A new yoga series for you!
This intro post will dispel some myths and help you understand why Yoga is for everyone. Let's get to it!
Myth: Yoga is for those super stretchy people who can put both feet behind their head naturally.
Myth: Yoga is for a certain type of body, ie. lanky, thin, ectomorph types.
Myth: Yoga is a nice supplement for your really "tough serious " gym workout regime.
Myth: Yoga is really just a stretching class that can improve one's flexibility.
Yoga has become such a mainstream "activity" that so much confusion and misinterpretation has surrounded it's purpose and benefits. When something goes mainstream the risk is that it gets watered down, sold for profit and its authenticity becomes threatened.
Right after your very first class, it becomes clear that yoga offers much more than just a great way to "stretch" at the end of the day.
Yoga is for Everyone
Yoga is not for the already super Gumby types like dancers or those who happen to be naturally flexible. These types may actually find yoga challenging for the very fact that they must be careful not to overstretch and injure tendons and ligaments. If you are this type, you must learn to strengthen the supporting muscles and gain the strength to hold yourself in alignment.
Yoga is also not only for the "skinny" lanky types. There is a belief that to practice yoga you should have a certain body type. I've practiced for over 7 years now, and I've had teachers and seen students who could do some of the most difficult poses and who you would never ever think, could manage them by the way they looked. That's a judgement, so be careful what you think when you first see someone from a physical standpoint. Here is some incredible proof of what I am talking about: http://northshoresun.timesreview.com/2011/04/9233/mount-sinai-yoga-instructor-proves-size-doesnt-matter/
The Mind is Inflexible First
Yoga is for inflexible, and stiff people. This is because we all are "stiff or inflexible" to some degree in the mind. Inflexibility always begins in the mind. The more pessimistic, closed and critical you are, the more your body will reflect this. The body follows the thoughts and feelings you have each and every moment. And this is what yoga truly aims to address and reveal to you once you get on the mat.
Yoga's purpose is to help you open the body and release the tension there, so that you may feel the natural flexibility you are capable of having when you let go of the mind chatter. The thought patterns that you allow the mind to impose on you, create stiffness or tightness in the body. The body is naturally flexible. Just watch children, and you can see the fluidity that comes from being free of judgements, and criticism. Most at very early age are not conditioned with such patterns of self negation, which are the real culprits to personal freedom and flexibility.
The Gift of Presence
Yes you feel your body ache, and scream and want to throw a tantrum when you get into some of those lovely deep poses. Your mind will automatically throw every caution your way and try to get you not to feel the new sensations. On a deeper level it doesn't want you to ignore it's mindless chatter. When you shift your focus to feeling and being aware of your breath, you can't be thinking of last night's fight with the wife, or that your boss royally pissed you off this morning. You are given the a precious opportunity to come to the present moment.
Tips For Beginners:
Yoga asks you to simply observe.
Stay with the pose, breath into it and notice what happens to the mind after awhile. Bring your focus right into the raw sensations, and feel what is happening. Let go of having to go anywhere, to go further, or do anything. Just be in the pose and feel the experience of it. It will always communicate something, if you are still and present enough.
1) Start right where you are: You don't need to lose weight, or already be "fit" to begin a practice. Buy a mat, join a class and start. Its a metaphor for your whole life really. You begin anything from where you already are, because that is all you have.
2) Find a good studio or DVD: Find a studio that offers a beginner intro and has a good reputation for providing traditional yoga practice. The reality is we all are beginners each and every time we come to the mat, regardless of how few or many years we have practiced. However, learning some of the basics such as the main poses of the primary series, and how to prevent injury may help you feel more secure, and less intimidated when you take a regular class.
3) Less is More: This goes for all yoga practitioners. Pulling back even just a little will encourage better alignment. In Yoga alignment is the foundational key. The goal physically is to always maintain a straight spine in each and every pose. Compromising this, just to get your wrist wrapped around your ankle is not going to help you progress on any level.
Also the moment you are doing more than you really should, you lose the integrity of your breath. And that is the most counterproductive thing you can do while you practice. The breath is the practice, and its the one thing that must remain constant, deep and full.
4) USE PROPS!: I can't stress this enough. Even if you are a seasoned yogi, use them when necessary. Props like blocks and straps will elevate your practice the more you use them. They encourage spinal alignment, and this is what is key to keeping the breath steady, long and from the deep diaphragm. Doing a triangle pose, and forcing your hand to the ground instead of a block, will really defeat the ultimate purpose because you will be completely gnarled up. Props will allow you to find a sweetness in the pose. This most often is the toughest part when you begin yoga. There is a certain level of effort balanced with a sweet ah sensation as I like to call it. Try to find that balance in each and every pose. The breath takes you there :)
In health always,