A Stress Free Approach to Beginning Your Yoga Practice
My yoga journey began thirty years ago. I was 19 years old and a freshman at Arizona State University. Needing to satisfy some of my liberal arts and PE credits, I chose to take a one credit yoga class. It ended up being my favorite class on the schedule. We were a small group of maybe 15 students. Classes were held in one of the smaller gymnasiums. The space wasn’t fancy, and while the gymnasium felt enormous, Carol, our teacher, brought a feeling of peacefulness to it. I remember feeling nurtured, inspired, and more rested each time I left her class. From that very first experience, yoga became an important part of my life.
After graduating college, I became more curious about yoga. I continued to attend classes off campus with Carol. She taught in a recreation room in the middle of the desert where I found the sunsets to be as healing as they were breathtaking. My curiosity for yoga grew, and I began to study yoga on my own. I read many books and referred back to my favorites over and over again for inspiration. These books became the foundation for my self-guided practice when I was unable to attend classes. Practicing at home brought the same feelings of peace and restoration I found in my classes with Carol. Yoga became a gift, and I would treasure it throughout my lifelong journey as a young mom, military spouse, and entrepreneur.
Fast forward to 2022. I have been a 200 hour certified yoga teacher since 2005 with more than 500 hours of training under my belt. While I began teaching in 1999, it took almost six years to complete my certification. (Another story for another time).
Throughout the years I have taught on Air Force bases, inside of giant fitness centers, at yoga studios both small and large, in Montessori schools, and more recently through a screen from the comfort of my own home. Regardless of the space from which I have taught, students commonly shared how peaceful and relaxed they felt after class. This little seed of peace is the garden from which I am called to teach and encourage more people to step onto a yoga mat. But that first step isn’t easy. In fact, it can be quite intimidating.
Yoga has surged in the West over the last 30 years. There are as many flavors to choose from as there are ice cream flavors in the world. With so many different types of yoga and so many ways to get started, I find that people often turn away from yoga altogether. Intimidated by the mere thought of walking into a studio where it appears that everyone is agile, flexible, and picture-perfect in their poses, I often hear new members say to me that they can't "do" yoga.
Well, I have really good news! Yoga is not about doing. Yoga is about being authentically you. Let me say that again. Yoga is about being AUTHENTICALLY you.
Not flexible? It’s okay. Don't have fancy yoga clothes? It’s okay. Don't understand Sanskrit? That’s okay, too. Everything about you is perfectly okay. And you are perfectly ready to take that first, courageous step forward onto the mat. The good news is, you can take that step from the comfort of your home, office, or hotel room. Wherever you are in the world, yoga is there for you.
Here's what you need to know to get started without all of the stress getting in your way.
Invest in a yoga mat.
Choosing your yoga mat is a fun experience. I think of my yoga mat in the same way a runner thinks of their running shoes. Your yoga mat is special. It is your quiet, safe place. Seek one that is non-toxic and feels AMAZING. Trust me when I say not to cut corners here. This is the one investment worth making as you begin. If you love your mat, you’ll want to return to it as often as possible.
Choose your space.
No matter where you go, all you need is a space big enough for your yoga mat. Do your best to clear the clutter. A cluttered space brings more clutter into your mind, and you will have a tough time quieting down for your practice.
Find inspiration for your yoga practice.
Choose a book or video format that feels good to you. (Psst, remember that you can try any class FREE on the PeaceFull LIVING on-demand library!) I recommend staying with one thing long enough to feel comfortable with the movements. Repetition offers the familiarity you will want to become more confident and to notice progress. Repetition is also great for stress relief because the brain is focused on remembering and flowing through the movements. When your brain is focused on memory, breath, and flow, all those distracting thoughts fade away.
Bring your bare feet.
Yoga is about connection. This is your time to connect to the earth, develop balance, and gain strength and flexibility in the feet. The stronger your feet, the better your whole body will feel.
Wear comfortable clothing.
You can practice yoga in clothing that feels good on your body. Just be sure to avoid oversized clothing, because it will get in your way during your practice.
Be consistent in your practice.
The more often you practice, the better you will feel. As you learn how your body moves and how your mind behaves, you will gain self-awareness. The better you know yourself, the more capable you will feel in your practice, eventually carrying that feeling into all of the things you do both on and off the mat. Consistency yields confidence, so set your schedule and keep your appointment to yourself.
Seek out a teacher.
A good teacher will help you gain understanding and confidence in your practice. If you are apprehensive about certain movements, are healing an injury, or aren’t sure if your alignment is good, a teacher will help you fine-tune your technique. Choose a teacher who helps you relax and feel comfortable. Shy away from teachers who tell you are doing things wrong. It’s hard to go wrong in yoga, because yoga is a journey, not a destination.
Learning any new skill can feel awkward. Yoga is no different. The awkward phase is part of the learning process. As your practice grows, your confidence will grow right along with it. Be willing to stumble through this beginning phase with grace and curiosity. Trust me, it won't be long before you have the courage to take more steps forward into all of the things you choose to do in this beautiful life of yours.
About the Author
Roberta Hughes is a certified yoga teacher and the owner of PeaceFull Living, which specializes in helping individuals in personal growth and self-care. Roberta offers individualized yoga instruction and provides guidance on yoga props and equipment so that students can make the most of their practice. She also offers a complimentary Discovery Call to help new students identify their goals and choose the best program for their needs. If you're looking for personalized instruction from an experienced yoga teacher, contact Roberta today.