Adventures in Thailand, yoga

Your First Yoga Class, Part I – Introduction to Yoga

So you’ve decided to give this yoga thing a shot. Seems pretty simple. If old ladies can do it, I’m sure I can too, right? If that sounds a little bit like you, keep reading on.

Yoga is a 5,000 year old practice from India that encompasses nutrition, meditation, exercise, spirituality, and the study of scriptures. It’s a whole pre-determined way of living. It even prescribes how to clean your nasal passage. That’s how in-depth yoga can get.

What yoga is widely known as today is the physical postures of that entire lifestyle, which are known as asanas. Asanas can be extremely beneficial to your body and mind, as with many other forms of physical activity. These asanas have helped thousands of people with claims not only from their overall improvement of their overall fitness, but with their stress, anxiety and depression. Without surprise, as these asanas were formed as a way of active meditation to discipline the monkey mind through controlling the physical body. After all, it’s difficult to feel sadness or stress when you’re balancing on one leg in tree pose. You are probably trying not to fall over, rather than worrying about your presentation on Monday.

Now, in a modern day yoga class, it’s mainly all asanas.  If it’s your first yoga class ever, try to find a class directed at beginners, so hot yoga, acroyoga and power yoga is out of the question. Instead go with yin yoga, gentle flow or ask the instructor if his/her class is a good fit for a beginner. When the instructor knows that there’s a beginner in the class, he/she will always provide options (beginner, intermediate, advanced). And you, as a beginner, should take those options. Ignore what your neighbours are doing and look at your teacher for guidance.

Let’s use the analogy of buildings. Each asana (posture) is like a building. First you need a strong foundation (your alignment), then you need the materials (the strength and flexibility) to continue to build on top of that. And how high you go depends on factors such as the type of materials you have (your current fitness level/where you are in your practice) and what the environment allows (your body type/even your genes). The tendency is for beginners to want to build skyscrapers before ensuring the foundation is sturdy. The outcome of a building that is too high without a good foundation is that it will fall.

I definitely am not worried about the past or future when I'm in tree pose, balancing in the mangroves. Okay, maybe I was a little bit worried there might be snakes.
Balancing in tree pose requires your mind to remain completely calm and balanced. Your mind is focused and free from all unnecessary worries, fears and troubles.

But those postures look fun! It’s completely fine to try. Just remember, it’s your body that is the building, so your fall could be a simple, meaningless stumble, or it could lead to the revival of an old injury. You know your own body better than anyone else, so you need to listen to it and remember to rest whenever you need to.

To ensure you have the best experience, here are a few mental tips for your first practice.

  1. Patience: Build the foundation of your body, take your time to get into postures with grace rather than jerking into them
  2. Awareness: Check your body for alignment cues that your teacher will provide you either verbally or visually
  3. Humility: Maybe you could do backbends when you were 12, but it’s been a while since then and this is not the time to try. Keep your mind on your own mat, with a consistent practice, that strength will return, and when that day comes you’ll be ready for that full wheel.

These are key for getting the best out of your yoga experience.

If you want to know what physical requirements to expect behind the doors to the yoga studio, click here.

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