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March 14, 2017

How to be a Yoga Student.

When I started attending yoga classes at 24 Hour Fitness, I was immediately hooked.

Even though I had no idea what was going on, or what the practice could do for me, I felt that it was for me.

 I wanted to learn more, so I signed up for classes at a local yoga studio. I fell down the yogic rabbit hole and entered a cycle of loving what I’m doing, yet wanting to be more involved in my yoga practice. But I was unsure of how to proceed down that path. How does one progress from being someone who does yoga to someone who is a student of yoga?

The best way to start becoming a student of yoga is by paying attention.

After my first classes, my body and mind were telling me how incredible the practice was; I listened. Bodies, minds, and external teachers can be the best guides to where the practice should lead. Listening is especially important, yet most challenging, when I get stuck in know-it-all mode. I can do all the yoga asana (poses) in the world, but what good does it do if I’m not open to what my body and mind is saying regarding whether the practice is helping or hurting? Paying attention is a surefire way to get the most out of each step of this journey.

It became apparent that a degree of regularity in yoga-related activities, whether daily, weekly, or multiple times per week, helped me immensely in becoming a yoga student by making the practices part of my routine. While going on a yoga binge is good fun, in order to digest the material, avoid burnout, and make the practice a part of my life, I had to find a happy medium pace with the components of practice that I can keep most of the time.

Finding aspects of yoga I can “buy into” has guided me toward finding my niches as a yoga student. I can only make it so far on willpower alone. Acknowledging the personal practice and community elements that I enjoy has become a powerful tool in maintaining my studies during times when I don’t want to practice, or am coming up against hard stuff. Yoga won’t always be fun, but if it’s never fun, I’m not likely to keep doing it.

The opportunities for absolute beginners, while plentiful, welcoming, and needed, rarely provide a path for what’s next. Trying different classes, teachers, styles, locations, and workshops are all great options that I’ve discovered in order to become a student of yoga and further develop the various facets of practice.

Trying as many classes, styles, and teachers of yoga practice that are available is an important part of studying yoga. Experiencing the variety of yoga, even while somewhat committed to a specific tradition, provides a deeper understanding of the practice and what really sets each tradition apart. Teachers within the same style may have an entirely different interpretation, so an entire tradition shouldn’t be written off based on one experience.

Participating in yoga workshops affords many opportunities to grow as a yoga student. Workshops come in as many, if not more, varieties as classes. Plenty of two or three hour workshop sessions are being offered all over the world covering a wide variety of topics for a wide level of students. Workshops typically have a greater emphasis on learning than doing when compared to a typical class.

Yoga workshops also present an excellent opportunity to travel and shake up routines. It’s easier to justify traveling an hour or more when the teaching offered is longer than a typical class. Workshops can help yoga students by providing exposure to a greater breadth of practice and offering an opportunity to delve deeper into the minutia of practice.

The best resources to learn about classes and workshops are previously visited venues, teachers, and students. I’ve been successful talking to yoga teachers and students about which other teachers’ classes and workshops they’ve attended. I figure, if we already have one class we enjoy in common, there’s a higher probability that their recommendations will be above average, or at least worth trying. Most yoga studios manage email lists in order to advertise new offerings. I try to sign up for those at every studio I visit.

A personal yoga practice is essential to being a student of yoga. Establishing a personal practice allows for exploration of all the elements picked up in classes and assists in finding an integrated practice. Don’t fret if personal practice looks and feels nothing like a class—it’s not supposed to. The best way to start a personal practice is to find a space and try a couple of techniques that pique your interest, without worrying whether the alignment or sequence is “correct.”

While finding material components of practice that fit into real-life and provide room for growth is essential, intention is the true difference between doing yoga and being a student of yoga. Approaching the yoga practice with the intention to learn something new on a regular basis is what being a yoga student is all about.

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Author: Corey LeBlanc

Image: Courtesy of Author, Christiecreative/Instagram

Editor: Travis May

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Corey LeBlanc