The yoga practice is more than 2,500 years old. Today it is often considered a health or fitness activity, but in its full form it encompasses philosophy, self-awareness, strength, perseverance, compassion, patience and love. The following guidelines will help you become comfortable with what yoga is and what it means to you.
- Consider mental AND physical health. You may be practicing yoga for the physical exercise, but you will gain for benefits if you see yoga as a journey to explore the mind and spirit as well.
- Do what you can. Yoga is a journey, not a competitive sport. If others in the class are able to do seemingly impossible poses while you can’t quite grasp the most basic ones yet, that’s OK. Go at your own pace so that when you do arrive, you are safe.
- Don’t give up. Sometimes yoga is challenging and the physical postures are difficult. You might find that your muscles ache afterwards. Be patient. Go frequently and regularly for at least several months before you try to assess what it is doing for you.
- Find “your” teachers. Each teacher is unique and brings their own personality to the classes even if they are teaching exactly the same thing. Try several classes with different teachers and decide which one or two seem to most resonate with and motivate you. Then come to their classes for at least a few months so you become really familiar with their style and the way they work. The teachers will get to know you and your body, and you will be able to trust them to make suggestions and adjustments to help you grow.
- Stay open to new challenges. Although you may be tempted to stick with the same teachers, as you develop in your practice consider trying new classes, workshops, or retreats where you can learn to go deeper.
- Be bold and inquisitive. If you are not sure how to do something, ask your teacher. Finding out the proper way to do things will help prevent injuries and also benefits the class: your fellow students can learn from your questions and experiences, just as you can learn from theirs.
- Make yoga a lifestyle change. In addition to going to class, think also about the food you eat, how you spend your time, and how you manage your relationships. A dedicated yoga practice can help bring your life into balance.
- Do some research and reading. Explore ancient yoga texts, books, and articles about yoga so that you gain a fuller understanding of the practice and its potential.
- Above all, have fun. If you enjoy your classes, you are more likely to keep going and to grow in your yoga practice as well as in your life.