The start of a yoga journey is a beautiful and special time. You begin to explore and understand your many layers, so you can discover your unique rhythm and dance to your own beat. Ideally this time is best experienced with open arms, an open mind and an open heart, but as adults sometimes we lose sight of the beauty of being a beginner. If I could sit down and have a chat to every new yogi, here’s what I’d tell them.
1. You don’t get to be a beginner forever.
This is your chance to embrace being a total novice! The more you practice, the more experience you gain, so your time at the beginner's stage is finite. I know that if I could do my yoga journey all over again, I would have been a lot more present and relaxed with myself at the beginning.
2. Avoid comparing yourself to others in the room.
We are all drawn to yoga for our own reasons. When you practice, you’re in your body, on your mat and in your own experience. Glancing up at other people to check if you’re in the right pose is different from comparing yourself to others and judging your expression of a pose. Instead, listen to the teacher, check your alignment, find your breath and then be in your own experience.
3. Your breath is hands down the most important aspect of yoga.
If you’ve pushed yourself to get into a pose and your breath is restricted, you’ve lost the yoga. You’re better to back off, reconnect with a steady flow of breath, and advance with that level of awareness and connection.
4. Being able to do pretzel postures does not symbolize an advanced yogi.
If it was all about how bendy we are, then that would qualify children as advanced yogis! When it comes to yoga, I can promise you the level of contortion is not symbolic of how advanced you are. Yes, it can take years of disciplined practice to master a curly pose, but if the mind is distracted, the breath is ragged or if your ego takes over to get you there, then the yoga is lost. Yoga is about creating an internal union that can happen in any posture, from sitting cross-legged, to Scorpion pose.
5. We can store a lot of emotional energy in the physical body.
Emotional tension is easily stored in the physical body, particularly around the hips and shoulders. When you start to release and open up those areas, it can sometimes feel really unsettling. If you feel shitty, angry, restless or like bursting into tears after a class, it’s okay. Don’t suppress those feelings, let them be there, then let them go so you can create space for light and love.
6. Backbends are serious heart openers.
Back bending poses in yoga can feel strange at first because we spend the majority of our lives rounding forward when we walk, drive, sit at desks, eat and watch TV. Hunching forward also energetically protects the heart space so when we bend back, it can make us feel exposed and vulnerable. I worked through a pretty big resistance to backbends by exploring the poses as a way to open the heart. The result was that a whole lotta love burst into my life that came from within me and it literally changed my world.
7. Embrace being YOU.
Fact. You are the only person on the planet who gets to be you, so rock it! Yoga is a journey that helps you learn more about your body, your heart and your mind. Explore who you are, and have the courage to show your authentic unique awesome self to the world.
8. Yoga is 1% theory and 99% practice.
I love this glorious quote by the great Pattabhi Jois “Yoga is 1% theory and 99% practice” . That means, roll out the mat and practice and the next day, roll it out again. It doesn’t have to be a super long session but cultivating a regular practice will have an incredibly positive effect on your life.
9. Always, always, always make time for Savasana.
It’s quite common for people to skip Savasana because they think it’s just a bit of laying down at the end of class, but it’s actually a super-important pose. It’s where your physical body and nervous system get to relax, rejuvenate and remember all the awesomeness of the last 60 minutes or so that you spent moving through various asanas. If you skip Savasana, you’re cutting out such a vital part of the yoga process. So at the end of your practice, take a load off even if it’s just for a minute or two.
Photo Credit: Robert Randall Productions