So, you’ve started a yoga practice. You now “do yoga.” You can do a sun salutation without forgetting the sequence... you can’t get your hands on the floor yet, but who cares?
Now, both long-term yogis and beginners tend to fall into the same traps over and over again, so I thought I’d highlight the most important things to avoid when in class (and I guarantee that you’ve done one of these at least once):
- Stop Going Through Your To-do List
This is by far the most common confession that I've heard, particularly by those who normally go to the gym to sweat. Taking time out to still your mind can be really hard for a lot of people, but the good news is that it gets easier with practice. Next time the predictable “Oh, I mustn’t forget milk” pops up, realize that, unless you have a pen and paper by the mat, you probably will forget the milk. Accept it and move on.
Instead of dwelling, try these simple mindfulness tips: notice how each muscle feels in each posture. Look for areas of tension. Notice your emotions as they come up. You’ll get much more benefit from the class by giving yourself a mental break.
- Stop Competing With Yourself
Yoga is a non-competitive practice. This means that you're neither competing against other people, or yourself. My yoga teacher always said to me “every day in yoga is different.” Whilst a lot of the famous Instagram yogis give you great inspiration to improve your practice, if one day you go to class and can’t even touch your knees, let alone your toes (it’s happened to me!), accept that that’s where your body is today, and that it's okay.
- Stop Looking at Other People for Comparison
Some people are gymnasts... like, actual trained gymnasts who have been stretching their muscles since the age of three. Some people are massively overweight and trying to do something gentle to help themselves get healthier. None of this matters to you. Distracting yourself with whether you’re better or worse than the person on the mat next to you will do nothing to improve your practice. Concentrate on your body and how you feel.
- Stop Skipping Savasana
The final resting posture in yoga is the key to bringing all of the benefits of the practice together. You can tell it is the most important part of a physical yoga practice because, no matter what style of class you go to, there will always be savasana at the end. Do not throw 5000 years of wisdom away. If you’re going in for yoga, don’t skip this crucial part of the practice. Take the time to allow the muscles to relax fully and the mind and body to absorb the benefits of the practice. Use it to let go, increase the oxygen intake to the muscles and brain tissue and prepare (without making to-do lists) for the continuation of your day.
- Stop Taking it So Seriously
My friend told me she only tried yoga once, but got chucked out of class because she farted and got the giggles. The teacher actually asked her to leave. I couldn’t believe it. Yes, yoga is a life-changing practice and its benefits shouldn’t be sniffed at, but it’s supposed to be fun! Find a class where you can relax and be yourself. If you’re nervous or on edge you'll miss many of the benefits. You won't be able to get the most out of your practice. If you want a serious class then find one, but remember to embrace your own practice, day by day, and don’t take yourself too seriously.
Which of the above have you done? Do you have any tips for beginners? Leave a comment below and share the wisdom!
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