Get the best from Beginners Yoga
Can’t make it to Sophia’s beginners yoga course this week? Here are some tips on what to expect from a yoga class. It starts with a short meditation and a gentle warm up, followed by more vigorous poses and ends with a lying down relaxation. Through out the class you’ll be encouraged to focus on your breath and to ‘find easiness’ as you move from one pose into another.
A FLEXIBLE BODY AND A RELAXED MIND
Many beginners are fascinated by the flexible bodies of people who have been practicing yoga for years. Then they look at their own bodies and think, ‘I can’t do yoga…I cannot even touch my toes!’ Well, the truth is…it doesn’t matter how inflexible you are, yoga will help you to discover the full potential hiding in your tight muscles and in your restricted joints. Very few people arrive to a beginners class who’re able to bend their bodies into those amazing shapes, but a good teacher will tell you that this is not the aim of yoga, and they’ll be able to facilitate you to unlock and ease your body in a safe and enjoyable way. An experienced teacher will be able to help you to access your body starting from where you are, and guide you to gradually achieve an open, strong and responsive body.
And what about relaxation? As you start doing yoga you will be taught how to calm your mind and to relax. Does this sound like an unreachable goal? If you don’t know how to slow down and experience a calm and clear mind, yoga can be really helpful. As a beginner, you will be introduced to simple but effective exercises and techniques that can help you to achieve this. If you’re afraid you will be flooded with exotic and unfamiliar names and practices, don’t worry. A good teacher is able to teach in a friendly and down to earth manner. A beginners class is tailored to be accessible and understandable to everybody!
The only ‘tricks’ you need to know to get the best from a beginners yoga class are…breathing, having an open and playful attitude, learning to listen to your body and forgetting about being competitive.
One of the most important tools in yoga practice is your own breath. Of course we all know how to breathe and have been doing it for a long time. But how often do you pay attention to how you breathe? And have you ever felt your body breathing? Knowing how to breathe properly has a very powerful effect on our health. It allows us to bring fresh oxygen into our lungs, cells and organs and provides energy to our body.
In a yoga class you will be reminded and encouraged to ‘breathe into the pose’ or ‘to breathe into a certain part of the body’. But what does this actually mean? Breathing has a calming effect on both the body and the mind. Particularly when we exhale, we let go and release tension because our muscles relax and the body tends to soften. So when a teacher tells you to ‘breathe into your hips’, it simply means to direct that sense of easiness towards that part so you can get the best out of the pose and start to make real changes happen in your body.
Breathing also has a strong connection with our mind. It is the gate of access to relaxation, and to a clear and still mind. Because the breath has an effect on our nervous system, we can use it as a tool to calm the body, to relax our muscles and let go of tension. And the mind will follow your body…if you are relaxed and at ease, your mind has the opportunity to slow down and free up from worries and anxieties.
HAVING AN OPEN AND PLAYFUL ATTITUDE
Doing something for the first time can be very intimidating. If you’re stepping on the mat for the first time you might not know what to expect and you don’t know if you’ll be good at it! You might think things like ‘what if I can’t do what the teacher says?’ and ‘what if I make a fool of myself in front of other people?’ All these concerns are fair and very understandable, but here are the things to remember…
- You are in a beginners class, so everybody else around you feels the same way!
- A good teacher will be able to adapt every pose to your own level and make it accessible to you;
- Learning something new can be very exciting if you allow yourself the time and space to explore what’s going on;
- Yoga is an activity which encourages you to stay focused and cultivate a quiet attitude. But let’s not take ourselves too seriously! In a yoga class there is always space for having fun and smiling!
LEARNING TO LISTEN TO YOUR OWN BODY
Probably one of the reasons that got you interested in yoga is its promise of making your body flexible, strong and healthier. Here are some tips on how to achieve this in a safe and gradual way…
Be patient and gentle with yourself! There is no need to push yourself into something that feels dangerous or wrong for you. Injuring yourself just to show (to yourself or to the class) that you can do something is really not worth it. Be mindful of your limitations and trust the inner wisdom of your body!
Our bodies are all different, so although the teacher might be giving some general instructions on how to do a pose, it might not ‘feel right’ for you. If you experience pain or too much discomfort while in a pose, it may be that your body is not yet ready for it. Be mindful of the sensations if you feel it and don’t be afraid to ask the teacher to help you. There is nothing that makes a teacher happier than being able to help a student to access their bodies starting from where they are.
Don’t forget to tell your teacher if you have an injury or suffer from a medical condition. They’ll be able to help you and prevent you from hurting yourself!
FORGETTING ABOUT BEING COMPETITIVE
As a beginner you might be temped to look around the room and see how you compare to others. It is easy to focus on our faults and to be judgmental about what we are doing. You might find there is somebody that is more flexible or stronger than you, and then the ‘inner critic’ will start giving out and telling you how bad you are at yoga. Here’s the good news…yoga is not a competitive activity and it doesn’t matter if you are less agile or have less strength than the people around you. What matters is your individual practice and progress. Yoga is a practice that teaches us to look inwards and to focus on our own experience, enjoying even the subtlest of progress.
Don’t forget, we all have our strengths and weaknesses so you might very well find that you’re are better at some things and worse at others. We are all here to enjoy yoga, get the best out of the practice and out of ourselves. There is no competitiveness in yoga, neither with others nor with you!