There are many people who come to yoga for different reasons, those reasons vary a lot from:
- a great way to get back into fitness
- reduces anxiety and depression
- finding more flexibility
- improve balance
- become more in tune with your body
- looking for ways to find movement
- it makes you feel better
- finding your purpose and living it
- continued growth and self-awareness
- practicing kindness and self-compassion
- improving health: chronic pain, fatigue, obesity, asthma
As you can see the list is very long and we could keep going. What's important to know is that Yoga really is for everyone. You do not need to be flexible, you do not need to have an understanding of movement, you do not need to be skinny, this isn't about being perfect, but instead about learning where you are in your body and how can you meet the goals that you have to improve your life. We all want to feel amazing, and Yoga can get you on your journey.
Some important tips to help you on your way:
Be patient in finding your class - It can be intimidating trying to find the right class for you. There are a lot of styles of yoga and they come with fancy names such as Vinyasa, Hatha, Kundalini, etc.. There are virtual classes, classes outside, classes in a gym and studios, classes that focus on different types of needs. Looking through these classes can be challenging hard to navigate. The best advice I can give you is to try different classes, don't assume that all yoga classes are the same. Ask the teacher what type of class it is, if they aren't helpful in describing it to you that might not be the right class for you. Ask your friends if they go to yoga and what they like about it. Once you find the right class for you, you will understand what the fuss is all about.
Props - There can be a lot of props that are needed for a yoga class depending on the class. AT very minimum you usually need is a yoga mat (though some studios/gyms will have them for you to borrow). Some basics depending on your needs may be one or two yoga blocks/bricks and a strap. These you can find at a fair price on amazon, target, or your local sporting good stores, I've even seen them at the grocery store. If money is a concern, and you are taking a virtual class you can use items from home, such as a scarf or robe tie to replace a strap, and boxes or full-size bath towels to use for blocks. Ask your teacher what props they recommend.
Grab a friend - Accountability can be hard, but if you have a friend that is willing to practice with you, you are more likely to carve out the time to show up. Just remember once you arrive on your mat yoga becomes an internal practice.
Etiquette - If you've never practiced yoga you wouldn't know what the standards are, which makes showing up that much harder. Some simple housekeeping rules will help you feel more comfortable in your surroundings.
Yoga is practiced barefoot. Many studios ask that you don't bring your shoes into the studio classroom. Though this is not the case in a gym yoga class. It's always good to ask.
Wear comfortable clothing that allows you to move and not be constricted by your clothing or feel uncomfortable if your clothes are falling off. A tip: running shorts show off more than you will anticipate. Not all yoga pants are created equal, some become see-through when you bend over. Baggy shirts are comfortable but will slide up to your head showing your mid-drift.
Don't walk on other people's yoga mats. It may seem silly but in time you will understand that some people find their mat to be a sacred space and do not want other people (even their closest friends) to walk on their mat.
Show up early. 5 to 10mins before class is usually sufficient. Many instructors will start class exactly on time to respect everyone's time, showing up exactly when class starts means you will be making noise while everyone else is already starting.
Don't leave during Savasana. I know another of those fancy words. At the end of practice everyone participates in what's referred to as Savasana or Final Relaxation. All the work that you have completed in your practice is preparing you for this opportunity to relax. It will become the most important part of yoga once you are able to complete it. Since it's such an important part of the practice, it's important not to disturb it for others. If you have somewhere you need to be and can't stay until the end please leave class when savasana is starting so that you respect other people's efforts.
Talking in class is discouraged - though many group exercise classes encourage students to talk with each other, yoga is not one of them. Some teachers don't mind if you ask a specific question about a pose, but the idea of the practice is that it's internal. You are there to make mistakes, grow, become better at the movement, the process, and the practice. If you have questions about something in class PLEASE ask your teacher after class, they are usually more than excited to help you.
Please silence your cell phones - the purpose of our yoga practice is to have some time to yourself, and a welcome break away from the world you live in. Not only for you but for others attending class as well. If for any reason being disconnected from your phone will cause anxiety (maybe because your child needs to get a hold of you) please talk to your teacher, many instructors will let you keep your phone on silent next to your mat.
Avoid perfume or strongly scented lotions. Many people are sensitive to strong smells, this can be distracting for fellow students.
Physical limitations - please inform your teacher of any physical limitations you have before class starts. Your teacher can give you modifications and it will also give them the opportunity to cue you in poses or positions that will allow you to find more success in the class.
Don't Judge. - We all have had different experiences in our lives that create a different story in our bodies. Showing compassion for others helps create a space that is safe for everyone to participate in. When we are judging others we are creating negativity in our own bodies that we do not need. Let this be a place where we are focused on ourselves and our own journey.
Let go - There are three things that I find fit almost every situation on the mat. These three things will be a part of your long term practice and will arise over and over again. But, if you bring them to your mat every time you will find they will assist you in the practice of letting go of all that doesn't serve you. Know this is a journey, not an arrival, that's why we call it a practice. Are you ready?
Let go of all forms of expectation with yourself and others.
Let go of competition with your self and others. Save that for your sport.
Let go of judgment.
Namaste - you hear it all the time, but do you know what it means? Simply stated it means that every part of my being honors every part of yours. It's not a hello, or a goodbye, but a way of saying that i "see you" and I "honor" all that I see in the ways that I can at this moment in my practice.
Salad bar - What does salad have to do with yoga? My guru taught me years ago that yoga is like a salad bar. Pick what you need from it and the rest will come if and when it's ready for you. Maybe today you pick the physical components, or you are not interested in the physical components but are here for the spirituality. Pick what you need from the salad bar, let that be your focus for the time being. Pick up what you need when you're ready, and leave behind what you don't want. That's the beauty of this practice.
There's so much more to this practice of yoga. As an experienced Yoga teacher (E-RYT) who has been teaching in Portland Oregon's East Side for over 13 years I've seen a lot, experienced a lot. I hope that this article will help you find your way to the mat, to experience the salad bar of yoga that our community has to offer. Should you have any questions and you can not find the answers to them, please feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org . If you are interested in virtual or in-person classes you that I have to offer please check out my schedule on the Schedule tab above.