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It's absolutely unavoidable. A beautiful, serene face stares right past you from the bright cover of a yoga magazine while you wait in line at the supermarket. You don't dare pick it up. It's so foreign, weird, yet eerily inviting. When you see celebrities laugh with reckless abandon while twisting themselves into strange and unusual shapes on late-night television, there is a touch of intrigue and curiosity. Its nigh impossible to ignore the countless women wearing neon orange yoga pants without thinking, “What in the heck IS a Lu Lu Lemon?”
Yoga is extremely popular right now. At this very moment, there is a good chance that at least one million people are balancing on their head as you read this. Sounds odd? It's not. It may seem out of the ordinary to the uninitiated, but remember this: Yoga happens every day.
What the heck is yoga, anyway? On the surface, it’s a disciplined system of movement designed to increase flexibility, build strength, control breath, and detoxify the body. It doesn't take much time to tap into the depth of a much greater spiritual practice that helps to focus awareness, calm the mind, better understand universal oneness, and live peacefully. Yoga may sound crunchy, but it's impossible to deny how important (and awesome) all of the benefits are. Essentially, yoga helps one to understand the “inner” in order to better relate to the “outer.”
Inner and outer what? Trade secret. In order to know, one must first experience. Therein lies the fun. Here are a few tips to help men approach a new yoga practice.
1. Yoga first, ask questions later.
There are two types of people in the world: those who do yoga, and those who have yet to start. Whether you’ve already tried it or are open to the possibility of taking your first class, please consider this a roadmap toward unlocking the fun of a new yoga practice.
2. Don’t stop breathing.
This mantra is best sung to the tune of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” and is an extremely important one to remember. Breath is the only constant we have between birth and death. Don’t take it for granted. Your new yoga practice as a reason to celebrate it. The breath is the fuel, your body the engine. Without one, the other ain't going anywhere.
3. Pace yourself.
This applies to everything about your new practice. There is no need to rush. All it takes is one time pushing yourself faster or harder than your body is ready for to set you back to square one, if not worse. Those first few months can be intense. Accurate self-assessment is key. When applied to each individual class, there's often no coming back if you start off too fast and hit a wall. Make a point to master Child’s Pose and hang out there as often as necessary.
4. Avoid competition.
This applies to all yogis, no matter how long they've been at it. It's very, very easy to judge yourself when starting out in yoga. Everybody else is sweating less, doing more, and breathing like a stone-cold champion while you do everything but. This is 100% ok. Yoga is not a race; there is no finish line. Give yourself time, and eventually you’ll get where you’re supposed to be.
5. Stop fidgeting!
There are many times you're going to be asked to hold certain postures for what may seem to be eons. You body will be screaming, “WHY?!” at your mind, which is screaming "WHY?!" at the instructor. There may be a piece of lint on your mat or a string hanging off of your pant leg. Resist all of the urges to let the mind wander. It won’t be easy, but it does get easier with time. Take a deep breath and focus, grasshopper.
6. Keep trying.
People often try one class and decide, “Nope! Yoga is clearly not for me.” Actually, that class clearly wasn’t for you. What did you like? What didn’t work for you? You already made the decision to give yoga a try, so take classes from as many teachers as you can until you find the one the speaks best to you. Some people like chanting. Some like it hot. Yoga’s got a little something for every body. With a proper time and continued dedication, you’ll be well on your way to building a rewarding practice. At least you won't feel uncomfortable picking up that yoga magazine next time you're waiting in line.