Considering attempting this 5000 year old practice that has somehow become a modern phenomenon? Nervous? Don’t be. Here are a few secrets to know before you jump in.
1) What To Wear
Back in 2000 when I first began exploring Yoga I would show up for classes in anything from whatever I had worn to class that day to my running shorts and a tank. "Active Wear" was not a thing. It wasn't until I started attending classes at a local gym that I began to seek out clothing that would better allow me to stretch out and bend my body.
There's no need to go shopping for the "right" clothing to wear to your first Yoga class. Wear whatever you feel most comfortable in. A little hint: before you choose those tights you ordered online, do a forward fold with a mirror behind you and make sure they aren't too revealing.
2) What to Bring
You don't need any special tools to do Yoga. In fact, Yoga mats are a modern phenomenon. It wasn't until B.K.S. Iyengar came onto the scene that things like blocks, straps and bolsters became synonymous with the practice of Asana. If you are in need of some extra support during the practice a good teacher will notice and provide you with assistance, a variation on the posture or improvise a tool.
Bring water and, if you have long hair, tie it back so that it is not a distraction during the class. How you look while you are doing Yoga is of little importance compared to how you feel.
3) What to Do
Observation is the key to learning anything. If you are just beginning practicing Yoga feel free to look at the teacher and around the room. This is not so you can compare yourself and attempt to be like everyone else, but more so to gather information and decide if this is the right place for you to be. We all get uncomfortable when outside of our elements, and a Yoga Asana class can certainly make you feel like you are on a different planet. The only way to learn more about what to do is to observe.
A good teacher will not only demonstrate the postures, but describe them well. Watch, listen and do your best to follow the instructions. The more you do, the more comfortable you will become.
4) What to Say
Personally, I like it when the studio is buzzing with conversation before I begin teaching. I think it is important to meet the people with whom you are sharing the room and the class. This helps everyone feel more comfortable practicing and helps to eliminate the "silent competition" that can be created when people do not talk to each other.
I also think it is important to ask questions. If the class you attend begins with a chant or invocation as what it means and why it is being done. If there is any sort of saying, expected practice or movements that everyone seems to know and join the only way you will learn is to ask why and how.
I recently took one of the worst practices I have ever attended. Had I been in the back of the room I may have walked out. I wasn’t. I was second row and far from the door. I had to make a decision and I chose to stay and do my own practice. I have never done that before. I have walked out of a poorly guided practice, just once. As a teacher I am comfortable allowing those who join my guided classes vary the postures, within reason, but if someone in one of my classes began doing completely different postures than the ones I was suggesting I would definitely be concerned.
Symmetry Is Important
Vinyasa translates to mean configuration, order, connection, composition. It is often translated as "a sequence of postures linked together to create flow." If you watch video of B.K.S. Iyengar you can see him both working slowly on the technique of the postures and then demonstrating that technique in Vinyasa.
Technique is the key to the grace and control of a postural flow. Each movement begins and ends in the same way. Everything done on the left, is then repeated on the right. The symmetry of the sequence and in technique creates the beauty of Vinyasa.
Learn How Your Body Moves
Have you tried belly dancing? Pole dancing? Ballet? Attempting any of these without first establishing the roots of the movements can result in serious injury. Yoga Asana should be seen in the same light. Don't jump into a Vinyasa practice. Learn how to move intelligently and then slowly increase the pace.
A rapid paced series of movements are useful when you already understand how to go though them slowly. Taking your time to feel each muscle engage and release, support and expand, gives you the awareness necessary to move more and more quickly in safe ways.
Find a Knowledgeable Guide
Thousands of people are now calling themselves Yoga instructors. Thousands of training programs exist. Thousands of Vinyasa classes are available. How are you to choose the "right" one?
Instead, begin with a more simple practice like Hatha. Even if you aren't new to the practice. These classes will help you to develop the roots you will need. The teacher should allow you the time to find and remain in the posture an experience all that happens while you are there. The sequence may repeat and build as you move through each new series. As you gain prowess in the postures, you can ask your teacher what class is most appropriate for you to attempt next.
Afterward, You Should Feel Good
After a quality Vinyasa practice you should not feel like you've had your ass kicked and a good workout. You should not be exhausted and beat up. Because you have prepared your body, mind and energy, the flow of movement and breath should give you a sense of inner awareness and depth of self. Your body should feel supple, your mind quiet. As you rest in savasana you may experience Nidra.
