A student in my class had never done yoga before. It was late, and the only available space was in the middle of the crowded room, and there was no time to discuss or prepare. I felt I was struggling as we went through practice, and I’ve made some suggestions on modifications of the poses and he kept pushing through. I felt the push, but at least do not get up and leave.
He was brave enough to stay through the class, but made a quick exit later. Knowing the possibilities of transformation of yoga, who wanted to seize him, even to shake, as he said, to wake up and drink the Kool-Aid, but unfortunately slipped out, and in a moment was gone. I wondered what his story. I wondered if he was going to try yoga again. This experience made me want to write a letter to the new students.
Here are five things to remember when a yoga practice starts:
1. It’s probably harder than you thought.
This is by far one of the most common claims of the new students. I remember telling friends when I started yoga which was the hardest thing he had done, and had played sports all my life. Yoga tends to use the whole body, including parts that may not have been called in a long time.
Yoga is a mind-body practice and the goal is to make that connection, but in doing so, the body is strengthened and pushed through a series of postures called asanas. The important thing here is to honor the body and start where you are. There is a yoga class for everyone. If the style or flow of the class you attended really is not for you, check into the different classes. Some are aimed at fitness level, health status and age.
2. No pretzels necessary!
I spent years stay off the mat because I was not flexible enough. I thought that I’d need to twist my body into a pretzel if I was going to practice yoga in the right way. When I decided to face my fears about not being good enough, and I have come to the canvas, I realized that I had to do that. But what I found is that I have become more flexible, both on the mat and off, so that no one could have imagined at the time. We must remind ourselves that it is not being good at yoga. It is not to achieve some contorted body posture. It is about the journey, every second of it.
3. Your teacher is your friend.
Yoga is about energy. As in any classroom, the teacher is a key component. I can safely say that I would not be where I am today without the amazing teachers I connected deeply. There are many different styles of yoga in the West, and many different styles of teachers to go along with them. Find someone you trust to guide you. It’s your trip, but his teacher can be the conduit to help you along the way.
4. Yoga is about connecting with oneself.
It is to remain open and let come what may. Connecting with yourself can be uncomfortable. As we begin to connect, we can feel a lot of emotions and feelings. Then come the lawsuits. I can not believe you have tried this. What was I thinking? Would it be rude if I left? In these times, noticing the breath can help rants aside ego and allow the body to settle in the present moment instead of shutting down, closing up shop and go home, literally and figuratively.
5. If you practice yoga regularly and sincerely will change your life.
Many new students ask: “How often do I have to do this to get the benefits?”
Practice as much as possible, whether the time once a week or several times a week.
Yoga begins to transform as soon as you start practicing, on main roads and in subtle ways, and the effects are cumulative over a lifetime. Yoga is healing. Yoga retards the aging process. Yoga strengthens the body, mind and spirit, and enables its practitioners to approach life with a sense of peace and resilience that may not have previously known.
I am full of gratitude for my teachers and my practice and what they have taught me about myself, about life, to be able to live fully. I am also grateful for the opportunity to know myself better every day and to share this practice with others along the way.