There’s more to yoga than those sleek yoga pants
Yoga is almost like golf. You don’t have to be a pro to get started. Whether you are young or old, overweight or fit, it has the power to calm your mind and strengthen your body.
Don’t be intimidated by the terminologies, fancy rooms, pricey yoga pants, and complicated poses. Grab your mat and follow the 12 tips below to get you started:
1. Begin where you are.
Throw away the idea that you should already be flexible before you can start yoga.
Beginners can start it in a gentle class. Gentle classes move at a slower pace, which will allow you to learn the postures and breathwork comfortably.
2. Start with an intention.
Before starting yoga, creating an intention can help set the tone for your practice and prepare your mind for a reflective experience. Whether your intention is patience, peace, or gratitude, centering your mind around that thought will put you in the moment.
3. Burst the high expectations.
Yoga, quite literally, means “to yoke” or “union.” It is a process of uniting with yourself, and it should be easy.
Often we equate yoga with challenging, limb-twisting poses. However, it is not about touching your toes or stretching 98 degrees to the northeast. You are in it when your body, mind, and breathing are aligned.
4. Have a qualified teacher.
It is best to start with a qualified yoga teacher, and avoid too many changes, especially initially. That way, you can progress more steadily.
5. Wake up early.
Ideally, yoga is practiced in the early morning at sunrise when the mind is most precise, and the world is quiet. Practicing it first thing in the morning allows you to avoid distraction and start the day off with health and intentionality, thus setting the tone for the rest of the day.
However, if you cannot wake up early to practice, don’t let it be an excuse to skip! You can do it any time of the day as well.
6. Focus on the yoga, not the pants.
Yoga has become trendy, and when you think of it, designer yoga pants might jump to mind.
If wearing $150 pants will make you feel great, and you can afford it, that’s fine. However, simple and comfortable clothing is all you need to get started as a beginner.
7. Do it on an empty stomach.
It is best to practice on an empty stomach or at least 2-3 hours after your last meal, which is another reason why practicing first thing in the morning is the most ideal.
8. Be Slow and steady.
The ancient yogic text defines yoga posture (asana) as Sthira Sukham Asanam, which translates into “steady, comfortable, and meditative.”
The winner in yoga is the one who can achieve the most excellent ease within a posture. When you start, do as much as you comfortably can and then stretch a bit more.
Going slightly beyond your comfort zone will keep the practise interesting and will add a spark of a challenge as you progress and adopt new postures. However, make sure you understand the difference between going beyond your comfort zone and straining.
9. Smile through the miles.
Keeping a gentle smile relaxes the body and mind and helps you enjoy the postures much more. Like breath, the smile is another barometer of your yoga enjoyment, especially as you start.
10. Do not compare.
The beauty of it is that it meets you where you are. Wherever you are in a posture is where you are supposed to be. Avoid comparing yourself to other students in the class when you start.
11. Savor the end.
As you complete your yoga practise, don’t hurry to get up and start moving about with the tasks lined up for the day.
Learn to savour the ending moment, give yourself the extra love, and allow your body the rest it deserves after a long practice. And remember, yoga is not only for women. Men can enjoy it too.
12. Yoga is a process, not a pose.
When starting, it’s good to remember that yoga is a process, not a pose. What matters at the end of the practice is not just your flexibility but the overall state of your body, mind, and emotions.
My journey and healing with yoga: Andrea van Niekerk
“I immigrated to Canada 4 years ago. I was a gym person and runner/walker. I have minor scoliosis (curvature of the spine) and found myself in physio and chiro rooms throughout my life.
“After living in Canada for a short time and not knowing how I would exercise in the snow, I took up yoga. It was a complete turnaround. I began to stretch, tone, and build muscle. My nagging back pain was gone, and I felt so strong within my body. Learning how to breathe was magical.
“I qualified as a 200 hour Hatha yoga teacher in 2019. I have taught over 300 hours, and I’m now an instructor at Movati Athletic in Burlington.
What yoga has done for me:
• Yoga has reduced my stress levels. It allows me to focus for 60 minutes on nothing else entirely. It is “me time.”
• It puts me in a community of people that I could connect with, and as an immigrant, this is so important.
• It has challenged me in ways I would never have thought. I turn 46 this year and have never been stronger and felt more in control of my body.
• After my practice, I get the same endorphin release that I would have after a run or gym session. My perception was that yoga was a slow, tedious activity that would not excite me. I had no idea!
So roll out that mat, set your intention, breathe and let’s go! Remember, yoga is not about perfection. It’s about practice.