New to yoga? Not quite sure where to start? These five simple dos and don'ts will help you sift through the clutter to find your om in no time.
We all have to start somewhere. Use these five simple Dos and Don'ts to clarify where to begin:
Do: Start Slow and Build Gradually
Listen to your body, take your time, and slowly build up to your ideal practice.
You can start out with 20 minutes of yoga or breathwork a day, if that's your comfort level and preference. You do not have to jump into doing 90 minutes of hot yoga every day in your first week. Listen to your body, take your time, and slowly build up to your ideal practice. Try non-heated, breathwork-focused introductory classes and private lessons and yin or restorative classes to start. Once you have an idea of what yoga is like, try vinyasa, power, hot yoga, ashtanga, and more! Just wait until you have a few classes under your belt. You don't want to overdo it and hurt yourself before your journey even begins!
Don't: Try All the Poses You See on Social Media
Do what is right in your body, right now.
Some of the amazing shapes you see on Instagram are performed by yogis who have been practicing upwards of 20 years and are trained professionals! If you are just starting out, how could you expect to leap into a pose that took years to perfect? Also, sometimes these "performances"- that's what they are - only last for a split second; the people holding the poses may happen to pause in a perfect shape for a millisecond, catch the shape with lightning speed camera shutters, and fall shortly after. All you are seeing is a millisecond of a pose attempted 100 times and thinking, "this is what I need to do to be good at yoga." NO! Do what is right in your body, right now. Some bodies will never be able to make some shapes. That is normal and healthy. We are all built differently. Also, some bodies should never make the shapes we see on social media because they are downright anatomically wrong and bad for your body! So, listen to your instructor and listen to your body. Yoga instructors are trained to help guide you to what is correct for your body and will give you the best health benefits. Your body also knows when something feels good but hard versus bad; it knows what a stretch feels like (or it should!) and what a muscle working hard (or "burning") feels like. The sensation of bones scraping against each other, muscles pulling, and a joint dislocating are very different from good but hard sensations. If you're not that tuned into your body yet, you should always avoid sharp shooting pains and start to tune in to what stretching and burning muscles feel like so that you are comfortable with these good types of pain.
Do: Keep Track of Your Progress
Keeping track of your yoga practice in the past versus now is a really useful tool to continually inspire yourself to stay with it.
One of the best ways to continually motivate yourself is by reflecting on how far you've already come. Start a yoga journal after the classes you take to note what you liked or didn't like about them, any new information you learned about yourself or yoga in general, how you felt emotionally and physically, new poses you tried, or any other big feats (i.e. if you are doing yoga for weight loss, log how many pounds you went down or if you are doing it for mental clarity, log how long you were able to meditate or stay in savasana). Also, you could try leaving yourself voice memos or taking photos along your journey, if writing is not for you. I personally love to save photos and videos of myself in poses a few years ago versus now to see how much my persistence and consistency have paid off. Whatever your style is, keeping track of your yoga practice in the past versus now is a useful tool to inspire yourself to stay with it.
Don't: Compare Yourself to Others
Comparing yourself with others in person or online will only detract from what you are truly trying to accomplish in yoga: getting to know yourself better and personal improvement.
Keeping track of your own personal progress is great; keeping tabs on others' yoga practice, not so much. Yoga is a deeply personal process. It is about exploring the depths of your soul, releasing ego, and diving inwards. That's why it is important to focus on your own progress and feelings as you practice yoga. If you are in a class with mirrors, try to keep an eye on yourself and maybe the instructor if you have no idea what the pose you are working on should look like. Don't eye others in advanced poses with envy or discouragement; they've probably been practicing for years. Instead, try to think about what you are doing, how it feels, and striving for your own personal best. Comparing yourself with others in person or online will only detract from what you are truly trying to accomplish in yoga: getting to know yourself better and personal improvement.
Do: Integrate Breath to Movement
Taking the breathwork seriously will enable you to feel all of the physical and mental benefits of the practice.
Breath, or pranayama, is one of the pillars of yoga. It is integral to the poses we take, the movements we make, and the traditional practice of yoga. It is important to listen to the breath cues that your instructor gives during class and do your best to follow along. Taking the breathwork seriously will enable you to feel all of the physical and mental benefits of the practice, such as increasing endurance and optimizing cardio performance as well as stress and anxiety relief, to name a few. I know there are a lot of new things to pay attention to when you are just starting out with yoga, but breathwork should be a priority for you when commencing your yoga journey.
