Approaching the Practice of Yoga

Ayogaman previous post featured a wide variety of techniques to help you quickly and easily get more out of life.  If you haven’t seen the list you, might want to check it out.  I’d love to hear your thoughts and any ideas you have for additions to the list.

The number one item on the list of ways to improve your life was — Yoga! I’m not exaggerating when I say that Yoga is a potential “game-changer” for you. The benefits of Yoga are profound and varied and they can continue long after you complete a session or leave the studio.

However, I also mentioned in the original article that the benefits you derive from Yoga are directly linked to the manner in which you approach your practice of it.  I promised to expand on that idea, so here are 10 tips on a great approach to starting your Yoga practice.

1. Keep an Open Mind.  Yoga is NOT just about your body.  While you’ll certainly enjoy physical benefits, the most profound benefits are mental.  Done correctly, Yoga uses breathing, stretching, and focus to help clear your mind.  A wonderful sense of inner calm can result, and it can start in your very first Yoga session – if you’ll allow it to happen.  It’s very powerful and the benefits can ripple out into the rest of your life.

yoga32. Find a Beginner’s Class to Start.  When you start your Yoga practice, the last thing you want to do is to feel inept and clumsy.  Well, okay; you’re probably going to feel a little inept and clumsy the first time anyway. 🙂  But in a beginning class, at least you’ll be in good company. Honestly, everyone feels a little clumsy at first – that’s why they call it a practice.

3. Remember; Yoga isn’t just stretching. Yoga definitely involves stretching but it’s much, much more than that.  It can increase strength and improve balance too.  It can also results in greater confidence, better lung function, and more graceful overall movement.  And to the guys out there; if you don’t think you’ll get a good workout, or sweat while doing Yoga, you’re in for an awakening!

4. Keep in Mind that That Yoga Will Grow With You:  Yoga deepens — and it’s as deep as you want it to be.  As you get better at the poses, techniques and breathing, you will find you can push yourself further and further.  It’s also as demanding as you want it to be.  Yoga contains a sort of Zen-like contradiction; the more your capabilities grow, the further you can push yourself, and the more demanding it can become.  Frankly, that’s a fantastic, almost mystical characteristic.  Okay, let me go ahead and bid farewell to my male readers at this point, I probably just lost most of them with that last comment!  🙂

Click for a larger image

Click for a larger image

5.  Do Yoga With Others:  Sure, you can do Yoga on your own in front of your TV and DVD player but in, my experience, it’s much better when done in a group, and in a special place.  Now, once you’ve started your Yoga practice, you’ll probably get so hooked that you’ll supplement your group sessions with personal practice at home, but group sessions are a large part of the experience – especially in the beginning.  It’s great to be in a quiet, Zen-like studio, with like-minded people, with the right low-volume soundtrack, and a great instructor.

6. Don’t Just Go Through the Motions.  The small details of Yoga poses and of your breathing may seem unimportant but they are essential.  In fact, they’re the heart of Yoga.  A mindful effort to improve at your chosen poses is the key to enjoying Yoga, and essential to achieving its benefits.   On occasion, I’ve seen people going through a Yoga session and they don’t seem to be experiencing anything; no stretch, no effort, no focus – nothing!  That always suggests to me that they aren’t pushing themselves.  They’re probably not thinking carefully about the poses, nor are they trying to improve their breathing.  They don’t realize that they’re cheating themselves of a large part of the Yoga benefit.  Often, the difference between gaining from a pose and just going through the motions is a matter of just a half inch of arm extension.  Only you know if you’re really there, but striving to get there is the art — the magic — of Yoga.  This focus on the details, on improvement, on your breathing, and on a mindful intention for your session is what creates that  wonderful mental sensation of Yoga — the feeling that the world’s chaos and noise are melting away.

7.  Think of Yoga as an Ongoing Practice. Much like playing a musical instrument, Yoga is not something that you’ll master in a few days, a few weeks, or even in a few years.  You’ll get good at it, of course, but there is always something to learn or improve upon.  As I mentioned, Yoga grows with you, and so does your enjoyment of it.

ear8.  Don’t Worry That You Can’t Put Your Right Elbow in Your Left Ear or whatever advanced Yoga pose you’ve seen other people do.  Yoga is an intensely personal activity.  Regardless of your level of proficiency, what matters is that you are enjoying the steady progression, the details and the sense of mental focus and peace that your practice brings.  Remember also that everyone started at the beginning, at some point.

BYSE4 Yoga Studio Logo

BYSE4: A Great New Denver Studio!

9. Find YOUR Yoga place.  Find a studio where you’re comfortable and where the instructors don’t neglect the mental aspects of your practice (and, if you so choose; the spiritual aspects.)  Some studios treat yoga more like an aerobics or Zumba class. I’d avoid those studios.  Again, the mental aspects are the key.  Good studios typically offer brief trial periods.  So you should be able to find a good fit.

10. Buy Your Own Yoga Mat:  This final tip isn’t nearly as important as the preceding ones but it will enhance your Yoga experience.  While your studio will certainly have mats available, I recommend getting your own.  It may seem like a minor thing but there are a number of reasons for this.  First, you’re going to get “up close and personal” with that mat, so it’s nice to have one of your own.  Secondly, just seeing your mat rolled up in the corner can be a nice reminder of the sense of calm you feel in session, and it can be a subtle source of motivation.  Thirdly, as I mentioned, you may end up doing additional Yoga sessions at home, so you’ll need a mat for that.  And finally, it’s funny what happens to you when you are walking to and from Yoga sessions with your rolled-up mat.  There’s  a subtle sense of camaraderie  with other Yoga enthusiasts, so nice conversations and even friendships, can sometimes result.

So, there you have it.  Again, I really encourage you to give Yoga a try and to approach it with focus and an open mind.  In fact, if you haven’t tried it yet, I’m a bit envious.  There’s nothing quite like your initial discovery of Yoga and it’s many benefits.  And hey – good news!  Lululemon says they think they’ve finally resolved the “over-sheer” problem so, you’ll no longer have to worry about any, um…”over-share” problems!  :-)

yjThere are lots of great online Yoga resources too, like the Yoga Journal.

And finally, for those of you here in the Denver area, be sure to stop by BYSE4, at 6th and Cherokee, and see my fantastic Yoga instructor friends, Ashley and Kat, in their terrific new Yoga studio.  Check back here on FLYODI.com soon too, as I hope to have a FLYODI feature post specifically on Kat, Ashley and BYSE4.

As always I’d love to hear your thoughts about this post or your Yoga experiences.

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© Copyright 2014 FLYODI, All rights Reserved. Written For: FLYODI: Life -- Better!

4 thoughts on “Approaching the Practice of Yoga

  1. Betsy Behlig

    I’m a Christian and I DON’T like Yoga. I went once and it felt like they were saying thigns that were against my faith.

    1. admin

      Yoga doesn’t have to conflict with your faith. Some studios use approaches with no spiritual component at all. A good example of this is the nationally-famous Yoga instructor Tara Stiles. Still, I think the key benefits of Yoga are mental. So, even if you don’t want a spiritual component, the calming, meditational aspects are still available to you. They don’t conflict with any beliefs that I know of. As I said in point #9; find YOUR Yoga place — one that supports your beliefs.

  2. Lisa Scheing

    I agree with this! I think you do Yoga once and you risk a life-long obsession. And about the mat, I agree — buy your own.

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