Then one night, just a few years ago, I was running late and missed my Spin class. I was already at the gym and the only other class left on the schedule was yoga. Ditching my sneakers for the mat, I ventured in and set up in the back of class, fully prepared to be beyond bored for the next hour.
But the exact opposite happened: I didn’t expect to leave the studio so excited; I was already yearning to take another class. Turns out, yoga isn’t all OM-ing and chanting. Actually, it wasn’t at all what I thought it would be like. I’ve now been practicing yoga regularly for almost two years, and while I continue to discover more about myself (and my practice) with each class, these are the things I wish had known before spending more time on the mat.
1. It’s called a “practice” for a reason.
I always thought it was weird that people referred to yoga as their “practice.” It sounded so pretentious. But it makes complete sense. There’s no end game in yoga; no big “race day,” nothing specific you’re training for. It’s a constant work in progress, and you can almost always take a pose further or make it more challenging. (I also learned that calling it a “practice” alleviated a lot of stress or pressure during each class or pose. Didn’t stick Crow today? Maybe next time!)
2. It’s not just about stretching and being flexible.
Getting bendy is certainly one of the benefits of adapting a regular yoga practice, but a common misconception is that you have to be flexible just to show up, or to practice at all. Lies! You don’t have to be anything to do yoga (except willing and open-minded). When I try to get my runner friends to join me for yoga, they always say, “I can’t even touch my toes.” Great! So come to yoga — it will help you get there.
3. Using a block, strap or other prop doesn’t make you a D-list yogi.
For the entire first year I did yoga, I would never modify my poses. I always wanted to do the “advanced” moves. To show that I didn’t need any of that stuff. But then I eventually realized that using props — like putting your bottom hand on a block instead of straining to reach the floor during Triangle Pose or Half Moon — could help deepen the pose. And it feels way better, especially on those days when everything just feels extra tight.
4. You can take breaks whenever you need to or want to.
In most yoga classes, you’ll be moving, flowing or in a pose from start to finish. Don’t wait for the teacher to tell you to drink water or come into Child’s Pose. Just try not to conveniently take Child’s Pose or a sip of water every time Wheel Pose rolls around. It’s not so bad. (OK, maybe it is. Whatever.) Continue reading >>