Thursday, August 30, 2012

Thinking about yoga?

Yoga is something that have always intrigued me. Who doesn't love the idea of a cute yoga outfit and standing on your head to find your inner zen?!
Well, if you have ever taken a yoga class, it doesn't always roll out that way. You walk into a yoga studio  and you are surrounded by beautiful people that have expensive mats and perfect yoga bodies. Immediately you start thinking that you are in the wrong place. You can barely touch your toes and they want you to put your foot behind your head? thanks, I will stick to child's pose from the next hour.

There is no doubt that yoga can be intimating, but the beauty of yoga is that it is essentially time that you dedicate to yourself to do what your body wants.  I am not a person that has regularly taken yoga classes, but as I have incorporated lots of running and Crossfit workouts in my life, I have found that the 5 mins of stretching and rolling out I do before my workouts is just not enough. My body aches from the physical demands I put on it and I'm emotionally drained from all that life has thrown at me, so the least I can do is spend an hour or more just focusing on something that makes me feel good and yoga does that for me.

Yes, yoga classes can be scary and yes, you will probably see your yoga teach stand on his/her head, but that is not what yoga is about.  A yoga teacher is there to guide you through poses and provide guidance on body alignment and your fellow yogis may have been taking yoga classes for decades to get to the place they are at now, but let me let you in on a little yoga secret.... there is nothing wrong with going into a yoga class, rolling out your mat and sitting in child's pose for the whole hour.   Seriously, this is allowed. You will not be reprimanded or ridiculed, rather your yoga teacher will honor your intention and is basically happy to just see your face in class.  Think of your yoga teacher as a guide that is helping you find your own way. Whatever way that is, is the right way. What ever pose you find yourself in, is the right pose. Whatever pace you are going, is the right pace. Get where I am going?

If you feel up to it, you can work at the poses at your pace and do what your body allows you to do. Everyone in your yoga class is there for the same reason, to focus on themselves. For some people, this is the only hour of their week that they can fully dedicate to themselves. So, does the person next to you care about how high up you can lift your left? Nope, not one bit. They care that you honor their space and have common yoga courtesy.

While I only fit in a yoga class once or twice a week, I continue to learn more about my ability on the yoga mat and the benefits of taking the time to focus on my breathing and my movements.  I have found that clearing my mind to just think about the flow of my body and breath is not an easy thing to do.  For me, it is actually the hardest part about yoga. I have a million things racing in my head and I am constantly having to remind myself to come back to being in the "now".  And that is what I love about yoga. For that hour, I am unconcerned with the world around me and am focusing on my "now" and that is all that is expected of me. No more, no less.

So my suggestion to anyone thinking about yoga is to remember that you are there for yourself. Don't walk into the yoga studio and scan the room to measure up those in attendance, rather walk in, roll out your mat, close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and set your intention for the next hour. Your intention could be as simple as " I am here for the next hour and will not look at my cell phone." or "I am here for the next hour and will remember to fully breath in and breath out for each pose." Your intention can be anything you want it to be, but make it and allow yourself the time to fully embrace that intention. While the physical benefits of yoga are numerous, I also find just having the time to breath and clear your mind is invaluable.

Don't want to take the leap of stepping into a yoga studio? Classes too expensive?  There are still options! There are free yoga apps that you can download on your phone that guide you through standard yoga poses and you can also find endless videos on YouTube of yoga instruction.  I have also used and love it! You can download free 20 min sessions and do them in the comfort of your living room. This is a great option for people that travel! Yoga in your hotel room! (there is a great yoga sessions for runners that I love!)

I do recommend that you try out an in-person class at least once or twice. There are always organizations that sponsor free community classes. Find one and try it out. It is extremely helpful to have a teacher to help you with poses and  you will pick up on important pieces of advice during your class.

Yoga is really for any age, ability, and size.  Your yoga is what you make of it and the more you practice the more you will find yourself going back to it when your body and emotions need time to recharge.

So as they say... NAMASTE.

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