In a couple of weeks I am heading to Koh Sumui, Thailand to complete a Yoga Teacher Training course at Vikasa www.vikasayoga.com and I’m beyond excited!
My yoga journey started when I was 21 and was suffering from really bad back problems. I was literally developing a hunchback and I remember my first class I almost passed out doing a simple back stretch. I was definitely no natural! I would never in a million years have thought then that I would one day decide to be a teacher myself. I was incredibly inflexible, my body was just ridiculously tight and I couldn’t stand the idea of meditating; I thought it was boring and pointless to be quite honest and I would become restless and stressed just at the thought of having to lie still. I spent the next 3 years practicing Iyenger Yoga, which uses a lot of props and is much slower in pace and focuses on precise alignment. I was practicing simply to try and fix my back problems and that was it. Then, after a rough break up, I found that being on my yoga mat was the one place that I felt truly safe. I used to practice one to one with my Iyenger teacher and I would often find myself crying. It became my haven, a place where I could open my body and mind and let my emotions flow freely, even if that meant feeling through the pain. I suddenly realised that yoga meant so much more to me than I had realised.
Over the next couple of years I started exploring Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Hot and Yin Yoga and it changed my life. It has released the tensions in my body, changed my shape, strengthened my muscles and given me invaluable mental calm, serenity and patience. I am still not the most flexible yogi by any means, but I love it, commit to it and in return it brings me so much joy and peace. It’s truly one of the things I am most grateful for in my life.
The reason I decided to become a teacher is because I want to make yoga accessible to people who are convinced that it’s not for them. I constantly hear people saying “oh, I could never do yoga I can’t even touch my toes” as if we have to be good at yoga to begin. I get it, we see all these insane poses all over Instagram and go into classes and see people with their legs behind their heads and it is intimidating and it’s so easy to be totally put off. We are so often shown this “end goal” idea of yoga and forget about the journey. We all have to start somewhere, it doesn’t matter how tight and rigid you think you are, that’s ok! That’s what yoga is here to help you with. I also hear people saying that they think yoga is boring and ‘not a real workout’. Well, I can honestly say my body never feels stronger or more defined than when I’m practicing regularly and when you’re going through an intense yoga flow you really don’t have much time to be bored.
I don’t want to sound like I’m being a yoga pusher, but I REALLY believe that yoga can just do so much for each and every one of us. It teaches us so much both mentally and physically that we can take into every aspect of our life. With all the work I do with mental health, I recommend this to everybody I come across as I really believe it is something that can really help us all for our overall wellbeing.
So, here are my top tips for starting yoga:
FORGET ABOUT BEING ‘GOOD’
Yoga is not about an end result, it truly is about your journey, however cliché that might sound. So forget any ideas you have about what being ‘good’ at yoga means, and don’t worry about what you look like. We all start somewhere, the key is just to start.
Find Your Type
I find that a lot of people to go and try one yoga class and they don’t enjoy that first class and they are put off forever! But there are so many different types of yoga and you just need to find what is the best fit for you. These are the types of yoga I think are great for beginners:
Iyenger Yoga: Slow but precise, this class will increase your flexibility gently while teaching you how to align your body properly. This will give you a great foundation for your practice when you go into faster or more advanced classes.
Yin Yoga: In Yin you hold a posture for 3-5 minutes so that your body can relax and open in a meditative state. This is great for activating the parasympathetic nervous system meaning you’ll leave with lower stress levels, have better sleep and feel that zen. If you like the meditation side of yoga but feel you’re body is stiff, this is a great way to gently open up so that you can move on to other practices.
Vinyasa Yoga: You go through a flow so your heart rate will go up, you’ll work up a sweat while building strength and increasing your flexibility and balance. If you go to this class, don’t worry about what everyone else is doing, some people will be more advanced then others, but follow your breath and just do what you can. If you need a break, there is always childs pose available so that you can slow down for a moment.
Don’t Go Full
I’ve made the mistake of doing yoga on a full stomach before and it didn’t feel too good. Try to eat at least 2 hours before a class to make the most of the session and to really feel the benefits!
If your teacher adjusts you during class, don’t feel downhearted or that you’re ‘doing it wrong’, we all need help and adjustment no matter what level we are at!
Embrace The Meditation
If you’re anything like I used to be, the meditation at the end filled me with dread. But, just like anything else in life, practice is the key. Don’t worry if you can’t switch off and you find it difficult, the more you do it the easier it becomes. I know I keep saying it, but remember it’s the journey not the end result. I’ve only just mastered it in the last few months and WOW, I truly feel so much calmer and more relaxed in my day to day life!
Yoga is a practice that really gives back what you put in. I find that practicing at least 2-3 times a week, especially at the beginning, is the best way to really start to see changes and results.
I hope I’ll be able to meet some of you in my classes when I am back!
Lots of Love and Namaste
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