There are many aspects to yoga but largely it’s about learning how to stay in an uncomfortable place. The concept goes wherever you need it; to your relationship, work, parenting, friendships. This idea of staying present can support every aspect of your life.
Here is what I mean. Imagine yourself standing in a balance pose, like the tree for example, your teetering on one foot, ankles are aching and wobbling. You might say to yourself….’if I shift my weight a little to the left, relax my shoulders away from my ears and lift my chest, I might handle this a bit better. I might breathe better and make this situation a whole lot easier’.
And later when you are in a meeting that is hard to tolerate, you find yourself using the same principles; shifting your posture, becoming aware of your natural breath and the situation becomes a little more bearable.
This is how yoga can change everything but it doesn’t happen overnight. We must return to our mat again and again because it takes time for these principles to be part of who we are.
On the mat is where we practise.
And once we get it, even a little bit of it, life feels a little bit sweeter, more hopeful. But you will lose it if you stop practising. That’s why yoga is called a practise. You stay on the path and keep discovering new scenery.
1. Find a good teacher
It is much easier to learn yoga with all its detailed and subtle physical and mental aspects from a qualified teacher, rather than from a book or video. Especially at the beginning, a teacher’s presence and ability to actually see you and respond to what you are doing is essential for building your confidence.
2. Respect your body’s inner wisdom and limitations
Do not push yourself to do anything that feels dangerous or wrong. Tell your teacher if you are pregnant or have an injury such as to the knees or spine, or any serious medical condition before the class.
Breathing is central to yoga. Breathe into your whole body in the poses and relax. There is a lot to learn about healthy breathing in yoga.
4. Don’t compare yourself with others
Look inwardly to your own progress. There will always be more flexible, strong and beautiful people around in your yoga class – as in life! Yoga maybe fashionable but it is not a spectator sport or a competition.
5. Have a sense of humour!
Yoga is a quiet focused activity, but we need not to take ourselves too seriously. We may feel ungainly and stiff as we try to navigate ourselves into new postures. An inner smile and gentleness can save us from pushing ourselves to the point of strain and injury.
6. Eating and drinking
It is advisable not to eat for two hours before yoga practice and to drink only small amounts of water beforehand.
7. Make practice frequent
Little and often is more effective than occasional long sessions of yoga. Even 15 minutes a day of a few well-chosen poses can have a very positive effect on your physical, emotional and mental well-being. A regular discipline will reap more benefits, as that way the body begins to feel comfortable and familiar with the process and gradually becomes more flexible.
8. Wear loose comfortable clothing
You will stretch your body in all directions, don’t wear anything that will dig in or restrict your movement.
9. And turn your mobile OFF!