How Do I Start A Yoga Practice?

4 11 2009

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Recently I’ve been asked on numerous occasions “How do I start a yoga practice?”.  I understand it can be daunting or intimidating just thinking about the possibility you might be lead into getting your leg stretched behind your head.  I’ve been there.  The feeling of walking into a class with 30 die hard yogis who proceed to pull out their Mandukas, lay thier water bottles down, and start warming up in ways you only gumby could manage can make anyone new to practice a little queasy.  But it doesn’t have to feel this way at all.

START where you are. That’s really the only option you have. Actually in Yoga I believe we never are “advanced” , we always come to the mat BEGINNING something new.  Our practice evolves every day. and each time you come to the mat, the pose bring you to another place.

AND get this, (I learned this quite quickly) just when you think you “got the pose”, you realize you can discover SOOOO much more- that its a beginning yet again.  We never get it “right” , and we never get it “done”.  What really is “right’?  This very moment ends, and how can it be compared to the next?  This is what I believe an “evolving” and dynamic practice means.  It fosters true self growth in the PROCESS of it all.

unlearn-what-you-have-learnedUNLEARN young Jedi!

My First Yoga Class:

Yoga humbled me from the very first experience on the mat.  I will NEVER forget my first class.  At the time I was completing my university degree and working part time in a big chain health club as a personal trainer.  I worked out at least 5 times per week with weights, stability balls, pylometrics, and did spinning classes , ran 5 and 10Ks for cardio.  On top of this I trained clients for hours in the gym, and  many  wanted to get “lean and just  fit into their bikinis”.  A very different world from the one I would soon discover in that yoga studio that day.

I initially turned to yoga because I wanted to get “flexible” .  All the weight training I was doing was tightening my body and limiting my range of motion which eventually contributed to a number of nagging injuries.  This would often leave me in so much pain I was incapable of enjoying my workouts and engagin in activities I enjoyed.

So this strong , “fit” personal trainer entered The Yoga Sanctuary Studio and would soon be brought down a couple of notches.  I walked up to the counter, placed my credit card down and stated “I want a month pass, and when do the advance level classes take place?”. The hippie blonde behind the desk just smirked at me and proceeded to hand me a schedule.  “Have you practiced Yoga before”, she asked pretending to not personally offend me.

“Ummmm no, I replied.   “Trust me, I’m very fit and I could easily squat your body weight, I scoffed”.  (yeah I know, BIG EGO was doing all the talking).  She tried to grin  but I knew she was holding back a few words she would have liked to have said.

She handed me my membership card and directed me to the advanced class.

I strutted right into the class  and ready to breeze right through it. However thats not quite how it panned out.

Twenty minutes in I was drenched in sweat, toppling over my feet and realized I had no clue what I had gotten myself into.  Let’s just say Ms Fit trainer, just got owned by yoga.  BUT the amazing thing was, I knew I wanted MORE.  I left feeling  moved, inspired and more human than I had ever felt in my life.  My lesson of compassion began that very day, at least on a very conscious level.

Next class, which was 5 days later (I could barely walk the rest of the week lol) I hung up my Ego and left it in the locker room. After that I took the Prep class for over a year.  I got very hooked.  It was the beginning of a very new experience of moving feeling, and breathing my way through life.

My injuries subsided, mental clarity tremendously improved and life felt NEW again.

louisville-yoga-class-2

HOW TO START A YOGA PRACTICE:

  • CHOOSE A STUDIO OR CLASS– that is appropriate to your needs.  Every studio has its own culture, vision and style of practice.  Try out as many places as it takes to find the one that you feel most comfortable and meets your desires.  You may want to try Kundalini, Ashtanga, Hatha, Hot Yoga or Iyengar style.  Try different ones, and you will know which one you resonate best with.

  • BUY A BEGINNER LEVEL DVD– This is one way you can practice on your own time, and this can also accommodate your particular schedule.  I strongly believe having a good teacher in a reputable yoga studio cannot be replaced , at least in the beginning stages.  So supplement the yoga studio classes with a few DVD at home practice times.  Variety also brings freshness to your practice and growth.
  • LESS IS MORE – I can’t stress this enough. I still find myself having to PULL BACK from overdoing the pose. You end up compromising alignment, and the whole benefit of the pose.  As Yoda said to the young Jedi in Empire Strikes Back  “You must unlearn what you have learned”. UNLEARN!! Listen to your body. BREATH! The breath is much more important than twisting your head 180 degrees.  Step back, and FEEL what is happening throughout the whole pose.  Forget about the finish line.
  • Talk to your Teachers– You will be surprised how willing yoga instructors are to spend time with you after class to discuss a particular aspect of your practice.  You will find that you will begin to cultivate wonderful relationships with them.  If you become a regular to their class its almost inevitable that a distinct type of connection develops between you both.  You then become THEIR teacher in return!

yoga teacher

Would love to hear your stories!!  Please leave comments, questions or replies!!

Travelling Yogi

Namaste

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6 responses

7 11 2009
DawnMarie

I did it! I took the first class of my life yesterday. I felt confused and out of place yet know that every one of them there felt the same their first time. I have to start somewhere and this is it. I am heading back tomorrow for another class.

7 11 2009
Leslie

I took my first ever Yoga class in January, and I can totally relate to your story! My personal experience was different, however. 🙂 I’d lost a lot of weight (95 lbs so far) and I ‘happened’ in to a Vinyasa Flow class, which at the gym I joined is considered an ‘advanced’ class. I made it through the class. Yes, it was (and continues to be) the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Harder than losing all that weight. It tests me physically every time. And every time, I finish the class with a sense of accomplishment for making it through. I feel STRONG. I feel like I’ve had a good massage, and I always sleep WONDERFULLY on class night. 😉

Thank you for sharing, and thank you for encouraging me to think about my first experience, as well. 🙂

10 11 2009
Matt

Great post. I like that you brought up how yoga forces you to face your own ego.

11 11 2009
Deloris

This is a great blog for the new as well as a seasoned Yogi. Love reading the articles, very insightful and at times humorous.

20 11 2009
Dale

I’m going to start Yoga now

24 11 2009
systems_trading

I like this place very much.

This is really a extraordinary place.
And it is not like other money directed place, the content here is very useful.

I am definitely bookmarking it as well as sharin it with my friends.

🙂

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