There are a billion reasons why someone would do yoga and maybe another billion reasons why someone wouldn’t do yoga. With yoga, there can be two sides of the story, the amazing benefits yoga has to offer and then the stereotypes and misconceptions of yoga. I am a gigantic firm believer that everyone, yes, every single one of you should do yoga. At least try to find some form of yoga that works for you, because years from now, you’ll thank yourself that you did. Just today I was sitting with my 85 year old grandma and she was telling me how she hasn’t been able to get to her movements because of the holiday fuss and she can physically tell her body feels different. I also started teaching yoga to our 65 year old mom who has dementia. You can literally see the awareness and response within her change after ten minutes of her moving her body and taking deep breaths. For me, I need it to clear my head of all the clutter, I love the mind/body challenges it can offer and my body needs it. I use yoga to help build muscle, take care of my joints and sweat out all of the wine I drink. I’m not sure if I have ever even mentioned this, which is actually pretty funny now that I think of it, but I am a 200 hour certified and insured yoga instructor. I have been teaching yogis of all different shapes, sizes, ages, physical and mental capacities for five years and am a huge ambassador for people to at least try it. We’re going to cover all bases on how to get you started and why….
Let’s start with the top misconceptions of yoga to get them out the way.
“I’m not flexible.” That’s great! Let’s do yoga and let’s get you more flexible. Wake up those muscles and I can guarantee you that with consistent practice, you’ll be able to bend over, maybe touch your toes one day and do so without farting. How awesome would that be?
Yoga is like being in a cult. This is totally true. There are some studios or forms of yoga that are extremely exclusive and once you’re in, things could get weird. Fast. But there are so many normal functioning studios that are super cool, friendly and not creepy. If you check out different studios, you’ll find your perfect fit. If you’re into chanting, find a studio that does that. Freaked out by chanting…find a yoga studio that doesn’t do that. There are TONS of options out there.
One bad teacher can ruin the yoga experience. I have heard so many stories of people trying yoga, not vibing with the teacher and giving up on yoga forever. Like Michelle says, finding the right teacher is like shopping around for the perfect therapist. Listen, I once went to the world’s worst therapist and let me tell you, homegirl over here needed some guidance. I ditched that chick and found myself the world’s best shrink ever. Gotta shop around people. It’s worth it.
Yoga is for girls only. Really? Then what’s up with those guys in my class? And why do they keep coming back?
Yoga makes people fart. For some people, sure, I guess it can encourage a toot or two. But for the most part, people aren’t dropping bombs left and right in class. Okay, this one time I did get farted on while assisting a handstand. If you know anything about assisting handstands, my face was about seven inches from his butt. Any closer and my hair would blown back. But that was one time and we all laughed. And in his defense, jumping up into a handstand exerts a lot of force and strength. The dude had to toot.
Now that all of those urban legends are out of the way, let’s go through the benefits of what practicing yoga regularly can do for you. If you see three or more things on this list that you need in your life…get your cute little booty in a yoga class stat. Just do it.
- Yoga improves flexibility and strengthens muscles.
- Increases blood flow.
- Helps with posture and protects your spine.
- Makes you happy.
- Helps encourage healthier eating and weight loss.
- Helps you learn to have control.
- Encourages self care and a healthier lifestyle. (Yoga got me to quit smoking years ago.)
- Helps you concentrate and focus better and longer.
- Helps reduce stress and anxiety and increase patience.
- Encourages compassion for others and the want to serve others.
- Helps prevent the breakdown of cartilage and joints.
- Drops your blood pressure.
- Improves your balance.
- Boosts your self esteem and makes you feel more in love with the skin your in, especially naked!
- Can be a source of pain management.
- You’ll probably make some cool a$$ friends, so that’s a plus.
- If you meditate in class, the benefits here are endless. Check this out!
Awesome! So now that I’ve sold you on why you should take a yoga class, let me help prep you so you don’t feel freaked out when you walk into the room for the first time. Here’s what you do:
- Find a beginner class. If you’re looking for less movement and more stretching, find a deep stretch class (Yoga Six has one) or a restorative/Yin class. Get to a class that suites your level and needs. Don’t go to a class that is way past your knowledge or ability, huge turn off for first timers.
- Bring water. Always, always have water.
- BYOM or rent one. Every studio has mats for rent, usually for a buck or two. If you have your own, right on! P.S. if the heat is on…rent or bring a hand towel too.
- Talk to the teacher. A good teacher will come up to you and ask if you have any injuries or are pregnant. It is a must that you inform them of any situations so they can teach you properly and show you modifications. If they don’t ask, go tell them before class starts. Also fill them in that you’re a beginner or first timer. This way they can show you how to use yoga props and modify poses properly. If they don’t and they let you fend for yourself…keep looking for your teacher. He or she is out there. Or better yet, come to my class. I’ll show you!
- Wear comfortable clothing. Yoga pants, a tank or t-shirt for the ladies. Yoga shorts or pants, t-shirt for the gents. Whatever comfortable is to you…something breathable and movable.
- Be okay with not knowing what is going on. If you were a bit confused, but liked what was going on and felt good after class – keep going! You will be astonished by what long term yoga practice can do for your mind and body.
- Don’t over do it. It’s easy to feel pressured to do something you may not be able to physically do because everyone else is. Why force your body when it only makes room for injury? No thank you!
- Rest when you need to. There is a pose called “child’s pose”. It’s like kneeling, with your knees mat width and your chest between your thighs. Your arms can be stretched in front of you. Rest your forehead on your mat and take a few deep breaths, join back when you are ready. If you get over heated, go get some air.
- Adjustments are optional. Sometimes a teacher will physically touch you to help correct a pose if the verbal cues aren’t doing the job. If you’re not into that, no worries, let them know before class starts. Also, some teachers push students a little too hard to make the pose “deeper”…that is not my style and even I let them know when enough is enough. Don’t be afraid to kindly let them know you’re all good where you are.
- Try to get into savasana. At the end of class, you’ll be guided into savasana or what I like to consider “adult nap time”. You may think it’s a little weird lying in a dimly lit room with a bunch of strangers, but once you realize that that thought is for the birds and get into this last part of class, you will look forward to it every time. Use this time to mentally decompress, to stop thinking and start meditating. Tune in. Here’s how to.
- Namaste. At the end of most classes, the teacher will often conclude by bringing his or her hands to prayer position at heart center, bow to you and say “namaste”. Namaste in Sanskrit literally translates to “bowing to you”. It is a verbal sign of respect to show that the teacher student are one in the same, that they learn from each other, and have gratitude for one another. If you’re cool with it, do it too! These days I’m bowing to everyone…staff at the store, waiters, cab drivers, you name it, I’m bowing. Which brings me to mention that you may hear words you don’t understand. It’s ok. Go with the actions you see being demonstrated.
- Have fun! Laugh it off if you fall over or fart. Allow yourself to chill out and spoil yourself for the entire hour. Learn a little about yourself physically and mentally. And you know what else, don’t take it too seriously. Find the fun in yoga…because yoga is frigging fun.
Now here’s the real fun part…getting to know yoga apparel and accessories! Listen, fair warning, once you start, it’s hard to stop. I love lavender and purple yoga clothes and accessories. Find what speaks to you and get after it. Happy shopping, yogis!
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