A Beginner's Guide to Yoga
I'm currently on a little yoga journey. Or maybe I should call it a trial. Can it be considered a journey if I only started 2 months ago? For some reason I've been hesitant to share my yoga "journey" on social media and here on my blog. Maybe it's because I'm constantly seeing beautiful yogis practicing headstands and backbends and things that I don't even know the name for. These women are incredibly inspiring and always look so centered, grounded and zen. Am I zen? I don't think so. It's definitely not one of the first (or top 10) words that comes to mind when describing myself. Or maybe it's because I'm not the most flexible, "flowy" person around. Give me HIIT, functional training, strength training and cardio and I'm good to go. But yoga is not my strong point. I've spent the past 6 months working on my flexibility so I can (finally) touch my toes!
I guess my point is that I'm not an expert in yoga. I'm not a yoga instructor. I haven't been practicing long, and I'm sure I'm doing some of the poses wrong, so go easy on me.
I remember my first yoga class about six years ago when I first moved to LA. One of my beautiful model friends invited me to go with her and her boyfriend (equally as beautiful). We walked into the studio and I immediately felt like I was at home on my couch watching some sitcom about Malibu life where everyone has beautiful, natural beach waves, dewey skin and beaded anklets on their perfect, extra-bendy ankles. I got through the class by watching people around me, and I felt fine after, but there was no connection. Maybe I wasn't ready or maybe I was intimidated by something so foreign to me.
Over the past few years I've popped in and out of various yoga classes at different studios in LA (I even managed to go to a class at the beach while vacationing with my family in Florida), but it never felt gratifying or like I belonged. I almost felt like I was playing a part. Like - "Hey, I live in LA and it's Sunday morning - off to yoga!".
I've been switching up my workouts over the past few months and trying to incorporate other classes and skills - mainly because I'm in a gym all day and get bored of my surroundings and routine, but also because my body needs variety. Boxing has been my go-to when I don't want to train myself at the gym or go for a run outside. With all the high impact moves involved in boxing, I thought yoga would be a nice complement, and was considering it, but was still hesitant. I was reading an article about yoga and read the quote "Saying you're too inflexible to do yoga is like saying you're too dirty to take a bath." Good point. So I tried a new studio and purchased a package. I've been hooked ever since. There's something different this time. When I go into mountain pose and prepare to fold forward, I feel ready, confident, at ease and (most importantly) IN THE MOMENT. It's really an incredible feeling.
I am thankful for what yoga has given me. After work, it feels like a safe space (even when it's a hot power fusion or yoga sculpt class) I can go to connect, center and challenge myself. If you're a beginner or want to try yoga but feel anxious or aren't sure if it's right for you, here are a few tips from my experience:
1. Let the teacher know you're new. By giving them a heads up, they might provide modifications for certain poses/exercises for beginners that they wouldn't usually provide to the veterans of the class.
2. Come 10-15 minutes early to class. Not only will you feel more prepared and at ease when you aren't rushing, but it's so nice to lay down on your mat, stretch and meditate before class.
3. Check out the person next to you. If you don't know a specific pose, it can be really helpful to mirror someone who knows what they're doing.
4. But don't compare your practice. One of the most useful things anyone ever told me about yoga when I was insecure about my flexibility and knowledge of poses was (very bluntly) "No one cares about your practice. No one is watching you."
5. Get to know the studio and various classes, and try other studios to find the best fit for you. They all have different feels! Some might play music during the class, some feel more free spirited while others are more structured. Whatever it is, just make sure it's what feels like the best fit for YOU.