Beginning a yoga practice can be intimidating for numerous reasons. Logistically, we don’t understand what would be most suitable, in terms of class styles, levels, teachers, and locations. Without any prior knowledge of yoga, even details such as clothing and mats can deter us from arriving on one to start a practice. Coupled with self-consciousness, inflexibility, or prior injury, we are even less likely to begin.
The most important part of beginning a new practice is to focus on progress, not perfection. Yoga, like any natural process, is a progression that requires cultivation, patience, persistence, and consistency. Growing a garden requires hard work to dig up ground to set a seed deep in the dirt. For weeks, it just looks like mud, and we are required to return to water it and allow for sunlight to touch it. Eventually, it grows, and not because we dig it up out of the soil, but because we trusted in and facilitated the process of growing. Yoga is the same.
How do I get started? Some answers to questions to get you started:
Where should I practice?
Find a studio or facility in your area that offers beginner classes. This is noted on schedules or can be determined by speaking to a manager at the location of your choice. Aside from yoga studios, many YMCAs, sports clubs, and community centers offer yoga classes by certified teachers. If you have prior injuries, limitations, or are beginning a yoga practice while pregnant, be sure to mention that to the teacher before the class begins, or provide that information to the studio owner or coordinator so he or she can help you find a class that caters to your needs. DVDs can be a convenient way to begin a practice on your own schedule, but remember that teacher instruction is an invaluable tool to ensure your safety and progress.
What should I wear?
Wear comfortable, form-fitting clothes so you can move easily without clothing limiting your movement or excess clothing getting in your way. Don’t worry about whether your clothing is designer, or fashionable. You may decide to invest in specialty yoga clothes as your practice grows, which can help facilitate better movement by fitting your form, but in the end it’s not particularly important. What’s important is that you show up to practice at all.
What kind of yoga mat should I use, and where do I get one?
Many yoga studios rent yoga mats for a small fee, some for free. Yoga mats can be purchased online, in some specialty supermarkets, and in discount department stores. Many yoga studios have a boutique on site in which they sell yoga mats. Owning a mat can be useful for home practice and for sanitary reasons. Different mats have different levels of traction, thickness, and stickiness, so it can be helpful to see and feel what others are using and to ask teachers and fellow practitioners for their advice and perspective about what mats they prefer.
What if I’m injured, out of shape or nervous to begin?
Just show up. Arriving on your mat is more important, to start, than what happens on it. Overwhelm is normal. In beginning a yoga practice, you are learning a new language in mind and in body. Rather than fixating on what you have not yet learned, achieved, or understood, stay connected to what you can do. In every piece of alignment, in every pose, and in every sequence, regardless of how new or injured you are, there is something you are capable of. If you continuously show up and practice that which is available to you, there will be growth and transformation and progression. “What part of this can I do” opens you to possibility, and that’s where growth lives.
Photos from ahrensyoga.com – and yes, it’s the author of the article in all these amazing pictures!