Welcome to Yoga Basics! A new, weekly series I’ll be putting together for the next few Tuesdays. I am beyond excited about for what’s in store and hope you will be too!
Since becoming a yoga teacher, one of the most exciting things for me has been teaching classes to my friends that have never (ever) taken a yoga class. Uh props to them for taking the plunge, it can be really freaking overwhelming.
Starting from scratch can be hard. And not being good at something is even harder. I find that for many people, feeling self conscious or not knowing the poses is one of the big barriers to entry for yoga. They’d love to take a yoga class, but don’t know where to start.
The next few weeks of yoga basics will go over, you guessed it, the basics. Some things to look forward to:
- breaking down sun salutations (and what the hell that even is)
- all about savasana: why we do that weird nap at the end of class
- delving into the practice side of practicing yoga
- … and more 🙂 Do I sound like an infomercial yet?
If you have specific yoga requests, be sure to shoot me an email.
Today’s topic: what you need to know about yoga.
Ooooh boy, where do I even begin!?
Okay Kayla, WTF is yoga?
Contrary to popular belief, yoga is not the crazy ass poses you see on instagram.
According to Patanjali, the guy who organized and systemized yoga practices in his book, The Yoga Sutras, Yoga is the stilling of the changing state of mind. One of the ways you can achieve that is through asana, or a series of poses that challenge the body.
There are actually 8 Limbs of Yoga, or ways to achieve this stilling of the mind, but the one most of us are familiar with (in American, at least) is asana which is what happens in a yoga class.
But like, what is yoga?
Good question. The way I see it, personally, yoga is different things to different people.
The first time I remember really feeling like I had “mastered yoga” was about 5 years ago. I had to get a shot in my shoulder joint as part of an MRI. I hate needles and can barely handle getting blood taken, let alone getting shot in a joint.
Instead of having a full on meltdown, I focused on my breath and not letting my mind freak out about the pain and how queasy the thought of the shot made me feel.
I learned these tools, the ability to focus on my breath instead of the struggle, during yoga classes. It’s the same thing as when I’m struggling to get into a pose or my arms are freaking tired from the 20th chaturanga. I focus on my breath and mind over matter.
I won’t pretend I’m some zen goddess now that I’ve been practicing yoga for a number of years and am a yoga teacher. Uh, far from it.
Living in the insanity that is NYC, practicing yoga keeps me calm when this city is anything but calm. Yoga is different for everyone, though but I still like to think everyone can benefit from practicing some form of yoga.
What you need to know before your first yoga class
Arrive early. This is true no matter what group class you’re taking, but especially so for yoga. Some classes start with meditation or some other quiet activity. Be respectful of those around you and leave amble time to sign any waivers, grab props you need, and get settled.
And arrive with an open mind. Every yoga class is different. Some might have chanting. Some you might OM. Others you’ll rock out to hip-hop. It can be a weird experience if you’ve never chanted or if uttered the word “namaste.” Weird ain’t bad though, so come with an open mind.
Heads up, chances are, no matter what class you’re taking, there will be some sanskrit spoken since some poses don’t translate gracefully to English. It will sound like gibberish at first, but will become more familiar with time.
Tell the teacher you’re new to yoga. It’s always appropriate to approach a teacher before class to tell them it’s your first time and if there’s any injuries you’re working with. As an instructor, it’s a nice heads up.
You’ll also find out if there’s any props you need, some teachers and studios like to use blocks, blankets or straps, depending.
Bring your own mat, if you can. Or maybe that’s just me because I’m a total germaphobe. Some studios in NYC diligently wash their mats after EVERY use, other studios I can’t say the same about. I highly recommend investing in a good, quality yoga mat that you won’t have to worry about sliding on or the germ factor. My personal favorite are these Jade yoga mats.
Check your ego at the door. You won’t be able to do all the poses. I still can’t do all the poses to their fullest extension. Don’t let that get to you.
Child Pose is ALWAYS an option. Yoga is not about how proving how strong you are or proving that you don’t need to take a break. It’s the opposite, you should be humble enough to say woah there, I need to take a step back.
If at any point the class becomes too much for you, take a few deep breaths in child’s pose.
Don’t take yourself too seriously. Yoga is not meant to be super serious. If you fall out of a pose, shake it off, laugh it off, and move on.
Getting an adjustment doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong. Hands on adjustments are a big part of most yoga classes. A lot of the time getting an adjustment means the teacher is helping you get deeper in a posture, even though everything was totally fine to begin with.
If a teacher ever comes over to you and you absolutely do not want to be adjusted, whether it’s because you feel uncomfortable or you’re modifying for an injury, speak up!
Not your jam? Try another class. Not every yoga class is for everyone. Maybe you want something more spiritual. Or you want something with little spirituality as possible. I play pop music in my classes and maybe you hate that and want exclusively instrumental music or no music.
You didn’t like one particular yoga class or yoga teacher? Don’t write off the whole experience. Instead check out a different studio, instructor or class.
Come back next Tuesday for a Sun Salutation break down… or y’know before then for other fun blog posts 🙂