Friday, July 27, 2012

What I would tell my newbie yoga-self....

One thing that is hard for many new practitioners of yoga asana is to grasp the meaning of the poses. The meaning as it pertains to why they are performing that posture, how to perform a pose, and also what it means within their body.
If I could tell my newbie yoga self any one thing it would be to FREAKIN RELAX!
One doesn't go to toe shoes the first day of 
Ballet class ;) This practice takes time to cultivate like a rose garden <3

When I first started doing yoga I had heard it was a good thing to try for flexibility. This is back in the 90's :) when Austin TX had a handful of studios, if even that many, as opposed to the numerous locations there are now. A hometown testament to Yoga's acceptance, growth and popularity in present day.

I approached the yoga like I did my kick boxing classes, I would kick faster, higher and better than anybody else, or at least try darn hard!!! 
Well, in case you didn't hear, Yoga is not designed to work best that way. You can hurt yourself trying to make pretzels out of limbs that are not used to that movement. The goal is the ride and journey on the breath, not in getting your hands to touch your toes straight out of the gate. Yoga is about making your own strides and benchmarks and working with what you've got. Others can demonstrate poses, give us feedback, and some people use mirrors for body information: The idea is to be in the body you are in and not worry about what others are doing to their bodies.

In fact, the more I have learned about the body and about Yoga postures, even in the safest efforts of a led class, one should really come to know their own body.  This is hands down the best benefit of my practice. I had always taken my athletic nature for granted. I hardly cared about each step I took, as long as I was going somewhere. As one ages and changes in activities the injuries of repeated efforts can set in. Getting to know your body and becoming mindful of its movements and your own skeletal frame is liberating and informs you of other body processes.

I remember being nervous if I didn't know what the teacher had directed, and jump to make shapes like the others and try not to look like meant to do that... all this to say, I had a lot of mind chatter and judgement and missed alot of what was going on and intended to be going on in a Hatha class. Hopefully the teacher will say a few things like "its not about how you look, its how you feel." "Try to deepen the breath, close the eyes and be in your own practice."

I also attended Kundalini classes which included poses that are held longer, with detailed instructions and a focus on the breath. These classes served to cement me in the work of the breathing. After I saw a vigorous Asana sequence performed on stage as part of a music show, I was hooked, I said "I want to do that!" 

I subscribed to a popular yoga mag and would read and do some of the suggested poses at home. I think signing up for a beginner series or taking a couple of private sessions and learning some of the lingo on ones own is a recipe for success!...Especially if you are competitive or shy in group settings, this will take some of the distraction out of the equation and help you move your yoga train along to the next stop, where you can start linking the poses, getting deeper breaths and great stretches and quieting the mind. OMMMM!

Even though I was still focused on the strange newness of it all, the stage was set for me to begin the journey. 
If I could tell my newbie yoga self anything else it would be to open my take modification suggestions, to use the props, to listen to the teacher and to my inner teacher and my breath.

So many times we want something so bad and are led to steamroll it with our focus and can smother or attain it and hardly recognize it after we've roadkilled it! A decade later, as I attend teacher training I am still learning. The body changes, the mind shifts, the goals get met and new ones get set, and some fade away.

If you have tried yoga and had a bad experience, please try a different class or studio. If you are a dedicated yogi, try to remember your newbie mind and keep it fresh while applying your wisdom :)