Steps to Cultivating a Yoga Practice.
First and foremost, welcome to the beautiful practice! You have entered into a realm that has the capacity to holistically revamp your lifestyle, perspective and being. Yoga is a mind, body and soul practice. It is one that permeates the entire life. You will likely find yourself wanting to fuel your practice and your daily life with more nourishing, wholesome, healthful foods. Don’t be surprised if you begin to crave patterns of holistic wellness that will satisfy the deeply in-touch state you are discovering. Be not shocked if you go so far as to revamp your entire way of thinking!
I also say “cultivate” instead of “start” a yoga practice because, as you will soon realize, introducing yoga to your life will truly be transformative.
So, where to start? I’m actually writing this piece per the request of a dear friend.
Firstly, there are different styles of yoga. It’s funny but there’s actual a “roadmap” image that can actually be a super cool navigation tool for beginners/intermediates!
Now what about getting into a routine? Like anything else, “they” say it takes 21 repetitions to form a habit. So, 21 days of practicing yoga. In this respect I have to bold the words: slow and steady wins the race. The race is frankly life and therefore a journey rather than a race, and the slow and steady remain injury-free (hopefully), as well as patient and kind with themselves. It’s funny because the longer I practice and study yoga, the more I feel like a novice 🙂 Developing simple routines that you can repeat and your body can acclimate to before building on is a great start. Getting to know a handful of poses well, with proper alignment and an “edge” that we refer to in yoga as a place in the body that is not pain, but is where you feel the stretch. The edge is where you push yourself to – always listen to the body and never push through the “ouch” kind of physical pain, instead searching for the edge of deep stretch and muscle burn. Also, using a specific routine at the same time of day while you develop a routine is a great habit-forming technique. For example:
For beginners I think it’s imperative that you connect with a well-trained yoga teacher (may I suggest YogaWorks trained!) someplace. Attend a level one class and connect with the teacher. After class introduce yourself to the teacher, thanking them for the practice, and ask if they’re comfortable being in contact with you and assisting you build a home practice. Just incase you have any questions, need some direction, so on and so forth, you would have them there as a resource. Also, get familiar with YogaJournal.com. There’s an encyclopedia of yoga poses with names, directions and images that will deepen understanding and prevent inaccurate alignment in postures. I also suggest sporadically attending a studio class (if not regularly) so that an experienced teacher may make adjustments (no website around can beat a hands-on, in-person adjustment from a great teacher…suddenly something you’ve been doing wrong for months can miraculously “click” and feel so right).
My next bit of advice is to not get hung up on the technical terminology. For seasoned yogis, that means Sanskrit. The memorization will begin to come naturally, and there’s not a darn thing wrong with needing to look around in order to figure out what pose a Sanskrit name represents. You will likely fall madly in love with Sanskrit and find yourself wanting to know more and more about the philosophy behind the yoga practice.
These are the vinyasas that will connect any traditional flow class and are wonderful to be done just by themselves to warm up the muscles and awaken the spine. They are wonderful to do any time of day whether or not they connect standing/sitting sequences or are done alone, and they are marvelous to do when the sun is actually rising 🙂
Some basics to get you started are Sun Salutations A & B. Get to know Sun Salute A before moving, and I mean really get to know it. Vinyasa literally means linking the body movement to the breath. So breathe. Inhale in Tadasana, mountain pose, hands in front of heart center, exhale. Inhale arms sweep out and up overhead, exhale dive forward with knees bent to your own degree and fold forward. Inhale lifting your chest, spreading your collarbones apart, gently pressing your hands into your shins, and exhale fold forward. Inhale plant hands firmly into the ground with the wrist creases facing the parallel front edge of your mat, fingers spread wide and step back right, left into plank pose. Inhale in plank and drop the knees to the mat, exhale shifting forward so that the wrists will be right under the elbows as you lower into chaturanga. Press the toes into the mat inhale, lifting the chest, keeping the neck long, and pulling the shoulder blades gently together to come into low cobra. Lower back down, exhale. Come up, inhale, to hands and knees and press back into downward facing dog. Take several rounds of inhalations and exhalations. On an inhale step forward, right and then left, to the front of the mat. Inhale, lifting chest and pulling shoulder blades together, hands gently pressing into shins, knees bent to your own degree, and exhale folding forward. Then, with knees bent, inhale and with a flat back, using the core muscles to protect the lower back, and rise to standing with hands over head. On the exhale, return the hands to heart center.
Now, I am not yet a yoga instructor. But this is a basic a description of Sun Salute A. I highly recommend watching some videos if you are not able to attend a beginner’s class, and taking advantage of YogaJournal.com to educate yourself on proper alignment. Once you have become accustomed to Sun Salute A, look into Sun Salute B. Give your body time, lots and lots of time, on this journey. There is no rush. There is no destination; your yoga practice, much like life, is a journey, and a beautiful journey at that.
So please, reach out to fellow yogis, join YogaGlo or YogisAnonymous and find as many outlets for your new passion as you can. As always, have patience with the body and the Self, because they are One. Cultivate kindness, love, courage, and tranquility on the mat. May your practice be a guiding light that invigorates your existence and lets your spirits soar. Namaste.
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