Friday, July 18, 2008

yoga's not just for girls

A few weekends ago, we had a friend we hadn't seen for a while over for dinner. While talking with him about what I had been doing this summer, the topic of yoga came up. He said that he used to think yoga was for girls, until he actually attended a yoga class. He was very surprised how challenging it was. He also said he was surprised by the almost euphoric feelings he had after the class was over. It was really nice to hear him talking this way about yoga. I am always disappointed when I hear people talk about having negative experiences in a yoga class. Sometimes after one bad experience, I know the person will probably never give it a try again.

Here are my top 10 tips, if you're going to give yoga a try (and you definitely should):

1. Make sure you find an experienced instructor that comes highly recommended by someone who has taken a class from him or her.
2. Try to find a yoga class that best suits your needs--there are many different types and styles of yoga, from very relaxing, restorative, healing yoga to very athletic style classes.
3. Show up early for class, and introduce yourself to the instructor before class begins, letting him or her know you are new to practicing yoga.
4. Keep in mind that this is a brand new experience for you--allow yourself to rest when needed, and even sit and watch for a while--it's hard to do the poses and see what they are supposed to look like at the same time.
5. Know you are supposed to feel challenged, yet relaxed (the relaxed part is key here for beginners!) Absolutely no position should cause sharp, acute pain--if it hurts, gently come out of the pose. It is natural, especially at the beginning to feel a bit uncomfortable, since you are in positions you're body isn't used to, but it definitely shouldn't hurt.
6. Let go of all expectations and judgements about yourself--fully embrace and accept yourself just as you are. (I know this is harder said than done, but with regular yoga practice it is amazing how you can begin to accept yourself as you are knowing you're growing in your journey).
7. Remember that deep, full, conscious breathing is just as important as the positions themselves. Never sacrifice breath for posture.
8. Allow yourself as much as possible to experience the class through sensation--let your body guide you, and if you aren't used to listening to your body, with regular practice you will be amazed at how much our bodies can teach us when we listen.
9. Use the modifications!--If the instructor does not give multiple options for almost all of the positions, it's probably better to find an instructor who does.
10. Before you decide yoga is not for you, make sure to find an instructor and style of class that works best for you, and then practice regularly for a minimum of a month. At that point, you'll start to really be able to relax more and seep in all the positive benefits of a regular practice.

Ending the class in Namaste': Traditionally, yoga classes are ended by the instructor saying "Namaste'" and the participants repeating it back to the instructor. Namaste' is a sanskrit term that is loosely translated to, "The divine in me bows to and recognizes the divine in you."

Lastly, if you attend a yoga class that is all physical without any heart and soul, please know that a huge piece of the practice will be missing. If you aren't really concerned about the "soul" aspect of yoga, by all means, continue your practice. However, if you're wanting a class that offers more than just the physical, keep looking until you find it. Know that yoga can truly change and transform how you approach your life and daily interactions.

Yoga thought for the day:
"You are pure potential." --Maat

And--Yoga is NOT just for girls!


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