How can I introduce some basic yoga to improve my life?
Ooh, I get some really great questions through my various channels of social media!!!
Platforms like Instagram are absolutely littered with beautiful images of impressive looking yoga poses which can inspire people to give it a try.
Or can put them off forever by thinking it is completely unattainable for their age / body shape / flexibility / fitness level. Delete as appropriate.
So this is a good place to say, and I assume this is the same for the whole of the social media yoga community, that the pictures I post on my accounts of me in fancy poses are exactly that - posed.
They’re not my actual yoga practice (unless someone has papp’d me without my knowledge). For all of the yoga poses on The Gram, nine times out of ten I’m willing to bet my yoga blocks that there are many, many photos taken and only the best one with the best looking alignment will make the cut. To go through to the cropping phase. Followed by the adding the filter phase. I think you get my drift.
But lots of people look a bit further than the images and actually read the captions. I know I do. They start to see that the thing all these fancily-posed photos have in common are the authors all seem to be quite ‘together’, empathic and kind people. (But, remember that social media is a bit of fun and should always be taken with a pinch of salt.)
That’s why it is so encouraging that people get in touch with me to find out more.
How you begin to introduce yoga into your life really does depend on what you’re looking for.
What do you hope to gain from yoga?
It might be that someone wants to improve their fitness or to support another physical exercise or sport.
Perhaps someone has heard that it can help with weight management. You can read this blog post relating to yoga for weight loss.
Somebody else’s motivation to begin a yoga practice might have nothing to do with anything aesthetically related. They might have heard that yoga can help them relax or help them find a good night’s sleep.
A newcomer to yoga might be coming from a place of sheer desperation to find relief from feelings of anxiety, depression, poor self esteem or self confidence.
Here are my top tips for introducing yoga into your life.
Start to drop the idea of multi-tasking. Whatever you are doing in one moment, do only that one thing. How often do we find ourselves doing many things at once? Cooking dinner, following a recipe book, listening to your child’s reading homework? Watching a film, scrolling mindlessly through social media channels? There’s a reason it’s called ‘mindlessly’, folks.
Quite simply, introducing mindful practices into your life will greatly improve the quality of your life. And you can do it with something as seemingly easy as breathing.
One of the key elements of a yoga practice is uniting the body, the breath and the mind so beginning here is a great start. Literally by concentrating on the one breath that you are taking in this very moment. Notice how it feels, notice if you have any thoughts going through your mind.
Find a teacher
Practicing with YouTube videos, online tutorials and on your own is fantastic - you really do need self-discipline to maintain a home yoga practice. And don’t get me started on the more recent ‘virtual’ yoga teachers in gyms. There really is no replacement for a real-life yoga teacher who can offer guidance on the yoga poses and help you out with modifications.
Find a teacher. This might sound quite simple, and really it is but before you can do this you really do need to consider how you would like to feel with your yoga practice. Your honest answer to that question is going to help you greatly as you search for the right teacher for you.
There are so many great yoga instructors so ask around, see if any friends, colleagues or family members attend a yoga class and see how they feel about their class. Of course, it is important to keep in mind that they may have a very different reason for going to yoga.
Look in local community centres, libraries and gyms for posters and fliers and of course, Google and social media are excellent places to find out what is going on in your local community.
The next step is to get in touch with a yoga teacher and ask them about their classes; questions you might like to ask are
what style of classes do they teach?
are beginners welcome?
if you can come along and try a class or if you have to commit to a block of classes.
Yoga teachers are passionate about what they do and will probably want to help in any way they can. When you have found a yoga teacher that offers a class that you like the sound of, go along and try it.
It’s important to note a couple of things here;
Different yoga teachers bring different energies.
What I mean by that is two teachers may lead exactly the same sequence of poses, but the class will feel entirely different. If you try a class and you don’t like it, I would hugely suggest that you don’t just leave it there, but try classes with a couple of different teachers. The likelihood is that you’ll find the right class for you, but not every teacher is going to be right for you at this particular time in your life. I can’t speak for all yoga teachers, but I understand this and I’m certain they will still be happy that someone has found a new love of yoga, even if it’s not a love for their specific class.
Don’t ask for a free class.
I would urge you not to ask for a free class to try yoga. Every single yoga teacher I know has spent hundreds of hours in official training, spends countless hours of self practice, study, research and planning time. Please don’t assume that the yoga teacher rocks up at the class, teaches for an hour and a half and earns ‘easy money’. It’s not easy. If it seems easy it’s because the instructor is doing a great job of making their class seamless and relaxing for all the students in the room because they know how much the calm and relaxation is needed. (Please be assured that yoga teachers don’t come into this game for all the mountains of free-flowing cash.)
Respect that your teacher works hard in many different ways that you probably don’t see during your 60min class, they really do give so much of themselves to help people enjoy the practice.
Take your time.
There are literally thousands of yoga poses but you don’t have to be an expert in all of them.
It’s yoga practice not yoga perfect.
One of the most important things to know before you embark on a physical yoga practice is that every single body is different - with varying bone lengths, joint articulations and muscle mass. And that’s not including the individual niggles that some of us pick up along the way.
The person beside you may be able to touch their toes quite easily, you may not. You may be able to twist quite comfortably, they may not. The only judgement and expectation that shows up in my yoga classes is the one that we bring along ourselves, so I encourage people to leave their ego at the door. It’s not your amigo, my friend.
I always invite people to pay more attention to how their body feels in a yoga pose rather than how it looks.
So I suggest take your time. Find a pose that you like and concentrate on that one. Learn it’s name - in Sanskrit if you really want to - and explore coming into that pose and staying for three to five breaths. You can check out my YouTube channel for some short sequences that might be helpful for you or have a look at this page of my website for some tips for commonly taken postures.
Yoga off the mat
This is one of the very easiest and best ways to introduce yoga. The physical poses are only one eighth of the Eight Limbs of Yoga. The other important elements include
taking only what you need and not being greedy
non-attachment or not hoarding
cleanliness of body and mind - including the foods we eat
discipline and hard work
studying and bettering yourself
understanding that you are part of something much bigger
If you’re interested to read in more depth, please take a look at this blog post where I discuss the Eight Limbs of Yoga.
I can promise you that you will see shifts in the quality of your life when these things are given more importance. I would love to chat with you about this. If you have any thoughts, comments or questions get in touch and let’s talk.
If you would like to work with me, either in a community or corporate group setting or on a one-to-one basis, that’s great news! Please drop me an email and we discuss the options that are right for you.
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