As a yogi with exactly one year of experience I thought readers would like to know how one might begin to practice yoga. I certainly could have used some advice when I started; so here’s the process I went thru, in becoming a yogi. I hope you find it helpful.
One year ago today I attended, and attempted to participate in, my first yoga class. My yearning to practice yoga had languished for years, fear of looking ridiculous and awkward kept me away. This fear was not to be taken lightly, I had exercised most of my adult life with little concern of picking up the moves or keeping up with the class. In my years I have mastered step aerobics with Jane Fonda, Tae Bo with Billy Blanks, P90X with Billy Horton, Cross-fit, HIIT, Insanity, water aerobics, indoor and outdoor cycling, as well as Pilates mat, reformer and megaformer! I did gymnastics as a child, played softball, ran track and played volleyball. None of those activities, however, required grace. My fear was the beautiful poses, the precise movements, the fluidity of the flow. I knew I would, initially at least, be very awkward. I also knew that my body, 20 pounds overweight and inflexible, would look ridiculous in the yoga pants and next to, the gifted yogis surrounding me. With great determination, I chose to overcome the fear. As a fairly new resident of Las Vegas, I could conquer my fears in front of strangers, thus limiting my humiliation. It’s a big town, I could sink right back into the wall if I wanted to.
Lesson one: Go where no one knows you if you’re ego is keeping you off the mat.
Prior to attending I did a fair amount of online research into the various yoga studios and gyms that offered yoga in my area. Number one on my selection criteria was the ability to attend at least one class, free of charge, no obligation. Secondly, I read customer/client reviews. Anything less than 3 stars on Yelp, no bueno. Specifically in those reviews I looked for words like cleanliness, hygienic, friendly, experienced. I avoided all gyms and studios with carpet. Sweating on carpet, after hundreds of other people had sweated on the same carpet, gross! That little mat and towel was not going to protect me from mold, mildew and airborne viruses in a closed, hot room. I also looked for studios with separate male and female locker rooms, showers, and towels. When I narrowed the field of possible studios I looked at the teacher profiles and the class descriptions. Although I found zero “intro to yoga” or “beginner yoga” classes, it dawned on me that a fixed pose class might be easier to begin with than a flow class. Bikram is a fixed pose class, consisting of 26 poses, in the same order, every class. Bikram however, is traditionally taught on carpet. Gross! A few studios I found offered fixed pose classes on hypoallergenic, antibacterial, commercial padded flooring! Viola! My choice was made.
Lesson two: Do your research, find what’s important to you in a studio.
Puffy yoga mat ordered on Amazon and beach towel in hand, I went to my first class. Big mistake. Not all yoga mats are created equal and no one brings a beach towel to class. Once my panic subsided upon realizing my error, I parked my mat and beach towel in the back corner of the room hoping no one would notice me. Unfortunately, the very experienced, professional Cirque dancer/yoga instructor asked if there were any new students and I was unable to hide from her. She was however, quite friendly and encouraging. She asked if she could “adjust” me during class if I needed that, told me to take child’s pose or just lie down if I got tired, said the most important thing was to stay in the room, and congratulated me on showing up. Thanks to her, it really wasn’t so bad. She was encouraging enough that I felt, with a better mat and a real yoga towel, I could come back. `
Lesson three: Get a nonslip mat. I use a Manduka Pro, 4mm thick so my hands don’t slip in downward dog and my feet stay put. The towel is also important but I use several different brands. My favorite is a no-name micro-fiber yoga towel because it really grabs onto the grooves in my Manduka mat and my hands don’t slide away in full wheel anymore. Even if you’re not doing “hot yoga”, the mat and the towel are important considerations.
Lessons four, five and six: My instructor was right, it’s ok to take child’s pose or lie down in class; staying in the room is important because you can’t finish if you don’t stay; and it is a big deal that you showed up! The toughest part of yoga is continuing to come to your mat.
I hope these insights offer you some encouragement in your yoga practice. Look for more of the same in the future. Happy New Year. Namaste’