This week marks the release of Read more →
Unless you have been living in a deep sea submarine or maybe in orbit on the space station, chances are you have some idea about yoga. Maybe you know someone who practices it and you’re curious or maybe you have heard that yoga can help you to relieve stress and relax and just maybe you have taken that leap of faith and gone to a class at the local yoga studio or gym. If you are new to yoga or are considering trying it our for the first time, here are a few things to keep in mind.
- Your body is unique. The length and shape of your bones, where your muscles attach and the absolute range of motion in your joints are factors that no amount of yoga will ever be able to change. As you move into the yoga poses, don’t expect to or try to look like anyone else in the room, this is your body, your pose so embrace that uniqueness. Not only is your body unique, but it is also subject to variability, which means that it can feel different every time you come to the mat. Range of motion, flexibility, strength and endurance are affected by our daily habits; how long you sleep, what you eat, even what time of day you exercise can all affect how you feel on the mat. That being said, it is very important to remember to always listen to your body and to respect its abilities when they differ from what you may be used to.
- There are many styles of yoga. Before deciding on a class it may be beneficial to explore the different styles of yoga that are popular today in order to find one that is right for you. What are you looking for in a class? If it’s an intense work out, you probably want to consider a “power” style. If it’s deep stretching and relaxation you seek, restorative yoga may be just what you need. If you are someone who enjoys a lot of movement, a flowing style will probably resonate with you and help to keep you in the practice. I recommend always trying out a few different classes in various styles and from multiple teachers. There is enough yoga out there for everyone to find a style that they can enjoy.
- Pain and discomfort are different. Learning to recognize the difference between pain and discomfort is important, especially if you are practicing one of the power or hot yoga styles. Experiencing a mild discomfort when stretching is something to be expected, especially when you are moving the body in a new or different way. Discomfort ends when you come out of the stretch, pain on the other hand has a tendency to linger, a sign that the muscles, joints or bones have been over stressed. Moving slowly and with the breath will help you to identify your threshold, the point of discomfort; this is the ideal position for you to hold.
- Breathing is a BIG part of yoga. There is more to yoga then just the postures (or Asana). Yogic breathing exercises, or Pranayama are the main reason that yoga is so relaxing. Taking deep and controlled breathes increases the amount of oxygen within the body which helps the body to relax. During yoga, by breathing into the stretch you can help those specific muscles to lengthen and relax, allowing the body to stretch deeper. The breath can also work to help carry you through the more challenging strengthening postures by bringing energy and strength into the body.
- Comfort is key. If you are not comfortable in your practice, you are much less likely to try yoga again. Instead of pushing yourself with yoga, let it serve as an opportunity to practice acceptance of your body as it is! Choose a class at the appropriate level and if they are available, use props like blankets and blocks to help support the body. Remember that ensuring your comfort goes beyond your in-class experience. Before you begin class make sure you are wearing comfortable clothes that you are able to move in and don’t try to practice on a full stomach, wait until about 2 hours after a meal.
- Be Patient. Both in your practice and on your journey to find the right practice. Yoga takes time and commitment. The more you put into your practice the more you get out of it. It can take years of dedicated practice in order to get into some of the more advanced positions. Don’t be discouraged if you cant touch your toes or if you loose your balance in tree pose, we have all been there and at some point everyone was a beginner.
- Speak up! If you have a question, a concern or if something doesn’t feel right. Make sure that your instructor is aware of any physical limitations, chronic conditions and injuries that you may have. Additionally, inform the instructor if you are pregnant or taking any medication, prescription or otherwise that might have an affect on your ability to practice. Remember that Yoga teachers are not mind readers! We are trained to teach the techniques, lead the sessions, observe our students and to offer modifications and adjustments if needed. While many teachers have an uncanny ability to tune into their student energies and pick just the right pose to do next, we still have no clue on your specific experience unless you decide to share, plus we like talking about yoga with our students and enjoy getting to know you better!
I hope that you have enjoyed these yoga tips and that they will serve as a resource to support your Yoga practice.
Please leave any questions or comments below, we love to hear from you!
Ashley Freeman is a registered yoga teacher with the Yoga Alliance. Certified in Raja Yoga, her experience includes private in-home lessons, workplace wellness programs, and group instruction teaching various class formats and yoga styles. Find her on Google+