I’ll do my best to suggest what I think anyone who practices yoga should consider.

Some POINTERS as you begin your yogic journey of physical asana practice:

1) Yoga is not just a pose on a mat.

That is most mainstream thinking. Yoga is deeper than anything you can experience. Because it is the unification of your whole self.  Yoga requires going INWARDS, cultivating compassion for self and others, respect for the self, one own’s body, and respect for the PROCESS.

2) We are ALL beginners, everytime we step on the mat, and do the physical practice.

The big fallacy in western yoga is that we have beginners, intermediates and advanced.  Not really. You never get it all done.  You really are a beginner every time you practice.  You keep building on what you have learned, and you do progress, but every time is a learning opportunity to connect a little further.  So keep that in mind, when you are in a class, and think just because the person next to you can wrap their whole leg around their head and back to the ground.  She/he still is a beginner to something in that pose.

3)  LISTEN TO YOUR BODY

I can’t stress this enough.  Stop looking at what the teacher can do, what the guy next to you can do, or what Madonna is doing.  Begin to get CONNECTED to your body awareness.  This is a GREAT place to start when you are looking to reconnect with your inner self.  That is why the physical posture is so much more than just physical.

When you LISTEN to your body, you respect your body, your divine temple.  You then become one with the moment, and you feel what is going on as you extend into the pose.  Instead of concentrating how far you can extend, bend, or stretch, CONCENTRATE on what you are feeling throughout the whole movement.

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In a pose ask yourself these questions (or start with at least one):

  • What feels tight?
  • What needs to RELEASE?
  • Where am I resisting? Do I need to pull back on the intensity?
  • Where do I feel EXPANSION?
  • Where do I feel CONSTRICTION?
  • Am I using the breath to fully experience the pose?

4)  THE BREATH, THE BREATH, THE BREATH

If you never have done a yoga pose, begin with the breath.  If you have done a yoga pose BEGIN WITH THE BREATH. The breath is the STARTING POINT.  So for so called “new” yogis, start to focus on your breathing, more than anything else.  Slowing down the breath, and breathing deeper allows you to relax, go inwards and really “feel” the pose.

So no holding the breath! If your in a pose and you begin to hold the breath- you’ve gone too far.  I don’t care how long you have practiced.  PULL BACK, PULL BACK, PULL BACK.  And BREATH!

Ask yourself these questions when you are aware of your breath on and off the mat:

  • Where does my breath start?  Lower belly, upper chest?
  • What about my back ribs?  What do they feel like when I inhale?
  • What is the quality of my breath?

In the beginning start by Choosing ONE aspect such as length of inhale and exhale and focus on that during your whole class.  Or you could choose feeling the breath as it goes IN and OUT of the nostrils. You could also try feeling how the breath moves your whole spine. Feeling specifically the expansion of the rib cage on the inhale, and the retraction of the rib cage as you exhale.  There are MANY aspects, choose ONE.   Then try others.

5) Experiment with different styles

I am not going to recommend or suggest a certain style.  Every style has brilliance and infinite benefits.  Try different styles.  You may gravitate to one type of style and find that it fits you right for this place and time.  Eventually what may happen is you change, grow and evolve and so does your physical practice.  What you enjoyed yesterday may not serve you today.

It is ALL yoga.  The important thing is that you incorporate the above in any style you choose.

6) FIND A TEACHER you RESONATE

This may take time.  But if you ask the universe for the right teacher, and if you are ready as the student it will happen. A teacher you resonate with will encourage you not to become a yogi overnight.  Or push you to reach more in the pose.  But someone who will support your own journey.  They will be there as you explore your own practice. They will assist you and adjust you according to what you believe is appropriate, no MORE no LESS.  That is a sign of a great teacher that you mesh well with.

BUT CAUTION HERE!

Your teacher is not the end and be all of your practice. They simply are GUIDES. Not GODS. Treat them with respect but don’t assume they know your body better than you do.  Don’t assume what they say is above all else.  They simply are here to guide YOUR own experience.  Only you can have that experience, and progress it as you grow and learn.

lotus-hands

Here are more tips to start a practice:

1) READ books on the philosophy of Yoga. Use the time you would allocate to reading to learn and explore the ROOTS of this beautiful practice. You will begin to become aware of how much more this practice is beyond the actual pose.

SUGGESTIONS: B.K.S Iyengar has a number of phenomenal books on the philosophy that will help you get connected with this whole thing we call Yoga.

2) Buy yourself a mat. That’s really all you need.  Having your own mat is more hygenic, and it becomes your personal sanctuary whenever or wherever you place it.  You can also purchase a yoga mat bag, and you may need to bring a towel to class if you are practicing the more vigorous styles.

3)  Look for a studio or practice at home. Going to a studio doesn’t make you a yogi.  But a studio will guide you as you begin to learn the poses, breathing practices and meditation skills you can acquire there.  Its also a great place to meet other like minded people.  This helps you stay motivated to practice regularly and feel a connection to others in your community.   Also a class at a studio will enable you to perform the poses in a safe way.  A good teacher will help you to stay in alignment by adjusting you.  You can learn the basics and then the rest of the learning is on YOU.

Begin to play with the pose, by feeling your body lengthen and adjusting your own self to places that need to release. Again PATIENCE is the key.  Self exploration is a huge component to yoga practice.  AND in my opinion one of the most PRECIOUS gifts this type of movement gives all practitioners.

PLEASE send me your feedback!  I want to hear about YOUR stories and EXPERIENCES with yoga practice.

All the best on your yogi travels,

Namaste

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4 responses

23 09 2009
Amandeep

Hi! Very well written. Especially about listening to one’s body. Focus has to be within rather than on what others are doing. And it begins from the selection of poses to do (which ‘asanas’ to practise, in what sequence) and this is where a good teacher can help. Given the pressure of time on most, other than the basic yoga, its better to receive guidance.
All the best.

23 09 2009
yogaheals

Hi ,

thanks for your feedback. Yes good teachers are there to help and guide us. I wish you the best on your yogi journey!

Namaste

30 09 2009
Jan Masters

Wonderful advice for a re-beginner like me. Thank you for your wisdom!
Love, Jan

1 10 2009
yogaheals

My Bedda!

Jan thanks so much for the compliments, you are eternally adored! May the light be eternally yours!

Namaste 🙂

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