Tips for Starting Yoga
“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities. In the expert’s mind there are few.”
Shunryu Suzuki, Zen teacher
1. Body Awareness – Embracing the challenge!
In yoga we are paying attention to sensations we feel in the body. It makes you more aware of what’s going on in your body, often pleasant feelings of stretching, firming and connecting, in ways you might not have done for a while. Moving around on your mat can feel really freeing and energising, like coming home to your body after living in your busy thinking head.
But being new in a yoga class situation can also be uncomfortable, as you feel areas of tension and ways you don’t move so easily. It can feel exposing, when you feel like you don’t know what you are doing, or feel not ‘good’ at it. Maybe even confronting the reality of your body as it is and complex feelings about it. Our culture doesn’t encourage us to love our bodies as we are really.
Part of yoga is holding an awareness of the pleasant sensations and also discomfort, both mental and physical. So in class we take our own sweet time, starting with super simple movements and progressing to more complex ones as you build strength, flexibility and coordination, each person moving in their own way. I will offer you lots of support and encouragement. Yoga can be a great way to build confidence and a sense of ease in yourself.
Along with all the physical benefits, we are cultivating the qualities of self-acceptance, patience, and a sense of humour! So, find your comfy leggings, and relax, aiming to enjoy the new experience without self-judgement.
2. Pace yourself – you’ll make more progress in the long run.
It might seem obvious, but steadier progress tends to happen when you commit to a regular class, and take it gradually, without pushing your body too hard.
There is sound evidence that your nervous system will apply the brakes via mental resistance, pain or lack of energy if it feels like capacity for learning and ‘doing’ safely has been reached.
Yoga is not about pushing through pain and discomfort for physical gains. It is about learning to respond more sensitively to the cues and needs of your body and mind. Of course this includes effort and challenging yourself, but balanced with self-compassionate awareness.
Only you know how your body is feeling. In my yoga classes you are encouraged to pause and rest at any time, to modify movements, to come out of poses when you feel ready to, as feels right for you. Make it YOUR practice. Exploring your body + mind is a long term, empowering process.
3. Have one takeaway from class.
After each class, take a few moments to reflect, “ok, so what do I want to remember?” It might be a particular movement that worked well for you. If you like to be really methodical, you could have a yoga notebook and write these down each week, with drawings, or keep it simple and just reflect for a minute.
4. The after class check-in.
After your class and going into your day, it can be interesting to pay close attention to how you feel. What do you notice? What effect does yoga have on you? Do you sleep better that night? Do you find yourself rolling your shoulders a few times, feeling more space there? Do you make any different food choices? How are your interactions with people? This can be a fruitful habit of enquiry to start from the beginning of your yoga life. You may notice some interesting things over time.
5. Curiosity is a superpower for progress
Be curious, get interested. Make the most of your class time and ask your teacher questions. Personally, I love it when students ask questions after class and show engagement. As a yoga and movement geek, if I can’t answer, I will be delighted to research further and come back to you, and refer you to other sources. I also share loads of information on my blog.
Bonus Tip. You have the rest of your life to do yoga should you so choose. Take your time, take care of yourself and enjoy the journey!