Don’t worry you actually are not alone! A lot of people are actually curious about yoga. What is it? You have to be really flexible right? Yoga is for girls, right? All and all, the yoga world is quite intimidating to those who feel they know nothing or believe they can’t do yoga because they can’t touch their toes.
The best part about yoga is that it is actually for everyone! Yep, even you guys who can’t touch your toes. The good news is that yoga doesn’t discriminate! Yoga; approached in the correct way is about spending time with yourself, listening to what your body or mind tells you it actually needs. Yes, your body and mind are sending you messages all day long. You just have to listen.
As a yoga practicioner and instructor, I hear all sorts of excuses from various newbies all the time. Here are the popular excuses that I hear:
1. I am not flexible. I can’t touch my toes. My body won’t bend into a pretzel.
2. I think I am to old to learn.
3. I don’t want a sleepy time workout. I want to actually sweat.
4. It is a religion and I’m a Christian.
5. I’m not a vegetarian. I like meat.
6. I’m too fat.
7. I don’t want to look stupid. I can’t do what that girl is doing in the picture.
8. Yoga is for girls. I’m a guy.
Oh, I could go on and on and on…
Why do I bring this up? Well it is because I recently learned that my Dad was curious about yoga. (We don’t live in the same town). He is a social worker and attends conferences to earn CECs. Well at one particular conference, there was a yoga class and workshop being held by a very well known yoga practitioner. (I won’t mention her name). Anyways, my Dad decided to buy a mat and go. He set up towards the front of the room since he was new and wanted to see the instructor. (Good plan so he thought). Apparently, she didn’t have the time or patience to deal with a newbie and made Dad move to the back. Well, as you can guess that sent a big time negative message to my Dad enough that he didn’t pursued yoga after that. He doesn’t even know where he put his mat.
This horrified me. I hate to hear stuff like this. As a newbie, you should never be made to feel that you don’t belong. Yoga is for everyone! I’m not saying this “not feeling like you belong” experience will happen to you. Dad had a unique experience. But, you never know, maybe you’ll be made to feel like an “outcast” too. I hope not though.
If you are wondering, yes I got ahold of both my parents and gave these special newbies all the attention in the world as VIPs! The nice thing now is both my parents are asking me questions and they have bought a restorative video. PROGRESS!
But I get it if you would like to try it without feeling like you aren’t good enough or don’t belong. I offer an alternative. Read on…
Well, do you rent DVDs? Do you possibly go to the gym, YMCA, or community center? Do you like to read? How about YouTube? I ask these questions because you can at least introduce yourself to yoga privately this way and learn the poses. I get that maybe going to a “Yoga Studio” is very intimidating especially to newbies and if you do go, you’ll go with a friend too. Heck, I was in your shoes too once back in the day.
I will tell you that I started exploring this format called “yoga” back in 2000 when it became a class at the gym I was a member of. And I didn’t know what it was, had to peek often when the instructor queued the poses since I didn’t know what the heck she meant. Yep, I said gym, not studio. Maybe you might have not even known yoga was on your gym’s schedule. You should take a look and see if it is.
The gym is a great place to learn about yoga in a non intimidating setting. Now why do I say that, you ask?
Here is why. First of all, it is in a familiar place that you possibly frequent a lot. So not some foreign place. Second, you won’t be the first or even the only newbie in the class. In fact, yoga is growing more and more in popularity so chances are you won’t be a newbie for long. Another reassuring thing is that most gym setting yoga classes keep it simple in that you won’t likely do crazy stuff like a “handstand” in the middle of the room. The instructor speaks English when he or she guides you through the poses or if they mention a pose in Sanskrit, it is immediately followed by the English translation. And then, people wear regular gym clothes to class, not Speedos or high fashion which is great because that might be a little uncomfortable. Also, most gyms have the most important piece of yoga equipment and that is a mat. And maybe one of the most important reasons is price! The yoga class probably doesn’t cost extra or if it does I bet the price is no where near that of a studio.
So you have decided to come to a yoga class at your local gym. Congratulations! Here is what you can expect or do to prepare. Some Yoga 101… or if you prefer Yoga for Dummies.
1. Check the schedule to see when yoga is offered. It will likely be listed as “Yoga,” “Stretch,” “Flow,” or even some combination such as “Slow Flow Yoga.” Once you decide on a class, show up approximately 10-15 minutes prior to class. Introduce yourself to the instructor and tell he or she that you are new. This will prompt the instructor to help you get set up and learn about special issues or conditions that you might have so you’ll experience a successful class. At the very least, grab a sticky mat (these are usually rolled up) verses a regular thick fitness mat. If foam blocks are available, take one or two. Also, straps are great if the gym has those. However, in lieu of a strap, there are options such as resistance bands and towels. Also, if class is super crowded, you’ll want to stagger your mat so arms can laterally extend without smacking your mat neighbor! Not that a little love tap doesn’t hurt, but I’m betting you’d rather get to know your mat neighbor via conversation instead.
2. If you happen to have purchased your own yoga mat, be sure to give it a good scrubbing with some type of cleaning solution. Yoga mats are coated with this slippery residue to protect them while they are in packaging. The scrubbing will remove the residue and help make you make sticky as in better grip. This is a good thing. (Hopefully, you didn’t get talked into buying some super expensive mat for your beginning practices. Expensive mats can come later. I recommend a Gaiam mat).
3. Wear regular gym clothes. Ladies may want to wear a form fitting Cami top or men/ladies wear a T-Shirt that can stay tucked in as you move in various directions. Wear shorts, capris, or pants. No shoes. Yoga is practiced barefoot. If there is a shoe storage zone, remove your shoes and leave them there.
4. Bring a water bottle and a towel. The towel can be small. You’ll use it to wipe the sweat from your forehead.
5. Time your meals around the yoga class. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did. Maybe eat 2-3 hours prior or wait till after class to eat assuming it hasn’t been a lengthy chunk of time since you last ate (don’t want you to get light headed). There is nothing worse than being in Downward Facing Dog with a full stomach or maybe feeling a little gassy.
6. Yoga rooms are meant to be stress free zones. Leave your cell phone in the locker. If an instructor can dim or shut off lights, they most likely will. This helps contribute towards a calming environment.
7. This may seem like a no brainer, but the instructor will que for all to breath. Breathing is a huge part of the practice! It can be used to keep you calm. (Ever have a baby? Remember “Lamaze breathing” and how it kept you focused and calm? Same idea in yoga). Never hold your breath.
8. Enjoy class! Listen to your body and know that it’s OK to take a break when you need it.
About Kristen’s classes: I have a page here on this blog that I keep current. Definitely, come see me. I absolutely love new people! You will never be made to feel you don’t belong.
What about those DVDs? Well as you probably know there are a lot out there. But if you want to check out or purchase a “good” video, I highly recommend anything by Rodney Yee. You’ll see him in a lot of “Gaiam” (a wellness company) videos. Doubt you’ll be disappointed with Rodney Yee.
YouTube is great because it is free. If you have a laptop or tablet, YouTube can be great. Search for “Yoga with Halaria,” “Tara Stiles,” or “YogaToday.” These are all good ones.
When you take the yoga path, remember it is a practice and not a perfect; a journey, not a destination!