This article first appeared in mindbodygreen.com and is written by Hawah Kasat
New to yoga? Here are some important things to keep in mind and remember if you are wanting to start, but aren’t sure what you should expect.
1. Know that yoga is ancient.
The practice dates back more than 2,500 years. It encompasses deep philosophy and contains a science of personality development, self-awareness, strength, perseverance, compassion, patience and love. If you want to gain the full benefits, don’t reduce it to being just a way to get a six-pack or a tight butt. Make sure you see the bigger picture.
2. Respect both mental and physical health.
You may be accessing yoga at an aerobic/cardio workout level, but remember yoga is MUCH more than this. If you’re coming to yoga for the physical postures and benefits to your health that is great, but remember in order to continue and progress on your journey you’ll have to begin to explore the science of the mind and spirit.
3. Stick with it!
At first it may seem challenging or hard. For sure, the physical postures will be difficult. You may be aching for days (even if you thought you were in good shape before starting) because you’re using muscles you’ve never “exercised” before. You might want to throw the towel in, but you’ve got to be SUPER patient. Give the practice time to work its magic. You’ll be doing yourself a huge disservice if you only go five times and think it isn’t working. If you’re serious about growing, you’ve got to give it a regular schedule.
4. Find a teacher who speaks your language.
For your first week or two visit a variety of classes with a handful of different teachers. Give yourself a chance to see what’s out there, and understand that each teacher brings a unique voice and perspective to how they convey and motivate you! After you find your “favorite,” you can move into the next step.
5. Be committed to that teacher.
Once you’ve found a teacher that you really enjoy, stick with him/her for a few months. This is important because it will allow you to become familiar with their style and vocabulary. With time you’ll develop trust, which is an essential component to your progress; and also, that teacher will get to know your body better and hence is in a better position to make specific adjustments that work for you.
6. Start exploring again.
If you make it this far and begin to feel established in your practice, then it’s always good to give the body new movements and positions to challenge routine. At this point you may want to remain dedicated to your initial teacher but also occasionally visit other classes with different instructors and enroll in special workshops or retreats where components of the practice are explored deeper.
7. Ask questions.
If you think you’re doing something wrong and are not sure, ask your teacher. Don’t spend months doubting yourself, but find out early the proper ways to do things. This will proactively help prevent injuries from occurring in the future and it will also help build community, if you take the time to get to know your fellow students and learn from their experiences, too.
8. Remember it’s about an entire lifestyle change.
Going to class a few times a week is a great start, but if you really want to shake things up you’ll have to start looking at the food you put in your body, the number of hours you spend in front of the television, the way you are interacting in your relationships. With dedication, yoga will help bring all the various facets of your life into balance.
9. Read introductory yoga books and articles.
I promise if you read even just a few pages of an ancient yoga text before going to your yoga class, your experience in class will change dramatically. It will help get you in the mind state to have experiences beyond just the physical body. Make it a point to read books and articles about yoga philosophy. It will exponentially expedite your progress!
10. Take it easy and have fun!
We take ourselves way to seriously, way too much of the time. Enjoy yourself in class and that will be the main ingredient in the recipe for continuing to come back and establishing yourself for the long haul.
HawaH is an artist, author, educator, yoga teacher and community organizer.