When I started my yoga teacher training, we were taught that our personal yoga practice was about letting go of judgment and competition. This was probably the MOST IMPORTANT thing I could learn. When I started, yoga was unfamiliar and I felt very self-conscious and intimidated. I quickly learned that I needed to let these feeling go and accept that it was MY journey. I had only one place to start – as a beginner.
Letting go of competition means you stop comparing yourself to others during your practice. Everybody will look slightly different in the same pose because every body is different. Your goal is to make every yoga pose fit your body and not try to fit your body into a yoga pose. Never force, push or shove yourself into a pose. It’s important to know your flexibility and fitness level. Challenge yourself to your own limits and don’t compare yourself to anyone else. You are on your own personal journey of improvement.
Letting go of judgement means to not have an exception of what you “should” be able to do in each class. Today you may be super bendy and find yourself going deeper into poses than usual and tomorrow you may find you are not. Today you may have great balance and find each pose easy to hold, tomorrow you may not. That is ok.
It is called a “yoga practice” because that is exactly what you do – practice. Think long-term. Are you getting stronger, more flexible and more balanced over 6 months or a year? Change doesn’t happen overnight. Be patient.
6 Steps To Starting Your Yoga Practice
- Find a GREAT STUDIO that makes you feel welcome and comfortable. Some places will allow you a free trial class. If you can, try it out before you commit. This is a great way to meet the instructor and the students. You want to be in a class that leaves you feeling physically challenged, refreshed, centred and happy.
- Find the RIGHT TYPE OF CLASS. There are many styles of yoga. A Hatha class can be a good place to begin because it provides an introduction to the basic yoga poses in a low key setting. Vinyasa can also be a good starting point. It tends to be a more vigorous style based on the performance of a series of poses called sun salutations, where movement is matched to your breath. Hot yoga or Power yoga are probably not the best place to begin unless you are already very physically fit.
- Invest in a GOOD YOGA MAT. Some studios supply mats and others do not. There is something empowering about having your own mat. It becomes your sanctuary for a peaceful retreat from the world. It’s a familiar and comforting place where you can escape your stress and find inner peace. It is also a great way to continue your yoga practice at home. The most important aspects of a good mat include adequate cushioning (while still being firm) and a non-slip surface. Yoga stores will give you the best options.
- Start your class with the PROPER MINDSET. This is your yoga practice. You will become stronger today. You will become more flexible today. You will increase your longevity and improve your health. Do not look around the room at everyone else. Just focus on yourself and be aware of what you feel in each pose. Be inside your own personal oasis on your mat.
- Stay in the PRESENT MOMENT. Focus on your breath. Be very mindful of what you are doing. When you feel your mind wandering to your to-do list or what’s for dinner, stop yourself and re-focus.
- Keep a JOURNAL. Write down how you feel after each class. Record how you feel emotionally and physically. Track improvements in your flexibility, balance and strength. Celebrate your accomplishments and regularly look back to see how far you’ve come.
I’ve read a quote that says “Yoga adds years to your life and life to your years”. Your body will thank you for beginning a yoga practice. You have nothing to lose and A LOT to gain.