February 12, 2012

20 Things to Know Before Starting a Yoga Practice.

1. Yoga is about the union of the mind, body and spirit. It isn’t about where you are going but instead about the journey in getting there.  Find integrity in all movements small or large and grace in transition.

2. Yoga is about you. It doesn’t matter what the person on the mat next to you is doing. Pay attention to yourself, your body and your mind.

3. Yoga is not about your visual appearance.Is there a mirror in the room? Forget it even exists.

4. Yoga is not a passive practice. Finding balance and flexibility comes from the selective engagement of certain muscles depending on the poses. Learning about how to activate these muscles is a long and never-ending journey. Enjoy it.

5. Yoga is about learning to listen to your body. A little challenge can be good at times, but this practice is not about pushing. Advancement in asana comes slowly, millimeter by millimeter. Yoga is a practice, not a perfection.

6. Yoga is not about achieving certain poses. While it can be fun and inspirational to have something to work towards, pushing too hard or too fast doesn’t serve you. Learn the alignment, the muscle activation, and the bandhas(energy locks). That being said, all bodies are not made for all poses. We all have different bone structures and ranges of motion. This can allow or limit certain postures. Become unattached to the results.

7. Yoga is very different from how we in the West live our lives. We are forward racing with rapid breathing and carry ourselves with closed hips, and with contracted chests . Yoga involves slowing our pace, being aware of and controlling the breath, opening the hips and chest and strengthening the back. Jumping into a too advanced class can be too much no matter how simple some of the postures may seem. This can shock our bodies.

8. In that vein if you are new to yoga have you been to a beginner class or series? This is a much-needed place to start. Your instructor  can best serve you if you have already been to one!

9. Videos or online classes can be a great way to discover new postures, sequencing and instructors, but the best way to learn is in a real live class, especially for a beginner.

10. Yoga is about discovering an awareness of your body in space and time. Being inverted (upside down) or told to pay attention to movements in your back body can be awkward. Create space for that learning curve.

11.You know your body better than anyone. Yoga is about learning to hear that voice and step into the awareness of your body in space and time!

12. Do you have something going on with your body? Strains, sprains, aches, pulls, surgical happenings, replacements, pregnancy or anything else?  Let your teacher know before class no matter how many times you have been there before.

13. If you need clarification about something always ask!

14.  Almost every pose has a modification. If you are not yet able to maintain the full posture please take the modification! Not building up to the full pose with the necessary strength and alignment is like building a skyscraper and missing all the floors between the ground and the top.

15. Your teacher may offer physical assists but your body is yours and if you ever need something to be different let them know immediately.

16. Physical assists are amplifications of the postures that otherwise couldn’t be achieved. They are not about you doing something wrong. Afterwards muscle memory can sometimes take over and you can now get to these deeper places on your own.

17. Don’t be afraid of your breath! Explore it and make it heard! Expand your belly and your mind!

18. Injury is real and does happen in yoga. Follow the above and you will minimize your risk.

19. If you are practicing  3 or more times a week or if you are practicing less, but have a powerful practice you may want to invest in a good mat. Cheaper mats don’t offer much cushion and often don’t have a good grip.

20. Have fun! Yoga is your playground!


Photo Credits: healthjockey.comyoganora.wordpress.com, followtheyogi.com

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Tanya Lee Markul Feb 13, 2012 1:27am

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Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
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Hannah Siegle

Hannah Siegle began to do yoga four years ago initially for the physical practice, however she quickly discovered that the yoga began to do her in ways she never anticipated. The mind, body and spiritual connection that yoga cultivates has helped Hannah through the ups and downs of life, both large and small. She regularly blogs at Balancing on Two Feet on topics such as yoga, mindfulness, eating disorder recovery and all those things people don’t like to talk about. She was trained at the RYT 200 through Laurel Hodory and is currently working towards becoming a Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapist. She teaches yoga throughout Central Ohio with GoYoga ,yogaServe, and also works as an Assistant Editor for the elephant journal!