Yes I just made a new verb :)
Broga Melbz has a new beginners class beginning soon (yay!), so I thought it would be a timely to cover some things you can do to prepare for starting yoga.
Yoga is as much a workout for the mind as the body, so I'm not talking about physical stretches here (although feel free to do a few of those if you like - no need to though!) but rather ways to get into a good headspace for the yoga class ahead. When I was looking for some info on this subject I found someone had already written this article perfectly ("How to Mentally Prepare for a Yoga Class" by Pam Gaulin) so I will be borrowing very generously from this.
Pam came up with seven basic tips, which I will repeat with my own 2c.
1. "Tell Yourself Yes"
A lot of people are reluctant to start yoga and tell themselves "No" before they even begin. "No, I can't sit still" "No, I need to sweat" "No, I can't relax" etc. Any of these sound familiar? Yes, yoga is about stillness... of the mind. It is about stilling the mind, but at the same time as moving the body. Some yoga classes are very active, and if you want to you can definitely find one to get your sweat on to whichever degree you prefer (Bikram yoga anyone?) So try putting the misconception you will be sitting still for an hour (far from it!) aside and say "Yes" to giving yoga a try.
I would extend this "Yes" to during the class, once you make it (yay for you!) Sometimes the very thing we need is the thing we also most resist. Less active people might resent a more physically challenging class, but actually need the energy and vitality this may give them. Or people who find it "hard" to relax may actively dislike a class that is slower and more reflective - but find in actual fact slowing down the mind is exactly what they need - so watch that. Observe what you resist, say "yes" anyways and see how you feel afterwards. You may be pleasantly surprised (and that includes saying "yes" to a (safe) degree of discomfort and pain!)
2. Forget the grocery list
Yes! This is a biggie! We are so used to the chatter in the mind, that it seems natural to bring this into our yoga class. Don't! As Pam says "Yoga is supposed to be down time for your mind" (doesn't that sound lovely, or is that just me?!) If you find yourself doing this there are plenty of other things to focus on - namely your breath in and out, the teachers instructions on where to place the various parts of your body, how your body feels in the pose, the whereabouts of your limbs, hands, feet, shoulders, spine, torso... you get the picture. NOT who said what on facebook, what to get at the shops, where you are going on holidays etc etc!
If we are not focused our interest wanes, and our awareness wanders. Instead of "switching off" from the class back into your usual ruminations, switch "on" your attention from outwards to inwards. When attention wavers - return it to the breath. You will probably need to do this again and again and again, but this is good... congratulations you are now doing yoga :)
3. "Do not compete with other students"
Don't worry if the student next to you can get further into a pose, it has nothing to do with you and your practice. We all have different histories, not to mention our levels of flexibility can be hereditary - not much you can do about that! "What matters is that you are focused on your own yoga practice and your own body"... Sing it Pam!
4. "Learn to Listen"
In each asana (pose) there is only so much you can learn from simply observing and copying the teacher, especially if they are facing you - making left and right a very confusing prospect! By honing your listening skills not only will you be able to move the correct arm/ leg/ foot etc you will also get the benefits of learning about the many subtle (and often difficult to outwardly observe) movements involved in each pose. Poses are not static, even if you appear to be holding them still, and by listening you will learn the adjustments you need to make to your body to get the maximum out of each one.
5. "Do not be self conscious"
Even if you fart :)
No-one is there to watch you. They are there for their own practice and the benefits they want to get from it. Same with the teacher. They are just glad you are there, giving it a go!
6. "Listen to your body"
As I mentioned earlier there is an amount of "pain" in yoga - but it is always safe pain. The way to tell the difference is by listening to your body, and respecting what it tells you. Minor manageable discomfort is fine, but actual pain is not. If you ever feel like you will be injured getting further into a pose, STOP and get straight out of it. Don't continue just because your neighbor is doing it (see #3) By paying attention to your body you will know the correct and safe limitations for you.
7. "It's the journey, not the destination"
Okay, give me this cheesiness... because in this case it's truuuuuuuuue! The final pose isn't the "goal" in yoga, rather it's the moving in and out of it mindfully with the breath that constitutes our practice. Enjoy it! And enjoy the relaxation and renewed energy you will receive when you practice yoga this way.
Okay brogis, hope this was helpful. I found it useful to be reminded of these things so at least it has been good for something! Looking forward to a few more of you saying "Yes"... see you on the mat :)