Beginning Your Yoga Journey
Yoga can be an extremely spiritual, and humbling experience although it can also be extremely difficult. Mastering even the simplest of poses takes a lot of time and hard work. If I had known these 5 things when beginning my own practice it would have made my journey a lot easier.
This is the advice that you will hear most often in your practice. If you take a class they will constantly remind you to breathe because you'd be surprised at how often you forget to. Begin every day, and every session with some short breathing exercises to get yourself into the habit of keeping that breath constant. Also, there will be poses that will expect you to inhale at one point and exhale at another but don't worry, this will come with time. If you ever catch yourself holding your breath just stop and take a moment to get yourself back on track. Practice makes perfect, even when it comes to something seemingly easy, like breathing!
2. Work on Developing Strength
A mistake I made quite often at the beginning was attempting a pose that I wasn't strong enough to accomplish. This is how a lot of people get hurt! It's true that a lot of yoga is finding a balance, but it is also extremely important to build up strength in the muscles needed to properly attempt a pose. There are many tutorials that I followed on how to ease your way into specific poses that can easily be found. Quick searches on "how to do a headstand.." for example, will prompt many steps including 3-4 strength building poses before the actual pose itself. Before attempting any advanced pose make sure you are confident that your body can hold that pose. Everyone you see is at a different strength level so don't be discouraged if it takes you a while. It is better to pace yourself and be safe than to seriously injure yourself.
3. Listen to Your Body
It wasn't until about 3 months after starting yoga training that I realized that your body tells you things and you should always listen to it. A huge part of yoga is centering yourself and becoming more connected to yourself and the world around you. There are times when I went in to attempt a pose and it began to hurt, this means stop. Yoga should never hurt you. If you are hurting then it usually means you are doing something wrong. There are a lot of poses that will never be safe for someone to attempt and that is okay. Not one person can do everything. If you have a problem with your back then don't attempt poses that put pressure on your back or involve you bending a lot. Sometimes if a pose feels too tight it just means that you have to practice a little longer in order to achieve the result you desire. There are also yoga supplies that can help prevent discomfort such as yoga blocks, yoga socks, and yoga gloves. A yoga block can be both a support and an aide in creating more flexibility. Yoga socks and gloves will create more traction and support for you. When attempting new poses you can also use a wall or ask a friend for support. There is no shame in asking for help if it will prevent an injury. My husband was an amazing aide to me when I was learning headstands and building strength!
4. Take Your Time
When practicing yoga it is often a good idea to learn in a quite,distraction-free place. Unless you are in a class, separating yourself from your family and learning in a quiet room will prove to be extremely helpful. I can't tell you how many times I got nervous and fell out of a pose because someone began talking to me or came home and scared me. Like I said before, yoga is about finding your center, remembering to breathe and balance. Balance is extremely difficult to achieve when there are all kinds of things going on around you. Yoga should be your time with yourself. Many studies have shown that yoga has a vast array of health benefits such as lowering blood pressure, reducing stress, improving your mood, weight loss, and creating an overall better body image. The majority of these benefits come from the ability to relax during your practice. So next time your setting up for your session, close the door, turn a calming playlist on and really indulge yourself in the art of yoga.
5. Be Patient
Last, but most definitely not least, it is important to have patience in your practice. Whenever anyone asks me how I accomplished a specific pose the first thing I tell them is patience. It is a lot of work, and anyone who participates in yoga regularly will tell you the same. Nothing great happens over night. It's easy to get excited when watching yoga videos and seeing all the amazing poses everyone else is doing but what they don't tell you is that it often took them months or years to get to where they are today. Never discourage yourself because someone else can do what you can't. I know it's cheesy, but you can do anything you set your mind to. I keep coming back to headstands because those were truly a breakthrough for me. I practiced every day and I just kept falling. I followed the tutorials, and built up my strength and still no results. I eventually became so frustrated that I often thought about giving up, assuming yoga just isn't for me. One day I was practicing outside and the grass sort of created a cushion for me which gave me a little more balance. I prepped myself and lifted my legs and guess what?! I didn't fall. I held it for maybe 3 seconds, and that was my first headstand. After achieving this, and overcoming the fear of falling it only got easier, and it has become one of my favourite poses. The thing is, yoga is for everyone and anyone is capable of achieving any pose they want. Just remember, do not listen to that voice inside your head that tells you that you can't do it because you can.
Yoga has changed my life. Every day I feel stronger, healthier, and more conscious in so many ways. Since I began my journey I have noticed a change in my diet, a growing patience with those around me, and a desire to love effortlessly. I know that I have become the person that I am today because of my practice. It has truly been an incredible journey so far and I will continue to learn from it forever. My favourite thing about it is that it is really for everyone. Yoga doesn't discriminate or limit you. It opens you up and shows you the world in a different way. I am not always a spiritual person but I can't deny that yoga has been a very spiritual part of my life. I wish everyone luck on their yoga journeys, and I hope you can all experience what I have experienced, or more!