What I Would Tell My Beginner (yogi) Self
I see new students come and go, and lately have had the pleasure of teaching a group of people brand new to yoga. Some have an immediate love affair with yoga, others find it is harder than they were expecting. While I applaud them on stepping into something unknown and vast, there are some things I wish I were told way back when I was in that place (without taking away from that brand-new experience). These are some things I would share with them if I could.
You don’t have to be flexible, just possess a willingness to start where you are. It is more about learning to be present and mindful. As Krishnamacharya, the grandfather to modern yoga said, “if you can breathe, you can do yoga.” There is no such thing as a typical yoga body. Yogis come in all shapes and sizes. Neither do you have to become vegan or vegetarian. Honouring and listening to your body, treat it with respect, being present and working with what you’ve got and where you are at- these are far more important.
It will probably be harder than you think initially but it gets easier. With time you won’t have to think so hard to get into poses. You will have more attention to give to the breath and will feel more ‘in the flow’. Downward dog also gets easier and even becomes a restful pose.
Trust that if you apply yourself and show up regularly your practice will thrive. Practice a little, regularly, the journey will be even easier and the weekly classes more enjoyable. While you don’t need to practice every day, you don’t need to wait until you have an hour and a half to practice either. Something you can maintain with some regularity is good. Or fit in a few postures when you have a free 10 or 15 minutes. In fact little bits more often is better than once a week warrior style. However, miss a few weeks and it all gets hard again.
- There is not hurry, take your time,. What is the hurry when there is no end to the journey? Neither is there any benefit gained from pushing (this can be a difficult lesson to learn!) Have patience and enjoy being a beginner.As a child we were beginners many times over as we tried new things. As adults we become more impatient. Focus your attention on the journey, not the expected end result.
- When you take out urgency then you can tune into your body and learn to listen to what serves you best for today. Do the best you can with the body you have bought to your mat today. This might mean sitting and breathing. A calming restorative practice is just as powerful as a strong flow class. We have become used to the idea of sweating and grunting our way through fitness. It has it’s benefits, but don’t disregard the benefits of holding supported postures for 10 minutes at a time. Difficult poses aren’t necessarily better. Don’t be afraid to modify. It is not a sign of weakness or failure to step back. This is a very important lesson and can take many years to get right.
- It is easy to feel self conscious early on but no body really cares what you look like (except perhaps your teacher), and you shouldn’t either. Likewise give little concern to what others around you are doing. Use it for inspiration if you like, but this is really an internal journey you have with yourself.
You don’t need the latest yoga gear and you don’t need to be cool. Yoga isn’t about how you look, it’s about how you feel.
- Breathe. Really, learn to listen to your breath. It can help you focus, takes you out if your thoughts, calms the mind, brings you into the present, helps you balance and hold a posture, and will tell you much more besides.
- Turn up to your mat regularly. It is more likely you will regret NOT practicing than practicing.
To quote B.K.S. Iyengar, “Yoga is a light that once lit, will never dim. The better your practice, the brighter the flame”. I applaud you for starting and encourage you to listen to your body, listen to your breath and enjoy the journey that unfolds before you.