During my break from blogging, adopting meditation and a daily yoga practice helped me to understand myself in new ways. Interestingly, there was a time when I openly rejected them, especially yoga.
My first experience with yoga was when I tried Tony Horton’s P90X. The 92-minute class, titled Yoga X, included several difficult movements that left me exhausted. Simply, it was too advanced for me as a beginner.
Several years later, I decided to try yoga again but with a class that better suited someone on my level. Now, I’m committed to my practice, and I’ve learned enjoy even the most challenging flows.
By setting the intention to make yoga work for me, and being prepared, I’ve made a natural part of my day. These are the steps to helped make that happen.
1. Open your mind.
I once thought yoga was series of pretzel poses and chanting that would challenge my religion. In fact, Sanskrit was a language I strictly associated with Hinduism. Thus, I felt using terms such as namaste or vinyasa would be an insult to my Christian background.
However, yoga isn’t about converting people to Hinduism. Rather, it focuses on building a mind-body-Spirit connection that can be applied to all areas of life, including other religious teachings.
Furthermore, there are several health benefits to yoga. From the first day of a practice, studies have shown people enjoying more flexibility as well as increased brain activity. The former is especially important for weightlifters aiming to develop better stability, balance and mobility.
Moreover, the longterm benefits of a consistent yoga practice include a reduction in anxiety and depression, an improved sex life and a lower risk of heart disease. Yoga doesn’t burn as many calories as a HIIT session on a treadmill but its impact goes far beyond weight loss.
2. Find a class that suits you.
Your yoga practice can be done at a studio as part of a class or at home on your own time. Personally, I prefer to do yoga in at home because that’s where I feel safe, at peace and most comfortable falling down.
If you want to practice at home, there are many instructors online who offer free courses for the various traditions. Tim Senesi and Lesley Fightmaster are among the teachers that have guided my journey, and they both have classes that suit everyone from beginner to advanced levels.
Find a space in which you feel at peace. Whether that is in a room with other people or alone in silence, do what feels right for you.
3. Get the right gear.
Doing my yoga practice at home means I can wear my most comfortable outfit, which is usually underwear. Of course, that will be a strange sight in a public space but the idea remains the same: Choose clothes that will allow the widest range of motion.
Also, invest in the props you will need for the classes. A thick mat with ample grip is the foundation of good yoga practice. Additionally, purchase a pair of yoga blocks and a strap to help you get deeper into poses, particularly if you have limited flexibility.
4. Listen to your body.
When you feel pain during your yoga practice, stop and pay attention to your body’s cues. Check your form by comparing it to that of your online instructor on the screen or ask your in-person teacher for advice.
Yoga is different from weightlifting because the point is never to push your body pass failure. Instead, approach your limits without trying to force yourself beyond them.
This is particularly important in movements that involve your joints, such as the knees, wrists and shoulders. Good instructors usually offer alternatives to each pose, so pay attention and speak up when something doesn’t feel right.
5. Forget your goals.
The cultivation of present moment awareness is one of the outcomes of a yoga practice. Honestly, trying to remain stable without toppling over is a great way to keep our minds from drifting into the past or future.
Yet, it’s very easy to get distracted during yoga, particularly when we think of the goals we set for ourselves. To avoid this, release those objectives.
For example, if you have the goal of mastering a certain pose in a month, you will be so focused on that challenge that you will lose touch with everything happening in the moment. Therefore, just aim to do your best with your entire practice and let each class stand on its own.
6. Laugh at yourself.
There was a time when I felt frustrated and angry at myself when I made mistakes. During yoga, I got upset when I fell out of a twisted triangle or warrior three stance, often scolding myself for my “failure.” However, those reactions stemmed from my ego.
The beauty of a yoga practice is that it teaches us to let go, be humble and have fun. When you stumble, laugh and express gratitude for not falling on your face. If you did fall on your face, laugh even harder and be grateful you did not break your nose.
Contentment or santosha is the second of the niyamas of the eight limbs of yoga. As you progress on your journey, you will learn the value of not judging yourself or others, and see the value of each stumble as a chance to grow.
7. Be consistent.
Make your yoga practice a part of your day similar to going to the gym or watching the news. Rather than viewing it as a task, see each class as a chance to detach from your daily stressors, and enjoy the renewed connection to yourself.
The more you practice yoga, the better you will feel. As your body and mind change, so will your view of yoga. Truly, it’s not the form of torture I thought it was 10 years ago.
“Yoga is not a work-out, it is a work-in. And this is the point of spiritual practice; to make us teachable; to open up our hearts and focus our awareness so that we can know what we already know and be who we already are.” — Rolf Gates