Beginning something new can be exciting, yet also daunting, and a bit scary! I remember when I walked into my first yoga class, the teacher was murmuring strange pose names and humming the word OM as the whole class would following chanting in response several times. I was certainly not used to all the weird positions I was contorting my body into moving from one pose to the other. I felt a bit lost, intimidated and certainly out of place!
The importance of starting your yoga practice in a structured class for beginners is so important. Yoga for beginners educates students starting from the complete basics, assuming a beginner’s mind and structuring both sequences and language that make it easy for anyone to understand. Yoga is an experiential practice that must be learned within a space that a teacher and student can communicate effectively and efficiently. Too often I hear people say, “I’m not flexible enough to do yoga.” To tell you the truth, if done right, yoga can be one of the lightest and most effective ways of building flexibility, strength, mobility and overall health within the mind and body! While the practice of yoga is physically challenging, there are many ways to bring you to a balanced state of health without forcing. Remember, yoga is a moving meditation.
Now, let’s look at another common question, what is yoga? Yoga is defined in many different ancient and sacred texts but let’s start with the definition as stated by one of most authoritative texts of yogic philosophy, the Yoga Sutra’s of Patanjali. Written in Sanskrit, the second aphorism of the Yoga Sutras states – Yogash chitta vritti nirodhah. Loosely translated in English as Yoga is the Stilling of the Fluctuations of the Mind. As simple as this may sound, let’s put this theory to a practical test: Sit on the ground comfortably in a cross legged position and try to focus your attention on ten inhales and ten exhales. If your mind wonders, restart and try again. You see, it’s quite challenging! Let alone the pain in the body for just sitting on the ground may be distracting you as well. In today’s fast paced moving world, gadgets, technology and information are readily available to us at the swipe of a finger. We are over informed and more than ever, misinformed. In all our bodily senses we have become over stimulated and life has strung a complex web of distractions that can keep us from our truest potential of infinite growth. I often say that yoga was created and perfected in the last thousands of years for this day and age, here and now. More than ever it’s important to take ourselves out of our head and into our body to genuinely listen to what is happening on the inside. This kind of preparation involves a practice that grounds us to earth and brings us into deeper connection with ourselves.
Let’s break down the word yoga and where it comes from. In Sanskrit, which is the language and literature of yoga, comes from the root term yuj which means to bind, yoke, join, harness or bring together. Essentially yoga is a means of uniting oneself within a disciplined practice. One of the essential aims of yoga is to harness the body to exploit and understand the mind in order to harness a quality of health and spiritual growth. There are many things we can yoke together in yoga and this is just one of them. In a nutshell, yoga is a tool that can provide you with the knowledge to road map your life towards resiliency and sustainability in all curve balls life will throw at you.
Yoga is a step by step process, so let’s not get overwhelmed here. So, where does one begin when starting this journey of a yoga practice? Firstly, there are many different styles or approaches to attain a state yoga, but let’s start with the most common approach in today’s society; Hatha yoga. The discipline of Hatha yoga is to first heal the body to create a more accessible path of directing the attention inwards. The purpose of Hatha yoga is to train the body through yogic postures, particularly on the energetic level of the nervous system by generating a level of strength and stamina allowing the mind to be focused and alert while remaining calm. The result, complete stillness within. Hatha yoga thus requires meeting your physical limitations in your body and mind right where you are in the present moment. In this method, we can experience yoga through our senses of our physical being. This is the most common method practiced as it is most accessible in the world we live in.
Now that you’ve learned some basic knowledge and theory of what yoga is, let’s now look at how you can prepare yourself for your first yoga class. One of the very first things I loved about yoga is that you need very little to begin. Having an open mind is the initial step to bring yourself to any kind of practice. Second is comfortable clothes. For men and women this includes anything you are able to move and sweat in like yoga leggings, sweatpants or gym shorts and a comfy t-shirt or workout top. There is no right or wrong to what you can wear, most importantly be yourself and feel comfortable with what you are wearing so it minimizes distraction throughout your practice. Lastly, if you can get your hands on a mat, bring it. Most yoga studios provide them but it’s nice to have one of your own to sweat and detox on. That’s pretty much it! You are now all ready to start your first yoga class. Just remember to leave yourself at the door when you enter the shala!
Written by Quinn Taplin