This is for the student who has yet begun their journey on a yoga mat. This is for all of you who have considered starting a yoga practice, have heard amazing things about yoga or who have been told by their doctors to “take up yoga”. This is for all of you who don’t know how to start or are too intimidated to take that first step. This is for you.
Most importantly…when you are new to the yoga practice it’s okay to be a beginner. It is impossible to instantly know what to do, how to behave, how to move and breathe. I welcome with open arms students who walk into the studio who say, “I’ve never done yoga. I am not flexible. Where do I go? What do I do?” It is an important place to start.
You are a beginner. Take solace in that fact. And what many beginning students don’t realize is that experienced yogis work at staying a “beginner” and maintaining the “beginners mind”. We try to come to our mat each day with beginning eyes and experience what it feels like to move and breathe on each day separate than the last. You are in a good place. Allow yourself to start exactly where you are!
Ask questions. Be curious. Just listen and feel. Let the rhythm of the class, the movement, the words and the community just wash over you at first. Be open and don’t try so hard. Know that you have all that you need and give yourself and your teacher the time to get to know your body. A practice will unfold for you when you give it time and patience. It is possible at any age, ability or circumstance.
Once you begin you may discover that a yoga practice is more challenging than you had expected. Yoga movement uses the whole body and you will discover new parts of your body that you seldom call upon. You will discover movement patterns, habits and movement compensations that you have been using up till this point.
Challenge doesn’t always just present itself physically. Sometimes our mind creates the biggest stumbling block. You may find that you are challenged mentally with being still or quiet and focused; or it may be physically with a lack of functional movement or a limited range of motion. Body awareness is a valuable skill and it will be honed and developed in a yoga practice. But it takes time, so be patient with yourself. Many days you will walk away from your mat feeling mad, sad, tired, confused, elated, calm or energized. We learn to welcome it all.
A personal yoga practice can also be even more rewarding than you could have ever imagined! A yoga practice will begin to transform you the moment you begin in major ways and in very subtle ways. Yoga is healing. You will discover that your stamina, strength and flexibility (physically and mentally) will grow. Yoga helps us age gracefully and beautifully. It strengthens the mind and the spirit. A consistent yoga practice teaches us resilience and how to find peace in many life experiences. A yoga practice can be a catalyst for truth and it will beam a shining light on your own natural intelligence, grace and ease. You will learn that your greatest teacher will be your own body.
But a practice doesn’t unfold on its own. It requires and easy and sustainable effort. The rewards don’t come without the challenges. Every peak has a valley. If you practice, yoga will transform your life, but you need to practice. So be brave, venture into the unknown and take that first step and feel how yoga can settle into your own body.
Enjoy the journey!