Part 2: New to Yoga, Practices on the Mat
In Part 1: New to Yoga, I discussed some of the most common questions I’ve been asked about starting a yoga practice. In this post I’ll discuss what you may experience as you begin your practice.
It’s the first day of class and you’re wondering, “How is this going to go?” One of the most important lessons you’ll learn is wherever you are is where you‘re supposed to be. I can’t stress that enough. I guarantee you all sorts of feelings, thoughts, and possible emotions will arise during class. My best advice is to notice and acknowledge what comes up. Most often what arises needs addressing in some fashion. I have found myself in yoga classes most often when I need to work out some issue in my life; it’s like movement therapy for me. It may be something different for you and it will evolve over time.
Keep these in mind:
- Patience is key! Know that change will happen over time. Many students have come to me because their goal is to increase flexibility. You wouldn’t expect to experience major gains in a 60 minute class, right? So, right from the start get content with the notion that time and commitment play an important role in producing change.
- Every day is different. Some poses feel wonderful on some days and on others not so much. I remind students all of the time to practice for today. How does your body feel today? Are you more or less energetic? Did you suffer an injury since your last practice? As the student you always have the permission to do what feels best for you. Resist forcing yourself to do something because perhaps you did it last week. Not only is this dangerous but I takes you out of your feeling self, the mind-body connection you are attempting to develop on a deeper level. Feel, notice, acknowledge what your body is communicating to you and respond accordingly. It’s your choice to ramp your practice up or down.
- Avoid comparisons. This is so very important. Who knows who else will show up in the group yoga class you’re taking. The student across the room could have been practicing for years (even if you’re in a beginning level yoga class). Maybe they have a movement practice background and encompass the ability to propriocept (to feel and know where their body is in space) their body in a different way than you are currently. Be you! Feel you! Get to know you!
- Rest when you need it. Only you know how you feel at any given moment. An experienced teacher can utilize visual cues to assess students’ energy levels, however, you know best. No matter what’s going on in the class if you need to come to your knees and have a seat, by all means do it. The last feeling I want you to experience in class is exhaustion and the sense that you’ve been defeated. Even in an advanced class I wouldn’t want my students to encounter this. It’s discouraging and wouldn’t make you want to return to your mat. In the end, you should feel good and slightly challenged.
- Breathing comes. If you’re taking a vinyasa style class where breath is linked to movement you will hear me say “Inhale, Exhale” a lot. When you begin your practice you are less sophisticated at linking breath to movement, but in time it will come. Typically when you arrive at your practice you’re listening a lot to what I (as the teacher) am asking you to do, how I want you to move, and where to place your body parts. So this usually is the focus as you learn posture names and transitions between postures. Know that as it comes you will begin to soften in your space and experience more fluidity in movements.
- Please stay for Savasana (Corpse pose). The final pose taken in class. You may think, “I don’t have time to lay around. Why am I laying here anyway?” Savasana has plenty of benefits and is an important closure to your practice. Physically, Savasana may be easy as it is a reclined pose with eyes closed. However, mentally, Savasana could prove to be the most difficult pose in the entire practice as you are asked to calm your mind of thoughts and just be still. Savasana can prove to be deep and meditative while it relaxes your central nervous system.
As you can see there is more involved than getting on a mat and simply stretching! I would love to get you started on your journey or help you advance along the way. Click here for my public class schedule and inquire about small group or private lessons.
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