You may or may not know this, but I am a certified yoga instructor. I became certified about two years ago. And while I am not teaching currently, yoga is such a passion for me. I have been practicing on and off for years. And there are so many benefits – flexibility, joint health, anxiety relief, sleep … I could go on and on.
So today I am talking about five things you should know about yoga. If you have never taken a class or are maybe interested in yoga, this is the post for you.
Here we go…
Yoga is for everyone
It doesn’t matter if you are 10 or 100, super in shape or never exercise at all, yoga is for everyone. Just because you aren’t flexible does not mean you shouldn’t take a class. Yoga helps with flexibility, along with a number of other things. You also don’t need to be “in shape” for yoga. Yoga is for EVERYONE.
There are lots of different styles
There are SO many types of yoga. And I don’t just mean beginner or advanced. There are classes that focus on restoration and meditation. Some classes really get your heart pumping and are super intense. Some are heated, some aren’t. Some are very flowy, others you do one pose at a time and don’t really flow at all.
I personally like a really flowy class. I like it to be warm, and I like it to be really challenging. If that sounds like something you would like, you should try Vinyasa. It is what I practice and teach. If you want the heat but not so much the flow, you might like Bikram. The problem with Bikram, for me, is that the class is the same every single time. In fact the teachers have a script that they use. I like new and different each time. If you want something slow and that really focuses on alignment, you might like Iyingar yoga. It isn’t flowy at all and you hold the poses for a long time.
The point I am trying to make is that just because you tried one type of yoga and didn’t like it doesn’t mean there isn’t a class for you. Explore different classes and different teachers.
Yoga is the perfect compliment
No matter what your other forms of exercise are – running, swimming, crossfit, etc – yoga is the perfect compliment. Most exercise causes muscles to shorten (not in terms of size but in terms of length). When you run, your muscles tighten and shorten. Yoga elongates your muscles, stretching them back out. It helps keep your muscles and your body in better condition. Not only does yoga strengthen you, but it also lengthens you.
Start in a studio
I strongly suggest that you start your practice in a studio. And I actually mean a studio. Not a class at the YMCA. Not a class at a gym. A yoga studio. If you start at a studio, you know the teachers are certified and know what they are talking about. You don’t have that guarantee at gyms. Also, your class is going to be more tailored at a yoga studio, instead of a one size fits all type of class at a gym.
No matter what kind of yoga you practice, it is really important in the beginning to get the alignment right. A teacher is going to assist in making sure that you are doing the pose correctly and not going to injure yourself.
On that note, if the teacher adjusts you (meaning they assist you with a pose), that is a good thing. Don’t take it as a “They were pointing out my flaws” type situation. I personally don’t do a ton of adjustments. I like students to be able to correct themselves by listening to what I am saying. That being said, if I see a student who isn’t being safe, I will step in. So listen to the teachers and how they are instructing you. Are you really turning your hips the right way? Are your shoulders actually squeezed up near your ears when the teacher is telling you to relax them down?
The other type of adjustment is to help you get deeper into a pose. Those are always nice. Sometimes a teacher can help you get deeper into a pose that maybe you couldn’t do on your own. I usually only do this for advanced students because I know they can do it. I never want to push someone too far.
Studios are expensive. My suggestion is to take at a studio for a few months, then seek out other options, like online classes, if you can’t pay the studio fees. And I would be happy to provide some form of classes or ideas if that is something you would be interested in. But you do need to know the basics before you move on to that.
It is YOUR practice
I generally remind my students at the beginning of my classes that it is THEIR practice. As a teacher, I am there to guide and offer suggestions. But you have to do what is right for your body. If you aren’t comfortable doing something, or something doesn’t feel good, or you feel inspired to move into a different pose, that is ok. Go for it. I often times give multiple suggestions for my students for what to do next, to allow them to get more comfortable in their own practice.
Now, I do encourage that you go into class with an open mind. Try what the teacher is suggesting. If it isn’t for you, that is ok. Some teachers don’t feel this way. For example, in Bikram, you are to do the exact poses in the exact order, no variations. Of course, if something hurts don’t do it. But there isn’t a lot of freedom. Even in vinyasa classes I have taken, I have had teachers that didn’t want you doing anything else. It actually happened to me during my training. I was in a class and one of the other teacher trainers was doing something, and another teacher told her not to do it. It wasn’t because she wasn’t being safe, she just wanted her to do what she told her to do. It embarrassed the teacher trainer, and it made her mad. So then she was uncomfortable with that teacher the rest of the time.
You need to feel comfortable doing what your body needs. If the teacher doesn’t like it, tough. It isn’t their practice.
As a side note on that – I don’t practice yoga while I am teaching. Some teachers do. It is important to me that I don’t. I need to be focusing on my students and what they are doing, NOT my own personal practice. I may demonstrate a pose, or do a little bit of the flow, but I never fully practice. Another important reason I don’t is because I want my students to listen to what I am saying, not just watch me. You connect so much more with your practice and can focus on your body more when you are listening and not watching.
So I hope this helped if you were thinking about trying yoga, or maybe took a class and didn’t like it. I encourage you to give it a try. And let me know if you have questions or need a little guidance! I am happy to help!
So tell me – have you taken yoga before? What was your experience?