Yoga can be intimidating.
A quick glance at the newsstand shows yoga magazines with impossibly fit, smilingly young, gorgeous people twisted into pretzel-y poses that seem unimaginable. This can be even more intimidating if you are just starting your practice or are contemplating taking your first class. Never fear: yoga is accessible and easy to start. You just need a few tips to begin.
Start by finding a class in your area. Because yoga emphasizes proper alignment and breathing, it is important to start with a trained teacher before diving in at home. A simple internet search for yoga classes should turn up good results, even if you are in a smaller town. If you cannot find a stand-alone studio, visit your local gym or YMCA to see if they offer classes. If you do find a studio, see if they offer a two-week unlimited class pass or a free introductory class. It is good to experience many different styles of yoga when you are beginning. You may be drawn to one in particular, but it is also good to vary your practice.
One of the good things about yoga is that all it really requires is you.
Most yoga studios offer mats, blocks, straps, and other props that you may need, but if you want your own mat those are available in large retail stores or online. Don’t let lack of a mat stop you. If you want your own but need to order it online, place your order and just use the studio’s mat until yours arrives.
When you go to your first class, make sure to go on an empty stomach. Eat a light meal or snack no less than two hours before you go to class. Any more than that and you may feel uncomfortable in some of the twists or more active postures. Wear clothes that are comfortable but not too baggy. The teachers need to see your knees and your shoulders to help with proper alignment. Some practitioners wear shorts, some wear leggings, and some wear yoga pants. T-shirts or tank tops are fine for the top.
Because the classes are usually in close quarters, do not use strong perfumes, body sprays, or deodorants. Some people can be sensitive to these, and you don’t want to cause discomfort.
So you are on your mat. You are in comfortable clothes. You haven’t eaten in a couple hours. What now?
Classes vary from teacher to teacher, but generally they begin with centering yourself and coming into the present moment through your breath. Classes may start with gentle seated stretches, or they may begin with standing poses. Whatever the order, most classes have a combination of seated, standing, and lying down postures, and they all end with shivasana (or savasana), corpse pose, where you lie down, releasing all effort and simply breathing. Then you roll up your mat and head home, making sure to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
Maybe you are thinking that you need to be fit and flexible before you begin yoga, but the fact is that yoga is how you get fit and flexible. The postures may seem difficult or impossible to begin with, but the best part of yoga is that it accepts all body types and all levels of fitness. You simply start wherever you are and build from there. In class, other people are so busy worrying about themselves and their breath that they have no time to look at what you are doing. Showing up to the class is a huge hurdle, and taking that step means you are ready.
There are many common myths that stop people from trying yoga; which ones have you heard?
Image by bobistraveling via Flickr