Eight Things Every Yoga Teacher Wants to Tell a Beginner Yogi. ~ Katie Callaghan (Percy)

Via elephant journal
on Sep 3, 2012
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Perfect is Boring.

1. Downdog will not always be this difficult.
We’ve all been there. Your hands start sweating and sliding along the mat, your arms turn to Jell-O and you curse your teacher for suggesting that downward dog is a restorative posture. I assure you, your wrists will not always hurt in this pose and eventually as you get stronger, learn correct technique and stick with it, you will find downward facing dog is a restful posture. Yogi’s promise!

2. Make connections.
Yoga is all about community. Although your practice is very personal, it can also be an avenue to meeting new, like-minded individuals. Next time you come to class, smile at the person sitting next to you. You may just make a new yogi friend.

3. You don’t need to look cool to practice yoga. 
Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with loving your new microfiber yoga top but being decked out in the latest yoga wear from head-to-toe does not enhance your ability to practice yoga. All you need is clothing that you feel comfortable in and you’re set to go.

4. When you listen to your body, your instructor wants to hug you!
When you decide to modify a pose to make it easier on yourself, you are practicing a very important part of yoga: kindness. There is no scripture in yoga philosophy that tells us we must wrench our body into a pretzel in order to reach an enlightened state. Instead, the practice of yoga encourages us to listen to our body and practice the poses with proper technique. So next time you feel as if you’re pushing your body past its limits, consider using a prop or taking a different option so you can practice the pose correctly and with kindness.

5. No one cares.
Ok, so this might sound a little harsh but no one really cares what your poses look like. Yes, your yoga instructor cares for your safety and comfort in class, but he or she won’t judge you if your posture isn’t perfect. Perfect is boring.

During class, your mat is like an island: the only person you need to worry about on your island is you. Sure, the girl in front of you may be swinging her legs around her head like a Cirque-de-Soleil performer but that has nothing to do with your yoga journey. And let’s face it, she’s probably too busy wondering how to get her foot unwrapped from her head to worry about what you look like!

6. Don’t underestimate your breath.
When you first start practicing yoga, you may wonder what all of this breathing business is about. Don’t you breathe all day, every day? Well, the answer is yes, but do you pay attention to your breath? Do you know that breath has an amazing potential to calm your mind and body? Yoga practice transforms something we take for granted every day into something very powerful. So go ahead, breathe!

7. It’s common to think Savasana is the hardest yoga pose.
Your yoga instructor decides it is a good day to practice all of the standing strength Warrior poses, and your legs are ready for the sweet surrender of savasana. Seems simple, right? You settle in, relax your entire body onto the mat, and enjoy the soothing music in the background. Ahhh…serenity. But wait, did you take the chicken out of the freezer to thaw? What route will you take home? How can you convince your husband to take a yoga class with you? What’s that creaking noise?

Does this sound familiar? Not to fear: this is a very common occurrence. The physical aspect of yoga is the easy part; it’s stilling the mind that is the real challenge. My advice? Breathe. Let your thoughts come and go with each breath, and you may find it a little easier to find your most relaxed state.

8. Congratulations! You have opened up a door to unlimited possibilities.
Trying something new can be a scary experience; there is always the fear of the unknown. You have taken a great leap by opening up to something that has the potential to change your life forever, for the better. Be open to all that yoga has to offer. As Shasta Townsend would say, “Trust in your own unfolding.”

Namaste, Yogis! The teacher and student within me honors the teacher and student within you.

Katie Callaghan (Percy) is a studio teacher at Balanced Life Yoga, a Can-Fit-Pro certified Personal Trainer and high school English teacher. She is passionate about introducing yoga into people’s lives. Katie has created a Yoga Club for Teens at her high school and she is thrilled to be teaching the three part beginner series and Power Hour classes at BLY. Check out her bio at http://www.balancedlifeyoga.ca/katie-percy/.


Editor: Sarah Winner

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18 Responses to “Eight Things Every Yoga Teacher Wants to Tell a Beginner Yogi. ~ Katie Callaghan (Percy)”

  1. Perfect – I am going in to teach my first class tomorrow (for teachers) … this is EXACTLY what I needed to read tonight. Thanks a million!

  2. Deniz says:

    I dont remember the name but one of the milestones said once; you need technique when you dont have awareness. I believe it is all about awareness. Technique is external.

  3. lisa cohen says:

    i would also add to that list a few things: being physically flexible is not a requirement for practicing hatha yoga, the outer shape of a posture is secondary to the inner work, and the postures of yoga are only 1 of the 8 limbs of yoga.

  4. Great advice both for teachers and students. I'll also add – don't forget to breathe!

  5. KBT says:

    Really great points!

  6. Katie Callaghan says:

    No problem! I wish an instructor would have mentioned these things when I started out! (Especially the part about Savasana!)

  7. Katie Callaghan says:

    I agree with you completey. Even if a yogi is executing a perfect plank, if they're in pain, or they've lost their breath, they lose awareness. The mind-body connection is lost. Thanks for the comment!

  8. Katie Callaghan says:

    Thank you, Lisa! I should have made it a list of 9 things! You are absolutely right. One of my most influential teachers was a woman who couldn't touch her toes. It was a lightbulb moment when she explained that some bodies just aren't meant to bend that way, and that's ok. Flexibility is such a small part of yoga. I think it's such a tragedy that people believe that they can't do yoga because they're inflexible. What an insightful contribution, Lisa:)

  9. Yvette says:

    Good info, thank you. I like to add- does anyone need to pee before we get started? How many of you are nervous? When I touch you- get soft, not rigid- I'm simply helping you feel the pose. I want to hear you laugh.

  10. Katie Callaghan says:

    Thanks! It took me awhile, when I started yoga, to fully realize and embrace the power of breath. Definitely something not to be underestimated!

  11. Katie Callaghan says:

    Thank you for the feedback:) Glad I can pay it forward in the yogi world!

  12. fragginfraggin says:

    The first decent article published on EJ in many Months. Loved it.

  13. Laura says:

    Great article Katie, relieved to hear that i am not the only one who thinks downward dog is difficult!!!

  14. […] physiotherapist introduced me and, looking at the group, I realized none of them knew they were about to do yoga. Some of them looked happy and excited, and the other half looked utterly choked, almost like they […]

  15. […] Eight Things Every Yoga Teacher Wants to Tell a Beginner Yogi. ~ Katie Callaghan (Percy) […]

  16. Rajni Tripathi says:

    great article! Good reminder for a teacher in their own practice at some points too 😉

  17. Susan says:

    Ha! That sounds like a reading I did the other day. A person wanted to have her cards read, but "no'd" all of the advice that came from the reading. Of course, she is free to do so – but I wonder why she bothered to seek help/a reading when she already knew what she wanted to know…

  18. C. Jane says:

    It's funny that the image used for an article entitled "Perfect is Boring" uses and image of a perfect super model. Is this always necessary you guys?