As Yoga studios and Shalas begin to open back up once again, many people may find themselves stepping into a taught Yoga environment for the first time. Maybe you started online classes during lockdown and are keen to catch the real-life Yoga vibe! Or perhaps quarantine has left you in need of a wellbeing transformation and you're about to venture into a studio for the first time. In any case, here's a few things you might need to know before you unroll your mat for the first time...
Q. "Do I need to be flexible to start Yoga?"
A. Nope! The word 'Yoga' actually comes from the Sanskrit word 'Yuj' which means 'to yolk or bind' and essentially describes the coming together of the mind, body and spirit in union with the breath. Yoga is a feeling, not a shape or posture and you certainly don't need to be able to touch your toes! As your practice goes on, you will feel many benefits in the body - including flexibility, strength and tone, as well as huge mental and physiological benefits. Listen to your body and
Q. "What do I need to buy?"
A. Most studios provide mats, props and creature comforts. However, in this current climate it is likely a good idea to purchase your own mat. Buy from an ethical trader as many popular, cheap mats are made from plastics.
Keep your mat clean physically and energetically, this is your sacred space. You can make a lovely mat cleaner with filtered water, lavender oil, tea tree oil and a dash of apple cider vinegar.
Props are really useful for beginners. Buying a set of ethically-sourced cork blocks and a Yoga strap can help so much when you're beginning to understand postures.
Q. "Is Yoga only for women?"
A. Absolutely not. Yoga is universal and is not specific to gender, race, religion or any other human factor. If you worry about going to a 'leggings & lycra' fitness-style class, do your research and find a teacher who you resonate with. Look for humility, accreditation and a respect for tradition.
Q. I'm... overweight/suffer with (insert here)/have injured my (insert here)... can I still do Yoga?
A. In most cases the answer will be YES. Yoga practice is made up of different ethical codes, some physical movement and a whole load of meditation. Depending on your range of mobility the level of movement in a class will vary and can be adjusted to suit any body - sometimes it won't contain any movement or posture at all! If you are concerned with starting a public class, ask your teacher for private lessons until you feel more confident.
(Please do consult your medical professional before booking in any classes.)
Q. "My mind is too busy to meditate. What do you suggest?"
A. We all have thousands of thoughts every day. Sometimes every minute! Although meditation can give us the tools to observe the inner workings of the mind, body and breath we can never hope to 'still' or 'quiet' the mind. You'll be fighting a losing battle if you try!
Instead of fighting the chatter of the mind, offer a non-judgemental observation to feelings, emotions and sensations in the body. Ground yourself with the breath and keep returning to the present moment.
Persevering with meditation will offer benefits in your daily life that you wouldn't even dream of. Offering a little discipline in practice, returning every day to meditate - even just for a minute or two! - can have endless positive return.
Q. What can I expect from my first Yoga class?
A. Lots of breath, some movement, some meditation, smiles, sighs, sweetness, softness, some words you might not recognise, some words you might recognise, intention, expansion, contraction, more breath, stretching, relaxation and some bloody good vibes.