Beginning Yoga? Start Where You Are...

My wife Tara has people in their 60s in her classes, right next to people in their 20s; people who have just started yoga, right alongside very seasoned practitioners. We don't call one class "Advanced" or others "Level 1" -- because once you learn a few basic positions and concepts (we do have a "Basics" class for that), the words "advanced" and "beginner" have far more to do with what's going on inside of us than what moves we're doing. Learning the moves, whether they look complicated or simple, is all "beginner" yoga!

Everyone starts where they are and moves according to their own body. Gaining the confidence that you can keep up and it's not too hard is mostly a matter of getting used to working with your own body. Everything is more difficult when it's brand new (like riding a bike). Familiarity and comfort comes quickly with a little perseverance. Tao Porchon-Lynch, yoga Grand-Master and a founder of the Yoga Teachers Association, is a great new friend of Tara's. She's 92, a member of the Ramakrishna Vivekenanda Center in India since 1939, marched for peace with Ghandi, and still teaches yoga every day. She came to lead an afternoon of yoga at Strala, and it was hard! She is great proof that yoga is much more than just sitting and talking and twisting around a little, and that a good yoga practice creates an amazing, vibrant life.

Fear of discomfort and unfamiliarity is a really common roadblock to getting started with yoga. We see this come up with a wide variety of people. Some are young and think yoga is for older people. Some are older, although many older people here are quite fearless! Some people are overweight, feel they've tried everything already and there's nothing left to be done. There's a common psychology here that centers on blame and self-criticism. If we think there's nothing to be done about how we are -- even if it's very uncomfortable for us to be that way -- we hope it will be comforting to believe it's not in our control, and therefore not our fault. Of course, the opposite is true. It's not comforting to lose faith in our own abilities. We feel this in our instincts, even while our minds are still "processing."  And it is in our control, and we are responsible! This really is a great thing, because it puts us in the driver's seat. When something is unfamiliar (scary), we can throw up all kinds of roadblocks. "Is it safe?" Or "I can't keep up!" Of course we have to be safe, and of course we need to go at our own pace, but we can do both without holding objections as protection mechanisms that keep us stuck.

One good place for caution is around particular injuries, like chronic back or knee issues (so be careful here!). We have many people come to Strala with long histories of failed physical therapy, who have great success learning to treat themselves through yoga. The rule is the same for everyone: start slow, move at your own pace, back off a little when you get scared but don't give up. This is especially important when there is an injury to protect. Chronic injuries gain some of their lasting hold on us because we get stuck and afraid to work through it, and don't believe in ourselves! Yoga is a great way to regain trust in our own instincts and abilities, and live a vibrantly healthy life.

Here's a video that provides an easy, slow start with a few basic moves, and also some Restorative poses that give an easy start.

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Michael Taylor

Co-Founder Of Strala Yoga & Tai Chi Expert
Mike Taylor is the co-founder of Strala along with his wife, Tara Stiles. He studied mind-body medicine at Harvard and complementary medicine at Oxford. Mike has practiced Eastern movement and healing, including tai chi and qigong, for more than 30 years. In his younger years, Mike challenged centuries of reasonable and well-tested martial traditions in hundreds of competitions by applying unruly imagination to a world where rules were unbreakable. His record established the strength of finding your own way in your own body rather than copying the techniques of other people’s traditions. As he got older, Mike continued on to medical applications of the mind-body connection in university. After running into walls with standard medical practice in the United States and England, he left his health care roots for a little while. As the first internet boom was getting started, he joined the startup team of one company, then founded a couple more. Now through Strala, Mike has found his way back to health care done right: helping people let go of stress in their bodies and minds, enable their lives, and become their own best caregivers.Mike has climbed some of the world’s largest mountains in Alaska, the Alps, and the Himalayas. He’s now a cyclist and runner and spends as much free time as possible exploring the backcountry on foot, skis, and snowboard. He lives in New York with his wife, Tara, and baby, Daisy.
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Michael Taylor

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