If you are ready to learn Asana techniques that will help you move toward Vinyasa join the practice at Lake Tahoe Yoga. Not sure where to begin? Contact us for suggestions.
One Thing at a Time
You may think that you are getting a lot done if you are doing many things at once. However, studies have proven that you actually complete less in the short-term when you multitask. Yoga provides us with the tools to expand our focus over time by offering guidance in the form of one practice at a time. To begin we address that which is most accessible; the body.
Discipline in Practice
Discipline is learned. Embedded within the eight limbs of Yoga are practices that are ineffective unless done with discipline. As we practice, consistently, we develop focus, control, awareness, discernment and more.
Consider the practice of Satya: non-lying or truthfulness. You may think, “I am not a liar.” According to Yoga; Satya is as much about what you say as what you do not say. It is a practice of consideration of your thoughts and words before they leave you; a practice of considering if what you are about to say will help or hurt yourself and others. Often, we will not realize we are lying until the words have left our mouths. Yoga teaches us to become observers of our behavior at all times. This discipline of observation helps us to become aware of habits that are rooted in self preservation. As we continue to practice, we refine our vision and begin to see more clearly.
The Resulting Heat
Have you ever made custard from scratch? In order to do so you must heat is slowly, over a period of time, while stirring constantly. The effect of the slow heat, time and consistent movement can result in a perfectly prepared custard. A lack of discipline and focus could lead to higher heat, shorter time and reduced movement resulting in an unconcealed liquid or a thick, gelatinous mess.
Tapas has many translations: heat, cook, purify, detoxify, zeal of practice, discipline, austerity. Tapas is both the means and the end. Through discipline in movement, breath, mindful focus, time, awareness, observation, effort, restoration, etc. we create heat, purification, detoxification, clarity, transparency, awareness of the Self. Our practice of creating Tapas results in Tapas. Our discipline results in discipline. Our focus begets focus.
The heat/intensity/discipline/passion of our practice cooks impurities out of us and refines us to our base - the Self.
More Than Poses
If you are ready to remove that which you do not need, lighten the load you carry daily, purify and clear away the impurities that poison you so that you spend each day feeling healthier, happier, more joy and ease in your life then you are ready to begin the practice of Yoga.
Chose wisely, for not every practice is guided equally. According to Hatha Yoga a Vinyasa (Flow) Practice is for the advanced practitioner. Would you begin running and start with 10 miles? Would you join a gym and on your first day and lift 100lbs? Approach Yoga in the same way. Begin with a practice that aligns with your current knowledge, strength, flexibility and ability levels. Begin here to develop the discipline and, as you create Tapas, you will know how to progress.
Everyone has their own preferences. Some of us are followers, some leaders, some travel to the beat of their own drum. Luckily, Yoga does not come with a rule book, but more so a set of guidelines.
Yoga is the practice of: Movement, Breath, Mindfulness, Focus, Awareness, Observation, Direction and Intention. Generally speaking, if you have all of that, then you are practicing Yoga and you can do so anywhere.
How to Practice Yoga
The fact that Yoga is a lifestyle and should be done everywhere is what makes it so great!
You can practice in a studio, on your lawn, upon a roof deck, on a boat, in an airplane, you name it! So, why haven't you tried Yoga yet?
Be A Beginner
We all begin at the beginning. Be forgiving of yourself when you try Yoga for the first time. No one knows all of the moves or understands what everything means upon their first try. If Yoga was easy, we wouldn't call it a practice.
How to prepare:
Be ready to really listen to your instructor or teacher.
Take your time and look around to see what others are doing.
Stay calm and take breaks as you need to.
Practice with Friends
Book a Group Private Session for yourself and your friends. In this way, you get to try out Yoga with people whom you have fun. You also might make some memories along the way and introduce some of your friends to something they never would have tried.
Get your colleges and coworkers together for a corporate practice. Who knows, it might even turn into a new tradition.
Seek out a unique offering that goes beyond that which is expected. Book a session that includes a boat ride, live music or cocktails to follow. Find a studio that offers on-location practices and have them visit your house, hotel or dock.
Focus Upon Your Self
Address your individual needs. Focus upon getting stronger, more flexible, sleep, energy, lifestyle or mental health. Learn how Yoga can be therapy.