Many people who are looking to start yoga normally have two main concerns: where to start and the thought of not being flexible enough. Both of which can make yoga seem daunting. As a yogini, and particularly a yoga teacher hearing someone say “I can’t do yoga, I am not flexible enough” is one of the most bothersome things to hear. Only because the asana practice (postures) is not at all about being flexible! The practice of the postures is to help gain flexibility and strength within the body.
Starting a yoga practice can be easy, all you need to do is be open minded and committed to the journey. One of the easiest ways to begin is to find a yoga studio around you. Check it out, and have a chat with the teachers. They can lead you in the right direction of certain classes that would be suitable for beginners and help with anything else along the way. There are many different types of yoga out there. Getting to know what types the studio offers is important. The last thing you would want is to walk into an intermediate/advanced class and leave feeling discouraged.
The mental state is also a big part of practicing yoga, especially if you are in a class for the first time. Yes, you may be surrounded by people who can touch their head to their shins in a forward fold, but trust me it took them time to reach that level of flexibility. Practicing is about you and your body, not comparing yourself to others. When I first began yoga I always compared myself to people around me, wishing I could bend as much as they could, or hold a headstand. That started making me think negatively about my own practice. One day after a few months I told myself to stop comparing. It was making me not enjoy the physical and mental benefits to the practice all together. Every person, body, mind, and soul are completely different. Concentrating on yourself is the most important part.
If practicing at a yoga studio is not available don’t worry, you can begin practicing yourself at home. It may take more time to get used to the postures and find a practice, but at home in your personal space is one of the most comforting places to do it. All you need is a quiet space, yoga mat, (or even just a towel or carpet), computer/phone (anything you could watch videos on), and self awareness. I have learned a lot of postures by checking out YouTube videos online. There are so many different teachers, with different styles of yoga that put their classes out there. They are free and handy to use. Along with YouTube there are other websites that hold online yoga classes, you would just need to get a subscription, choosing as many classes as you would like.
I mentioned before that taking it upon yourself and practicing from a video may take more time and be challenging to learn the postures. The biggest thing that yoga will teach you is body awareness. Not having a teacher in the room correcting any alignment issues with the postures is the only downside to practicing at home. My suggestion is begin with the basics, Sun Salutation A and B. Sun Salutations are used in almost every yoga style to warm up the body for the rest of the class. They are simple movements put together in a sequence to target all the major muscle groups with both stretching and strengthening. If I am feeling uncreative to think of my own flow to practice I will do 40 Sun Salutations, coming away feeling limber and strong. Check on youtube for Sun Salutation A, starting with that, moving through it 10-20 times to start. Once you feel you have mastered that, move onto Sun Salutation B, which adds an extra posture and more chaturungas throughout. From the start of your self practice I suggest to practice in front of a mirror, or record yourself with your phone etc. Seeing what the body is doing and how it looks is very important. You want to make sure the poses are being properly practiced so no injuries occur. After finding your rhythm with the sun salutations start to branch out! Trying out different postures, and classes online. You will hopefully have a better understanding of how your body moves, and what areas you feel need to be concentrated on for stretching and strengthening.
Starting a yoga practice is one of the best thing you could do for your body and mind. It develops self awareness inside and out. Not allowing the postures to intimidate you is one of the biggest challenges to overcome. Making sure to accept where you and your body is once you begin throughout the yoga journey. Acceptance, and having an open mind is the key!
Written by Abbey Bates
Abbey is a Canadian yoga teacher currently based in Dubai, UAE. She started practicing yoga 6 years ago, instantly falling in love. 4 years ago she went to India for the first time to take her 200 hour teacher training in Ashtanga yoga. After learning how to self practice, and teach she fully embraced yoga, practicing almost daily after completing her first training, and teaching as much as possible. Wanting to expand her knowledge of different styles of yoga, she went back to India to complete her 300 hour training in Vinyasa Flow. Abbey now is teaching in Dubai, feeling so lucky to be able to teach what she loves to do.