5 Tips for Beginner Yogis
I’ve been feeling really uplifted this week. Turns out keeping a gratitude diary and a big smile on your face really does help to stay positive (who'd have thought, ey?). I also signed up for two weeks of yoga at Yoga rise in Peckham, and had my first Ashtanga yoga class on Monday. It was totally amazing – very energetic, dynamic and invigorating; lots of twists, back bends and standing poses. In fact, afterwards, I could feel muscles I don’t usually use waking up and feeling stretched out. Since then I’ve tried a beautiful Yin Yang class, which involved dynamic flows counteracted with slow, deep stretches to create balance on the mat; a morning Mindful Flow class, which was a deliciously gentle way to wake up the body; and Rocket Yoga – a no joke energising class. This was more like a workout than a yoga practice and I LOVED it. I'm also hoping to try Rooftop Yoga next week.
The thing about yoga, for me, is that you can twist your body into all sorts of pretzel-like shapes, massage your internal organs, strengthen muscles and improve your flexibility... but the real transformation happens in your mind. You go from ‘OH MY GOD HOW IS DOWNWARD DOG A RESTING POSE?!’ To, 'okay, breathe through it, I’ve got this'. You strengthen your mind, willpower and patience. And for that hour or so on the mat, you don't have to think about all the stress going on in your life. For that hour, it’s just you, the mat and the flow. I think of it as my time to find a quiet moment of presence in amongst the crazy hustle of daily life.
Now, before I get into my 5 tips for beginner yogis, I just want to say that I am by no means an expert. I’m simply giving advice that I’ve learned through my own experience of yoga over the years. Feel free to take all of it, some of it, or none of it at all.
5 Tips for Beginner Yogis
I know it’s kind of boring to sit there for five minutes at the start of your practice and just... breathe. I know the phrase ‘watch the rhythm of your breath as it ebbs and flows’ sounds ludicrously cheesy and absurd. But the more you practise the art of just breathing, the more mindful you will become. Your breath feeds the body with the fuel it needs during challenging poses. So getting your breathing right from the beginning comes in really handy when you are ready to tackle those harder poses.
2) Don’t compare
Seriously, the girl at the front of the class who is legit mimicking a pretzel has probably been doing it a lot longer than you, and guess what? She’s still on her journey. She still hasn’t reached her final yoga destination. Yoga is a PRACTICE. Each of us comes to the mat with different natural levels of strength, flexibility and mobility. Measure your own progress against your previous practices. Not someone else’s.
3. Use a block
It’s no weakness to use a block or a strap to help you comfortably achieve a pose. It’s much better to use these tools than to overstretch your body, or end up creating tension and pain by putting too much pressure on certain areas. Just do what you can do; use a block to bring the floor up to you; wrap a strap around your leg to bring it closer to you. There is no shame or humiliation in doing this. Getting the right technique is more important than going deep into a pose, plus it can seriously damage your muscles.
4. Go to a class
A few months ago I wrote a post on my favourite Youtube yogis, for those of us who don’t have time to go to classes. These guys are all great teachers, however, when you’re at the start of your yoga journey, it can be so easy to get your posture wrong or your hand and hip positioning misaligned. This can seriously damage your body in the long-run, so getting the right technique is paramount. This is where being in a class seriously has its benefits. The teacher will be able to correct your posture, give you personalised tips and provide you with modifications.
5. Commit to it
This is the biggest thing. For that hour you are there, try to clear your mind of all your worries, work stress, dieting issues and relationship struggles (they will still be waiting for you when you’re finished!). Give yourself an hour to devote yourself to you. To concentrate on nothing more than matching your breath to your movement. This way, you’ll really get the most out of your practice and leave feeling rejuvenated and uplifted.