Ever wonder if yoga is right for you? You are not alone! I have been teaching Hatha Yoga for Beginners for 12 years, and introducing new students to yoga is such an honor and a great learning experience for me. Over the years of working with my students, I have worked with many body types, injuries, flexibility and inflexibility. My students have no idea how much they teach me, and here are a few lessons that I hope you find helpful in deciding if yoga is right for you.
Many of my first time yoga students arrive a little nervous that they will not be able to keep up, do the postures or even be able to get up and down off the floor. I think for many, the idea of yoga is touching your nose to your knee, standing on your head and turning yourself into a human pretzel. After years of dedication and practice, many things will be achieved in the body, even becoming a human pretzel. But in the beginning, being able to sit on the floor comfortably and for an extended period of time is a great place to start, and that is where I meet my beginners.
In many yoga practices, sitting in seated crossed legged is part of the foundation. My students spend the first 10 minutes of each class in seated crossed legged, scanning the body, breathing and becoming aware of the vehicle (the body) that moves them through the world. Not everybody is comfortable in seated crossed legged, so finding “seated comfortable” is important for many students. I have some students that sit with legs extended out in front of them, others use blocks in between the thigh and the floor to make seated crossed leg more comfortable. Many students sit on cushions or blankets to allow the hips to open, and some even sit on chairs or backs against the wall.
Once each student has found “seated comfortable”, I begin each class by encouraging my students to scan the body, checking in the see how the muscles feel, and bringing awareness to the quality of breath and mind that they have brought to class. Throughout each and every class we are working on relaxing the body, mind and breath, and creating body awareness. We tend to run so hard and fast through our lives, we take very little time to be present with ourselves and that to me is the key when working with my students, taking the time to be present and aware. This lesson of becoming present and listening to the body is part of a good yoga foundation.
Throughout my yoga classes I teach that the breath is your key to settling into your body. Through the breath, you are able to still the mind and relax the body. I often tell my students that the breath is there to entertain the mind, especially when we find our bodies in a position that is challenging and we hear our minds telling us we can’t. If we follow the breath, we can clear the mind and relax the body; and most of the time we see, WE CAN do some of these great yoga postures with ease.
In the beginning I show many modifications of postures to help people learn to work around and with their bodies needs. My students are encouraged to use blocks, straps, blankets, pillows and anything else they need to make their yoga practice a relaxing and comfortable experience. In the world we live in we are taught to push ourselves in a way that causes stress to our body, mind and spirit; through yoga we are learning to follow our body’s needs and use props (support) when we need them.
In finding out if yoga is right for you; I would suggest starting with a yoga teacher in the beginning, even if for a brief time. Working with a teacher that focuses on beginners, or gentle yoga is a great place to start. Building a good foundation for your practice is similar to building a foundation for your house. You start with the foundation and work up, from the bottom to the top. Learning where to place your feet in postures, where the hands go, what directions the joints should face, and where the eyes should gaze are all part of a good yoga foundation. A good teacher will provide you with a solid foundation and will hopefully ignite the spark that you need to commit to a regular yoga practice.
Yoga is something that is not only used in class and on your mat, but a practice that you can take with you everywhere you go. Many of the postures, breathing exercises and mind clearing techniques can be used anywhere. You could take a moment at your desk, or on your commute to work to check in with the body, relax and release muscles, clear the mind, follow the breath and rejuvenate yourself, even if just for a moment and no one else has to know.
Yoga has been a constant in my life, something that has been with me for 22 years, even when other things have come and gone. I have seen remarkable transformations in myself and in my yoga students over the years, thanks to the devotion and commitment to a regular yoga practice. I hope that if you are interested in yoga, you will take the first step toward finding a teacher that is right for you. Yoga was one of the best gifts I have ever given myself, and my hope is you will love yoga as much as I do!
I would love to hear your yoga stories! Share in the comments below, you never know, your story may be the one that inspires someone else to step onto a yoga mat for the first time! And I’m glad to answer any questions that you may have about yoga, so don’t hesitate to ask!
-Namaste, Carly Burke