Thinking of trying Yoga? Looking to get zen? These tips will introduce you to what you can expect and how to navigate your first few classes.
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You may not love the pizza from the place across the street, but really enjoy it from the restaurant three blocks over. Like pizza, Yoga varies from studio to studio, style to style, and teacher to teacher. Big chains that pump out class after class may have convenient times, but don’t be afraid to try the smaller, more ‘mom-n-pop’ studios as well. There is a countless number of yoga styles and within each style, yoga teachers will often instruct in very different ways. So if you’re not absolutely in love with your first class, keep trying.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE A HIPPY.
There’s no rule that says Yoga has to be spiritual or that you have to wear patchouli oil and chant in Sanskrit. While it’s possible to find classes offering a more rich and deeper connection, if you’re simply looking for a work out and a way to decompress– there’s still a style and a teacher for you. But you should work to make your practice sacred. This means planning ahead, showing up on time, turning off your phone, perhaps even investing in quality comfortable and functional gear, and creating a practice that you really look forward to attending. Don’t try to sandwich in your Yoga between meetings, showing up late and leaving early. You’ll see the benefits more if you commit and make your time on your mat a positive experience. Take purposeful time for yourself.
LEARN TO USE PROPS.
One of the best things you can do as a new or even a seasoned yogi is learn to effectively use props. They help to bring ease and safe movement into your practice, but they can also be used to challenge. A starter pack for a new yogi should include two blocks and a strap at a minimum. In general, blocks are used to help you reach the ground and to support weight while a strap is used to help ‘make your arms longer’, by extending your reach toward your toes or your hands behind your back. Feeling tight? Don’t quit yoga, just get some props and learn how to use them. Other props to eventually consider are yoga bolsters, and a yoga blanket. Most yoga studios will have these handy, but having them at home can encourage you to practice more.
GET TO KNOW YOUR CLASSMATES.
Ask any yogi and they’ll tell you that one of the best things about practicing Yoga is the community. Being surrounded by a group of active, healthy, accepting people can be a great incentive to showing up for practice. So introduce yourself, make friends, and make plans outside of the yoga studio. Lots of yogis are involved in activities like volunteering, hiking, rock climbing, cycling, surfing, horseback riding, etc. and they’re usually glad to introduce you to more folks along the way. Whenever I move to a new city, the first thing I do is start practicing at local studios and get to know people.
STAY UNTIL THE END.
Like showing up early, staying through the end is vital. The last pose in most yoga classes is called Savasana (pronounced shuh-vah-suh-nuh). It’s a resting pose in which you lie flat or in another comfortable position with your eyes closed. This might sound strange to most noobs, but it’s really important. Savasana is a chance to relax, to soak up your efforts, and to settle your energy before going back out into the world. Take this moment to unwind, to feel supported by the ground beneath you, and to chill out for a bit before returning to the hustle of everyday life. Enjoy.
A HANDFUL OF COMMON STYLES AND THEIR ONE-LINER DESCRIPTIONS:
- Ashtanga: This practice can be physically demanding. It’s a strong and traditional practice with set sequences. Because of the many chaturangas (kinda like a push up), folks with shoulder or wrist injuries should start off in a more foundational style.
- Hatha: This practice takes on a solid, but calmer approach with fewer if any chaturangas. Expect longer holds in postures and less movement with more focus on form and breath.
- Vinyasa Flow: This modern practice is the style you’ll find at most yoga studios. It’s a ‘catch all’ for anything that doesn’t fit into another, more strict category. Vinyasa is the union of movement with breath, so expect to move a bit more. Many teachers use this style to express a creative, more choreographed sequence.
- Yin/Restorative: Feeling sleepy? These styles are much slower, calmer, and are not aimed at getting you sweaty. Instead, they relax the body with longer, but more gentle stretches to help ease tension and increase range of motion. Prop usage is key with these styles.
- Bikram: Think Navy SEAL bootcamp, but not as friendly. The room is heated and most follow a very strict and regimented sequence that doesn’t make sense to most anatomists. Nevertheless, it’s a popular style in the West for the intense workout.
Regardless of the style you choose, most studios should offer a beginner’s class and the staff will be happy to help you into the right fit. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and seek help. You can also practice with great teachers online at YogaGlo.com to get your feet wet before entering a studio.