Path to yoga from Beginner to Novice
……or at least with a little more experience
The Beginner Yoga Path
– a bumpy, funny, tearful wake up call
My first ever yoga class was an eye opener. A small room upstairs in a chic and trendy North London gym at a time when yoga just was not that, trendy, surrounded by journalists, actors, musicians who all seemed to know exactly what they were doing. AND they were doing it well, correctly, as they should be. I was a wreck in the corner dripping wet, trying hard to breath when the petite South Americain teacher said and hold the posture as best I could without injurying mysef or falling on the floor. Honestly I worked harder in that class – that I later learned was Ashtanga Yoga – than I ever did in marathon training. For the first time in ages I had been challenged but not just physically, mentally I took a knock too. I couldn’t do it, had to be humble, breath and a word i seriously didn’t know at the time – I had to let go !
I left the class feeling drained but more relaxed than I had done for a long time. London and my sales career at the time were working and playing me hard. Yoga was not around every corner as it is now and honestly it was not something I had even considered before. I went to it for some greater flexibility as a runner and hard core sporty girl ! But each Sunday afternoon I found myself sitting then standing, jumping, moving, breathing and dripping my way through the class. Until the blissful moments of relaxation took my body !
I bought a book, started a few Sun Salutations each day, well maybe not each, on my own and started to use the little I had learnt in class and from my book at home. London offered many and varied activties and yoga was only just starting its launch into the modern realms at the time (we are talking 1997) …. Then a life chaning decision to move to France meant I left the UK and the yoga I had started but I knew I had to carry on. So I bought a DVD by David Swenson and the Ashtanga Yoga primary series entered by household. OMG that was soooo hard. Could I keep up ? Not a chance. I used to try and challenge myself to do the series of Sun Salutations A and B and inevitably fail. I would fast forward to the positions I could do as there were so many I couldn’t. And then I would get to the relaxation and if I am honest sometimes I would skip it but sometimes I would fall deeply into it and felt amazing afterwards !
But I carried on. I tried, I fell on the floor, buckets of sweat, tears at my failure, elation when finally I could do something I had been struggling with ….. all these emotions from just doing some postures ? How come ????
And that ladies and gentlemen is where I reach out to you. Our motivations and ways of finding yoga and getting into whatever type or style of yoga you find are numerous (or maybe you have not made that step yet) but whatever your motivation and wherever and whenever you arrive yoga has the art to make you question things in your life. Why ? Because you are challenged. Your 30, 60 or 75 minutes on the mat allow you for once to face yourself, to be with yourself, in the present with nothing else except yourself to confront you. Your breath, your postures, your movements happen in a yoga class whatever your level from someone who can’t touch their toes to someone with them behind their head. You are faced with your own challenge. You are responsible for setting your own intention, riding your own breath, being simply you even if its just initially whilst you are on your mat.
The journey can start. Where it ends is another story.
A wise yogi once said the hardest challenge for any yogi is to roll out the mat and practice. Theory is one thing, practice is everything.
Whether you choose to sit on your mat and do nothing but breath and be or whether you choose to flow through a challenging physical practice it doesn’t really matter. The time you take to be with yourself, to let the pressures of daily life wash over you is the most valuable gift you can give yourself in our modern, agressive, full-on world.
I have been through years of not being able to touch my toes, had glimpses of putting my legs behind my head but ultimately the greatest gift that my yoga practice has given me is time. Time to be with me, practice postures, meditation, whatever but time out from my daily routine, time to just breath without feeling guilty about doing it. And in a time-pressured world what a wonderful sense of freedom that is !
Some tips for you starting out on your yoga path
As a beginner the different styles of yoga can be super daunting.
Try an open style class or one recommended by a like-minded friend.
- Try a class near to where you live or work as you will then feel motivated to go.
- Go with a friend as you will motivate each other
- Pick a teacher you empathise with as often it is not the style that counts its the person teaching it.
- Be kind to yourself and do not try and copy those around you – they are on their own path.
- Try and practice once or twice a week and if time, life logistics or money is tight then try and practice at home. There are plenty of good online classes and great books and DVDs around nowadays.
- Try and learn a small sequence yourself to practice daily. A little each day goes a long long way and is far better than a 2 hour stint at the weekend
- Don’t go mad on buying lots of expensive yoga gear at first just be comfortable but do invest in a good yoga mat so that you don’t slip and hurt yourself.
- Use pillows, cushions, blocks where needed
- Do not overstretch the body and push it beyond its comfort zone it will NOT thank you for it.
- Be patient and kind to yourself.
- If you cry, laugh, make noise, pass wind do it don’t worry its just your body letting go of the stuff you keep inside
- Don’t get fanatical about yoga apply the 80/20 rule and allow yourself the 20% of doing whatever you feel is right for you that day. Each day is different and precious, enjoy it !
- Practice, practice, practice – not to make perfect but to be the best version of you you can be !
Written by Charlotte Saint Jean a Yoga Teacher in France, based in the Savoie mountains and the ski resort of Val d’Isère, mama to two great daughters (www.yogicamummy.blogspot.com), founder of the french online yoga web site www.yogachezmoi.com and creator of the Yoga Festival in Val d’Isère (www.yoga-festival-valdisere.com)
Find Charlotte here……
For lots of tips on Beginner Yoga sessions and how to start check out Webucator who offer all kinds of on-line classes as well. www.webucator.com