Don't: Hold Your Breath
Yoga is all about the breath.
You can throw all of the benefits of yoga that I mentioned above out the window, if you hold your breath. Yoga is all about the breath. Even if you're trying to hold a really hard pose, you still have to breathe! You literally need to breathe to survive, and yoga is supposed to help you survive and thrive. So to do well in yoga, you have to breathe. Make your breathwork conscious; make it focused; make it calming; make it empowering, and I promise you, you will feel the benefits.
Do: Practice Consistently
You need to find a time, place, and style that light you up, so that it's easy for you to show up.
Whether it's 20 minutes a week or 2 hours daily, carve out time and space for yoga in your life and commit to it consistently. I recommend at least 1 session per week at a minimum. You need to find a time, place, and style that light you up, so that it's easy for you to show up. You can also set a goal and take classes with a friend, coworker, romantic partner, or family member to help hold you accountable. Try to make your goal realistic so that you won't be tempted to blow it off. Over time, see if you can add more yoga into your life. Naturally, you will probably want to. From experience and anecdotally, I can say that the more you practice, the more quickly you will improve your practice and meet your yoga (and life) goals. So practice, practice, practice.
Don't: Give Up After One Off Day
Let your off days motivate you to continue to show up.
We all have days where we're tired, our balance sucks, we just want dinner, the teacher is annoying, and the list goes on and on. Don't let one off day at yoga ruin your progress. We all have bad days in life and on the mat. Let your off days motivate you to continue to show up. Didn't nail crow pose today? Try it again tomorrow after looking up some tips online. Annoying teacher kept tickling your feet? (And yes, this has unfortunately happened to me.) Try that new yoga studio that you have been meaning to use your free week trial pass at later this week! Free trial passes are awesome. The point is, don't give up after one bad class. Decompress, reflect on what didn't work the last time, and commit to making it better and adjusting for next time. Be like that one person that you're really not interested in romantically who won't take "no" for answer. Be persistent.
Do: Incorporate Yoga Into Other Elements of Your Life
Take what you learn on the mat out of the yoga room.
Yoga is a lifestyle, not just a work out. Take what you learn on the mat out of the yoga room. Yoga will teach you so many valuable lessons like consistency, patience, breathwork, strength, motivation, honesty, humility, selflessness, empathy, and more. In fact, there are actually 10 ethical guidelines in yoga called Yamas and Niyamas. Here are just a few to open your eyes (because I could really spend a whole blog post on these): nonviolence (ahimsa in Sanskrit), truthfulness (satya), non-greed (aparigraha), self discipline (tapas), and contentment (santosha). Many of your instructors will share these words of wisdom and relevant quotes or anecdotes with you in class. Many of you will learn these lessons through your own exploration of yoga. Whatever your lesson is, take it with you. That is the point of yoga. It's not just to come to a dark room, work out for 60 minutes, and go back to your normal life and all of your problems. It's so that you can wrestle with your inner demons, be a kinder human, kill less animals for food, help those in need, communicate more openly with your loved ones, stretch your hammies better, be able to run a marathon again, be a better boxer, stay motivated to lose those 5 pounds, take 3 slow breaths before you explode into a fit of rage in traffic, and so on and so forth. Use yoga how you want to, but don't let it end after the savasana.
Don't: Just Go For the Workout
The mental and emotional benefits of yoga are of tantamount importance.
I think I laid this out in detail above, but if you go to yoga for just the physical workout, you are missing out on so much of what makes yoga special. The mental and emotional benefits of yoga are of tantamount importance. Even if you really just want to burn 300 calories in class, if you focus on the breathwork, you may subconsciously end up losing more weight. Seriously. Studies have shown that weight gain and fat storage are related to stress. So, when you use breathwork to destress, you allow your body to think:
Hey, I'm actually okay. My breathing is normal. I'm not going to starve or
need to run 80 miles from a scary human-eating lion today, so I can let go
of some of this stored fuel (aka: calories or fat) and chill out. Maybe I'll even
sleep a few more hours tonight because I'm not in danger. Life is good.
Also, we literally breathe out stored fat molecules as carbon dioxide. And yeah, I get that my writing style is like super casual, but if you don't believe me, check out this article from Medical News Today. Yoga's benefits are evidence-based and have been scientifically studied. They are more than just physiological. They are psychological and can be life changing. The more you open yourself up to the world of yoga, the more you will benefit.
I hope that these tips were helpful for you! Please let me know what you thought of this post with a like, comment, or share below.
With Love and Light,
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