Extended Side Angle pose (Utthita Parsvakonasana II) • Nha Trang, Vietnam Dec 2017
Part 1: The Practice
This four part blog series will include a list of four actions to take as you immerse yourself into yoga.
At the most fundamental level, you only need two things to do yoga: a body and willingness.
While in theory this is true, in reality, it’ll take a little more. Before getting started, make a list of 3-5 reasons why you want to practice yoga. Here are a few reasons why yoga is important to me:
Integrate with a like-minded community
Change the habits in my life
Feel absolutely wonderful in, and connected with, my body
It’s worth noting, what you initially write down, and what you get out of a class, may be completely different. That’s ok! This is a great first step in learning acceptance. See it as a part of the discovery process. As a teacher and a student, I ask you to go against the setting of goals for your practice such as reaching poses by dates. Simply be happy you have opened yourself up to yoga. Flow with where this newfound experience takes you. I promise, it’ll be in a direction you never thought would have so many far-reaching effects.
Ok, lets get going with the first action:
Take a moment to reflect on which type of person you are. Do you enjoy doing activities on your own? Is being part of a group a way to learn or a distraction?
If you decide practicing alone is what’s right for you, then consider hiring a private teacher — like me :D — or use an app. FitStar Yoga, Yoga Studio, Asana Rebel or a number of others are great options to start out. Disclosure, I started using FitStar Yoga and really enjoyed it. I currently subscribe to Yoga Studio to create customized routines. I have not used Asana Rebel.
If practicing in a group seems right, consider investigating community centres and yoga studios on Google Maps or Instagram. Your local college/university, fitness centre or church may also host classes. Note* fitness centres tend to have “push-to-the-max” or “no pain, no gain” attitude. Should this approach carry into class, perhaps find a different location.
Recognize this is a new activity and will take time for you to get comfortable. If practicing in a group setting, remember there are dozens of yoga styles, and each teacher will have a unique approach. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water here. You may try a vinyasa class with one teacher and hate it, while loving it with another. With this in mind, I’d recommend trying 5-7 classes and teachers. Learn about the different styles in this Daily Burn article.
To see some of my exploration of yoga as dance, tap here and here.
2. The Slow Fade In
Want to know the best way to not have a long-term practice? Jump head first into it. You’ll go hard everyday for a couple weeks, then flatline. No. Yoga will change every aspect of your life — over time. Let the change take it’s own course.
Start out by practicing once or twice a week. This will help your body and mind adjust. It gives you a chance to psychologically, and habitually, adopt it into your routine. Building momentum takes time. Tap to open Solo Trip Journal 52 — A Good Thing Going and STJ 54 — Prioritizing My Practice, I review where my practice has brought my life and the new awareness I have.
In Phuket, I was doing 3 yoga classes per day, 6 days a week. When I came to Bali, I got sick and didn’t practice for most of June. Now, I’m phasing it back in — practicing 3-4 times a week, once a day. It takes time. However, now I’m more gracious and accepting of the change. There is as much to learn at this level as before.
Another area of frustration for new students is the competitive factor. Yoga looks deceptively easy. Many become frustrated when they cannot perform a pose. I’ve seen students who could bench press my body weight. When it came time to do downward dog, they were shaking. Yoga is a subtle and passive exercise, using a lot of small, unnoticed muscles. Relax, this is part of the journey. You’ll develop the strength in time.
3. Get Some Gear
Let me state upfront, the West has commercialized yoga. True. Fancy yoga studios, yoga clothing companies and events have made it a spectacle. However, the West has introduced the practice to many and made the practice safer. I don’t recommend getting yoga clothes/accessories to look fancy. Pick up an outfit or a mat or a towel to get yourself into the mindset. For me, that item is my yoga mat.
In Thailand, I decided to invest in a high quality one. While the studios provided them for free, I wanted my own. It’s mine. It’s my space. I treat it with respect. Does a figure skater revere their skates? A basketball player their shoes? A swimmer their goggles? Of course. Invest a little money into the item and take good care of it. The issue occurs when people have all the gear and no reverence for it as part of their practice.
4. Journal The Experience
Exploring your body through yoga is wonderful. You’ll learn many things about yourself. It works on the physical, emotional, psychological and psychosomatic levels. Prepare for changes to your body the day of, and the following morning. Emotionally and psychologically? That takes a little more time.
Keeping a yoga journal is a great way to catalogue your experience. You may want to track quality of sleep with intensity of practice. Or monitor levels of hydration against muscle stiffness. Perhaps keeping a log of when you first get into a pose is important? Maybe the instructor gives you a few exercises to work on... The possibilities are endless, but journaling will prove worthwhile as you go along.
Here are a few of my personal observations:
Not eating for 12+ hours before practicing takes me to another level
Spending time in the hot sun before class loosens my muscles
Food tastes better after practicing
Stretch for 20 mins before class starts
Read more about the evolution of my practice across seven countries on the align432YOGA page, and follow my Instagram.
In Pt. 2/4, we will look at how diet impacts the body relating to yoga practice!
Let me know in the comments what experiences you’ve had starting out in yoga.
If you have questions about getting started — ask away!