Every Beginner Should Know About Yoga
Know before you go: Janet Long identifies seven things every beginner needs to know ahead of that very first class
1. Physical yoga practice is about the person not the posture
Social media has been a blessing and a curse for yoga. It spreads the yoga message but perpetuates an idea that how our postures look is the point of yoga. The posture element of yoga, asana, is traditionally about having a strong and healthy body, so sitting for hours in meditation becomes accessible for you.
Yoga is about you and what you get out of yoga, it’s not about you conforming to a shape you’ve seen on Instagram. And this is a very difficult idea to let go of, because it’s the opposite of performance and ‘achieving’ in the way we learn at school and at work.
It’s not just beginners who really struggle with this concept and, of course, we’re all a work in progress when it comes to the ego, but there are no prizes in yoga.
2. You don't need to be flexible in your body but rather open in your mind
Being open to where you are in your practice, each day, and being okay with that sounds simple, but that one element of open mindedness can be a big leap.
We will find postures we enjoy and others we do not and that is absolutely as it should be. Considering the ‘why’ of that, why a posture feels right for us and another feels off, somehow – that requires an open mind.
But yoga also has a wealth of ideas, concepts and frameworks which invite an open mind too. The concept of us being energetic beings can be a big idea for some; for others it will resonate immediately. For others, self-awareness can be a big surprise, but that’s yoga – full of self-learning, challenge and exploration.
3. A good yoga teacher is a facilitator, enabling you to get the most out of your yoga practice
Beyond teaching how to practice yoga safely, it can be argued that your teacher is more of a torch bearer for your journey into unknown realms, than a teacher in the traditional sense we know from school.
Your experience as a beginner will be unique to you. You will interpret through your body, mind, life experience… it will be your yoga, your yoga journey. It’s not like teaching you maths – there are as many expressions as there are bodies and minds and, for me, it is my work to help you explore that, while you’re with me as a teacher.
4. Modifying a posture doesn't mean you aren't good enough – there's no such thing!
We all need modifications. There are postures that challenge us all – whether you’re a beginner or an intermediate. It’s been said a beginner becomes an intermediate when they reach for the yoga prop they need without hesitation. Yoga teachers will teach postures that challenge them and, of course, the British Wheel of Yoga teaches its teachers a staged approach to exploring yoga which means there’s a variation of the posture for everyone – and they’re all right and they’re all equal.
5. Yoga is not a competitive sport: every body is different so to compare yourself to anyone else is counter-productive
You’ll forget this a lot! And we all do. We’re all works in progress. You’ll see someone in class who challenges your perceptions and that realisation, in itself, can be a huge yoga lesson – another gift from the mat!
6. You're never too old to start
Whether you’re 18 or 80 there’s a yoga out there for you. Don’t put limitations on yourself because it is never too late. Yoga teachers haven’t necessarily been practicing yoga since they were teenagers and they come from all backgrounds and all shapes and sizes.
7. Taking time to be still and quiet is not a bad thing!
When you begin yoga this may be one of the biggest challenges. Standing in Mountain Pose (Tadasana) without becoming consumed by the idea of what might come next can be one of the biggest first lessons for a yoga student. Being still, focused on one thing – or even no thing – can be a huge challenge when we begin yoga. We live in a culture of ‘doing’ but being in a place of stillness, doing ‘no thing’ can take you to another state of being.
A BWY Foundation and Yoga Teacher Training Diploma tutor, Janet Long has been teaching beginners and beyond in and around Altrincham, Cheshire for more than 13 years. She’s also a Reiki Master. You can discover more about her at: facebook.com/rainbowhealingtherapiesuk or email her direct at: firstname.lastname@example.org