Stepping into the world of yoga can be a confusing venture as there is so many styles of yoga out there... How do you choose your Hatha from your Vinyasa? Your Asana’s from your Pranayama’s?! What even is yoga and how is it different from any other form of exercise? If you are new to the world of yoga then all these strange terms can seem a bit much to wrap your head around, especially if you have never even tried wrapping your arms and legs around each other to begin with! I have been teaching for nearly 5 years now, and even as a yoga teacher with a good bit of experience, I still stumble across elements of the yoga world that are totally new to me. Here are a few tips that have helped me navigate my local realm of yoga:
#5 – Even if you only try it once, you have done so much
Do you know how many people will only ever think about trying something new? It took me a long time to show up, to be brave and get out there, to do something I had never done before, surrounded by people I didn’t know. How many things do we come across where we think “I’d like to try that” yet never do? There is always an excuse, something that gets in the way. But when you do it once, then you can do it again. You may think you are planting a seed that will grow into a yoga tree, but when it blooms it turns out you’re doing the flamenco! Who cares, just get out there! I never did anything before yoga, but since then I have gone to classes for calisthenics, jiu jitsu, handstand workshops and more...but I always go back to yoga.
#4 – Explore different styles of yoga
If you manage to show up to yoga once and you feel like it isn’t for you, it may be that the style of yoga you have tried is not your starting point. If yoga is a globe, then each style of yoga is but a town map, with each teacher only knowing a few of the local avenues. We don’t all go to the same holiday destinations, some of us like it hot and some of us like it cold, and it is the same with yoga. Each style has its own elements, it’s specific focus, that may appeal to you at different times through your journey. For example, Hatha yoga (Ha and Tha being Yang and Yin, respectively), is an all-round balanced practice, giving attention to strength and flexibility, whilst Vinyasa is more of a moving flowing class therefore having less focus on strength; compared to Ashtanga which is a strong practice with the same set of poses every class.
#3 – Cheat on your teacher
Although styles of yoga have their focuses, yoga teachers have their own unique takes on them. Whenever I am asked what style of yoga I teach, I find it tricky to answer. I have studied Hatha yoga, so I will answer that by default, but I have dabbled in so many other styles of yoga that they each will feature at some point in some form within my classes. Therefore, my Hatha may be very different to another Hatha teacher. But we teachers can only know so much, there is a bigger world out there and if you seek new horizons then you and your practice can only grow bigger too.
#2 – You can sit an Asana out
The asanas of yoga are the physical postures of a yoga class. There are thousands of them…maybe more! But the wonderful thing is that you don’t need to do them all. If you are in a class and you find there is a pose that doesn’t feel right to you, then don’t do it. If you want to just take a moment and sit back, then you are welcome to do so. Sit back and observe the others around you. See how they make their way into the pose. Maybe you recognise that you could do the beginning part, rather than the full thing, and that will be where you work for now. Or maybe due to some reason, any reason being valid, you feel there is no need to ever attempt the posture at all, brilliant. I once had someone show up to a class and realising they were not up for it, they lay on their back the whole hour. Do what your body asks of it.
#1 – Talk to your teacher
Your reason may be reason enough to not wish to explore something in your yoga practice, but if you feel like it needs to be explored or adjusted for you in some other way, then talk to your teacher. We teachers are here to guide you in your practice, so help us to help you. Whether you are not understanding something, or you have some impairment you are cautious to work with, your teacher is there to explore a safe practice with you…the last thing any of us want is you to walk out of your yoga class feeling worse off than when you walked in! Catch them before or after class, or message them by social media or email.
Every person you see in a yoga class was where you are now, wondering when they’ll be able to touch their toes or wrap their legs behind their heads. In a way, all of us will always be a beginner in yoga as we come across a new tip or trick that brings in a new dynamic to our practice, or some new way of approaching something they may have done hundreds of times before. Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, whether you are stood on your head or tucked up in bed, do what you want to do because at the end of the day, that is what it is all about, listening to yourself and giving yourself that time.
Namaste. (or not!)