Read these before you do yoga for the first time. We’re watching you. And we’ll know if you didn’t.
1. It’s going to feel weird.
If you’ve never done yoga before, many of the postures are going to feel weird, because it involves movements that your body is not used to. Fear not, however. The soreness you feel the day after your body experiences some weirdness is your body adapting to new movements and becoming stronger.
2. Breath Through Your Nose
Yoga helps train your mind to stay cool, calm, and collected. Especially under duress. It does that by teaching you to breath through your nose in slow, controlled breaths. To breath correctly, avoid breathing with your mouth. Instead, link your movements with your breath by inhaling and exhaling long, slow, breaths during each movement. Breathing controls the natural rise and fall of your body. Inhaling lifts your body, while exhaling lengthens and releases your body. Breathing also controls how you let stress affect you, the rate of your heartbeat, and many more physical and mental processes your body completes on a repeated daily basis. Focus on your breath, and the control of your body will follow.
3. Control Your Breadth, Control Your Body
What separates yoga from other forms of exercises is that it strengthens and stretches your body at the same time. For some beginners, the stretching aspect can be pretty intimidating. One of the ways to allow yourself to go deeper into the exercises, even when they seem like they might be painful or strenuous, is to breathe and relax. When the going gets tough, whether it’s at work, at a race, or on the mat, your instinct might be to hold your breath. Holding your breath in yoga though will tense up your muscles and make the stretches more difficult. Ever hear someone tell you to just take a deep breath when you are stressed out? There is definitely something to that. Breathing lowers our stress levels and releases tension in your muscles, allowing you to go deeper into your stretches and exercises.
4. Treat the stretches like you would any other strength-building exercise.
Yoga is different than your typical gym workouts because it strengthens AND lengthens your body at the same time. Some of the exercises that you’ll find in our workouts appear to be breaks from exercises that require more strength or endurance, but what’s awesome about yoga is that even the resting poses are working your body in ways that traditional exercise often does not. Even when you are just “stretching”, make sure you push yourself and use your whole body, because this is an opportunity for you to build flexibility, one of the main reasons that people seek yoga in the first place. Most of us know that flexibility is a good thing, but why is that? Flexibility is an aspect of your fitness that allows for more range of motion, more power, less risk of injury, and quicker recovery times. It makes you better at whatever you physically do, regardless of whether you’re an athlete or a desk jockey. Your strength not only depends on your flexibility; it is determined by it.
5. There’s no such thing as a perfect pose.
Focus on sensation; not on depth. It isn’t important how flexible or how deep you can get into a posture. Pushing yourself beyond a level of flexibility that your body isn’t ready for is a great way to get injured – so let’s avoid that. Instead, focus on achieving the correct sensation in your body; the effect that the posture has on stretching certain muscles and tightening other ones. You’ll notice that the workouts in our DVD are heavily focused on your technique, but you should know that there is no such thing as the perfect posture. Every body is different, and what works for one person might not work for another.
6. You may not be that good at it. At least in the beginning.
Many people can bust out a few push-ups or run a mile without training for it, but yoga is another beast entirely. Flexibility is a strength that you actively have to work on in order to improve. If you haven’t been doing any flexibility training, then yoga going to be a challenge – regardless of whether or not you can run a mile in 7 minutes or win a push-up contest among your friends. My advice is time and effort. Apply yourself and you’ll get better – sooner than you think.
7. Know the difference between discomfort and pain.
Contrary to what your high school gym coach said, pain is NOT weakness leaving the body. However, pain IS a message your body is trying to send you. Use pain as feedback. Pain is commonly an indicator of overuse, weakness, or inflexibility. Pain is sharp and intense. It differs from person to person, but the important thing to know here is that pain is your body telling you that something is wrong. If it hurts, don’t do it! Discomfort, on the other hand, is different. Discomfort could be your body getting used to something, your body stretching in an unfamiliar way, or muscles being utilized in a way they’re not used to. Use your intuition, and pay attention what the instructor is saying if you’re unsure of how you’re supposed to be feeling in a particular pose.
8. Protect your lower back by engaging your core
One of the most common reasons people practice yoga is for back care. Please consult your doctor to make sure that yoga can help alleviate your lower back pain, and not add to it! Lower back pain is often a symptom of tight hamstrings and a weak core. Make sure to engage your core throughout every routine, which helps stabilize your lower body, and helps prevent you from over arching your lower back. We’ll make sure you to give you these cues throughout our lessons as well, but whether you are practicing yoga with us, or on your own, remember to move in and out of every pose with slow, methodical, one vertebrate at a time movements, and remember to keep your core engaged!
9. Try not to second-guess yourself [too much].
It’s natural to wonder whether or not what you’re doing is correct when you first start doing yoga. But the only thing worse than doing it incorrectly is constantly worrying about whether or not you’re doing it correctly. It’s okay to second guess yourself sometimes, but try not to make a constant habit out of it, or you’ll never feel quite comfortable in any of the postures – and that’s definitely not right!
10. Focus on yourself; not on other people.
Everyone has different bodies, with varying strength, flexibility, and control. Mirroring what other people do instead of focusing on the posture in a way that works for your body and your fitness level could mean you aren’t getting the benefits of the pose. At worst, it means you are hurting yourself.
11. Build a body-mind connection.
One aspect of yoga that makes it unique when compared to other forms of physical fitness is the slow nature of the exercises involved. This allows you to slow down, check in with your body, and understand the slight changes in movement necessary to correct or improve postures. This intense focus on subtle movements such as your own breath, allows you to build and strengthen the connection between your body and your mind – which improves motor control, heightens body awareness, and even increases mental performance. Focus on the present. You don’t have to bat your thoughts away. Acknowledge them. Then come back to them later. This is your time. Start off each workout asking yourself what you would like to accomplish. Visualize it. And get ready to work!
12. It takes more than one workout for results, but improved feeling is instantaneous.
You already know that it takes more than one workout to start seeing changes in your body when you start a workout program, but the unique thing about yoga is that you’ll feel better immediately during and after you do it. Your body ENJOYS stretching; it helps to relieve tension in your spine and joints, and reduces the inflammation that causes your body pain.
13. Stay consistent, both with frequency and with effort.
You may notice results with just one workout, but the only way to maintain those results is by practicing with regular frequency and with consistently high effort. Our suggestion is to do at least 3 workouts per week (about once every other day). If you are feeling like a yoga beast, do one every day. The more you do, the better you’ll feel, and the more significant your results! Over time, the daily aches and pains that annoy you will become a nuisance of the past, and you’ll wonder why you didn’t start sooner.