New to Yoga?
A common misconception about “yogis” (those who practice yoga) is that we are all ‘amazing at yoga’, all extremely flexible and strong (you know, pretzel poses and legs wrapped around the ears? No big deal.). What I’d like you all to take home today is that yoga is a continuous personal development, physically, mentally and emotionally and that it has nothing to do with what the rest of the class is working on. Yoga is a learning process that never ceases, because your body, where you are at in your life, and your current state of mind are in constant transition and these are all major players in learning about oneself.
Yoga is about body awareness. It is about knowing your own limitations and coming to discover, embrace, and honour your body’s potential (and yes, we all have potential!).
A great starting point is to ensure that when you approach your yoga practice, that you’re not setting out just to master a particular posture or goal. Rather than using the body to figure out the pose, begin to use the pose to understand the body. Seeing each posture, or each class, as a learning opportunity will help increase body awareness and keep your mind interested as you move forward (or sideways, or upside down!).
You focus on your mat and I’ll focus on mine.
It’s important to remember that the only thing that matters to you in this yoga class is what is happening on your own mat! Yoga is meant to be noncompetitive. It is most definitely not a race and all other yogis in the room are really only concerned with their own pace, not about what’s happenings over there on your yoga mat. Allowing yourself to fall prey to competition in yoga will ultimately lead to disappointment or even injuries, as you have shifted the focus of energy from one of sensation and body knowledge to one of goal-setting and winning.
Comparison is usually only created in the context of what other people are doing. Therefore, in order to avoid comparing and judging, remember to keep your eyes down and your focus inward.
What does being “good at yoga” mean?
It’s all too easy to blindly follow the yoga teacher and try out advanced postures that you’re not ready to move into. Even something as simple as the way your instructor raises his/her arms are personal preferences for his/her own practice and don’t necessarily need to be followed by you. If your range of motion isn’t as wide or long as the teacher’s, find a way to adapt. Listen to your body and do what feels right for you. Stop when you feel you need to and don’t judge yourself if you didn’t make it as far today as you had hoped. A class where you successful eased up from a posture and intelligently stayed at your own ability level is much more successful than a class where you chose not to listen to your intuition and pushed yourself too hard.
Where you are today is exactly where you should be.
You’re only a true novice once.
In closing, I’d like to encourage you to enjoy these beginning stages of your yoga practice, as they are the most humbling of all. You really only get to be a complete novice once, so embrace this time in your life and remember where you began. It will be all that much sweeter when you look back on your progress in the future. What’s key to making this process enjoyable is to be able to approach your learning from a light-hearted and open-minded place, without judgment or attachment to results.
With that, there are no excuses not to give it a try! So I hope to see you on the mat!