Are you in the yoga groove?
I find some days I’m really in the yoga groove and other days I could wish it would get out of my face! I mean, I see so many people on instagram making some amazing shapes in stunning surroundings that I know I will never be able to do, and instead of acknowledging the post for what it is, it makes me feel very inadequate indeed. Most of us are not super bendy, nor are we gymnast trained. Poses that you see on line are pretty advanced and you need to be be a particular body shape to get there.
Sometimes I can be fascinated by the beautiful lines and exotic location, but when I’m feeling low, I quickly fall out of love with yoga and loose my mojo completely. I forget that it’s all about how I feel on my mat. How my body moves. Every body is a different body and yoga is a way of discovering how it works and responds to movement and breath. These amazing images can inspire, or put you off completely. It’s worth remembering that most of these people have been studying yoga for a long time, and many are gymnasts.
Yoga is an old practice. According to Wikipedia yoga is the physical, mental and spiritual practices or disciplines which aim at transforming body and mind. The term denotes a variety of schools practices and goals in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, the best known being Hatha Yoga. The origins date back hundreds of years and Hatha yoga emerged at the turn of the first millennium. Gurus from India introduced yoga to the western world and in the late 19th Century yoga became more of a physical exercise throughout the West. Since the 1980s there have been many ‘new’ types of yoga emerging to fit in to our lifestyles, but all have their roots within Hatha Yoga. If you are a newcomer, try a Hatha based class first so you can become familiar with the postures. There is nothing worse than going to a class or workshop as a beginner and finding everyone is powering on ahead in some focused collection of moves when all you can do is work out which foot goes where.
Talk to the teacher prior to joining a class and find out if it is the right one for you. teachers find it difficult taking mixed classes. So be honest about your experience. Start with the ground work and build up.
When someone says to you ‘Oh, I do Yoga’ remember they may not do yours. When someone really connects with yoga they will have found their breath and understood the essence behind the moves. When you understand how to use breath in each move everything falls into place. There is no need to learn the Sanskrit names or to wear the latest trendy clothing. Just be mindful on your mat. Be present to how your body feels and use your breath. Everyone will have a different natural breath length. Find yours, and use it. Use your mindfulness skills and be aware.
Personally I like it when a teacher allows us to do ’rounds’ of sun salutations, in our own time. If they say ‘let’s do ten’, then you feel under pressure. I love it when they start you off, allow you to follow if you need to, then leave you to do them in your own time, asking you for ‘one more round’ so everyone finishes at the same time, even though some have done half the number of the others. No pressure. The classes you see where you see people power through all at the same speed are generally very advanced. I like to feel my salutations. To fold forward, and allow myself to engage and prepare for the next phase. I injured myself years ago by allowing the momentum of the movement to progress from the up-dog to down-dog without engaging my core. No one taught me about the core!
A good teacher should be aware of a students health issues and be mindful of things like high or low blood pressure. You also need take responsibility for your own practice as teachers aren’t mind readers, but if you are new, speak to your teacher about any health issues.
- Ask friends about different classes and teachers, and find a class that suits your time scale. There is no point turning up for an hour class having ploughed through the traffic in a hot and bothered state, unable to catch your breath, just as the rest of the class is getting ready to start. Plan to arrive 10 minutes early so you can settle on your mat.
- Ask the tutor if you can try a class first before committing to a course. Most teachers will be only too pleased to do this for you, and ensure they ask you about any medical issues you may have. If they don’t, then leave them well alone. Equally if you are a regular in a class, it is wise to inform your tutor if you have any injury.
- I would also suggest that you invest in your own mat. I cannot understand why someone would want to use a mat provided by the gym or dance space, knowing that they are going to lie on it with their face resting where someone else’s perspiring feet may have been! I like a fabric mat, but many prefer one that has more ‘stick’ to it so they can hold positions with more stability. If you are going to progress to Ashtanga yoga you will need a mat you can slide from one posture to another. Sticky mats don’t work as well for that type of yoga. Think about the manufacture of your mat and how eco friendly it is too. You will spend a long time on it. Choose wisely.
- Hydrate well, as with all exercise. Just because you aren’t moving very fast doesn’t mean that your body can get through the session without water. The more hydrated your body is, the more easily energy will flow and try not to perform yoga within at least 2 hours of eating.
- Remove jangly jewellery as this can be distracting, and choose clothing that stays put. There is nothing worse than having to readjust your clothing so things don’t ride up – or down! Layers are a good idea.
- You may have to try a few different classes before you find a teacher to suit you. It’s a bit like finding a hairdresser or massage therapist. Don’t give up! A class in a gym will have a different feel to one in a yoga studio. For me, air conditioned large spaces don’t work. I get far too cold. I prefer my home practice, and I attend a few workshops when I can, and in the summer, there is nothing like yoga outside!
Remember, it’s not all about the shape of the pose. It’s how you feel in the pose. Some people will have longer legs so toe touching won’t happen, but they still get a great stretch. Some will have shorter upper bodies so wide angle forward folds mean they won’t get their chest on the floor. I find home practice is so fulfilling as I have no one to compare with. I know I shouldn’t be looking at others in a class, but we are all human! I can admire someone in a scorpion pose, but I have no desire to get there myself.
It wasn’t until a client was asking for a good workshop that I remembered this chapter of how beautifully yoga and mindfulness go together.
Taken from chapter 10 of Journey to Woo Woo Land.