Yoga is an incredible way to transform your life. The physical benefits are many. You can become stronger, leaner, more flexible and improve your balance and coordination. The mental and emotional benefits are abundant, too! Many Yoga practitioners (referred to as Yogis) report feeling lighter and freer after practicing Yoga. It's a way of working through trauma and difficult emotions. It also teaches us how to control the unruly "monkey mind" giving us more power to choose the thoughts we focus on.
Let's take a look at some of the things beginners need to know as they embark on their Yoga journey.
Drink Lots of Water
Water is used in every process in the body. Every cell and organ needs water to function optimally. Water lubricates the joints, helps protect the spinal cord, regulates body temperature, assists in digestion and elimination and even moisturizes the skin. If you regularly have low energy or suffer from head aches, these could be symptoms of dehydration, so drink up!
When you step onto your Yoga mat make sure you have had plenty of water. I usually drink a few glasses an hour or so before I practice, and I always have some nearby during practice. It's also important to drink extra water afterwards to re-hydrate and flush toxins.
Find a Comfortable Setting
Where you practice is important. You need to feel safe during a Yoga session. You are going to be in vulnerable positions that might cause you some emotional and physical discomfort, so it is important that you don't feel exposed or nervous by your surroundings.
It also helps if the space is clean. Cleanliness, or Saucha, is actually one of the Niyamas of Yoga. These are some of the observances Yogis make in order to prepare mentally for deeper practices, like the physical postures, or Asanas. Clean air and room to move around in are essential to a positive Yoga experience. Be mindful of clutter or other debris that distract you from the practice.
If you are practicing at home it helps to have a small space dedicated to your Yoga practice. You can keep your mat there and also a small alter if you like. This could include a candle, a picture of someone who inspires you and a bell or other meditation tool.
Find the Right Teacher and Style of Yoga
I know too many people who have given up on Yoga and all the benefits that come with it just because they did not resonate with a particular teacher. Yoga teachers are individuals, we don't come from a cookie cutter, or even the same dough!
Try a few classes with several different teachers, and search around online. You may find that there is a particular style of Yoga you like more than others, and a teacher who really connects with you on a personal level. Don't be too quick to dismiss the entire practice just because of one or two isolated experiences with a particular teacher.
Feel free to ask questions. Yoga teachers (at least most of us) enjoy answer questions about our approach to Yoga. I personally teach many different styles of Yoga and enjoy learning about new ones all of the time. I study Hatha, Iyengar, Kundalini and Vinyasa. I also practice Yin and restorative Yoga and have set aside particular classes throughout the week to focus on different areas I enjoy exploring with my students. Each class I teach is different from the next depending on what themes or styles I choose to teach that evening.
Some students don't realize how much planning and preparation goes into designing a Yoga class. This is why I encourage you to keep trying new things until you find something that really clicks with you.
Set a Clear Intention
Whether you are heading to a class with a live instructor, or watching P90X, it is helpful to set an intention first. What do you want to get out of this practice? Why are you here? setting a clear and deliberate intention is like choosing a destination. As the captain of the ship (i.e. your life) which way do you want to travel?
Here are some examples of clear intentions that can help guide your practice:
- I will let go of anger, fear and stress
- I will improve my balance and coordination
- I will keep a positive mental attitude
- I will breathe smoothly and evenly throughout my practice
- I will focus on the moment and keep my mind from wandering into the past and future
- I will learn something new about myself
- I will listen to my body and honor my boundaries
- I will find my growth edge and lean into it
Notice all of these statements begin with "I will." Your will is like a super power. When you will something into being and maintain focus on that intention you are guiding the manifestation process and taking charge of how you experience the present moment!
Some Yoga poses seem impossible to practice...until you find the right modifications for your body type. This is why it is helpful to find a good instructor who can help you practice proper alignment and breathing in the poses. Instructors also know how to provide supports to help you get to where you want to be.
I encourage students to use walls, chairs, Yoga blocks, belts, blankets or towels, and other easy to find items to help them hold postures safely and effectively. Some students aren't even aware that poses can be modified, so if this is news to you, great! Now you can start researching modification techniques to help you get into that pose you've been dreaming of achieving!
Never Stop Learning
Once you begin studying Yoga you will quickly discover that there is no end to the practice! It can be a life long companion, because no matter what you are going through or what personal growth goals you might have, there is always something useful within Yoga teachings to help you along. Self study and mastery is an important aspect of Yoga, and even though having great teachers makes a difference, you have to remember that you are your own best teacher when it comes to Yoga. Your body and your soul contain all the wisdom you need. Just keep listening and practicing and you will never stop learning!
Kaycie is a certified Yoga instructor and can help guide you on your Yoga journey. Feel free to reach out by filling out the form below!