Think of yoga, and you may think of flexibility and strength or people sitting perfectly in Lotus pose… But these are not the only ways to do yoga . If you are new to yoga, there are many other ways to access this ancient (yet still highly relevant) practice, even before you step into a studio…
Notice your movements
In my classes, I’m always bringing people’s awareness back to noticing what they’re doing, to noticing the feelings of the pose. In fact, this act of noticing can be seen to be more important than the actual doing of the pose.
This can be extended out into the world, into all our movements. You might be walking the dog, doing the washing up, surfing or even just putting your socks on. Any movement is essentially yogic if you are focussing on that movement, being aware of it.
In a yoga class, the teacher will suggest* movements to you and, if they’re a good teacher, they will keep encouraging you to notice whatever there is to notice about the movement. But you don’t have to be in a yoga class to begin that process. You can do it wherever you are in the world.
* Notice how I don’t use the word direct or instruct – there’s not ‘one way’ to do yoga. It’s very individual.
Oh, if my regulars have heard this once, they’ve heard it a thousand and one times! Yoga is all about the breath! My teacher, Fabio Fabbri, says that he has had more success with students by focussing on the breath than on the poses. He suggests that newer students focus just as much, if not more, on the breath (in and out of classes) rather than on the poses. However, this is sometimes easier said than done, as lots of people want to “do” yoga for the perceived immediate physical benefits.
Breathing deeply and efficiently is one of the quickest and easiest ways to release stress from the body and the mind. It directly and immediately affects our nervous system, especially when the exhale is lengthened. You move from persistent “fight or flight” mode and into “rest and digest” mode. This switch has way more benefits to it than I can list here. In fact, I’ll probably write another post on that at some point!
The best part about this? You can do it anywhere – you don’t have to be in a yoga studio.
And if you want to double the benefits: combine the act of noticing with the act of breathing. You’ll be well on your way to becoming a proficient yogi in no time at all.
Try yoga online
There are so many different types of yoga and sooooooooooo many teachers. How on earth do you choose the right one, especially if going to a studio is daunting for you?
Well, why not try it online first? This will give you the opportunity to try out different styles and see what resonates with you. There are plenty of free yoga classes online – just Google it or try YouTube.
It’ll also give you an idea of your preferred style of teacher. There’s a big difference between a soft-spoken teacher who prioritises breath and a fast-talking teacher who’s keen to make you sweat!
I have some online classes available for free on YouTube – check them out!
Note about safety – please be very careful and always stay within your limits when practising at home without a teacher present!
Move your body however feels good for you
OK so yes, in yoga there are defined postures or poses, but really (from a physical perspective) yoga is about moving the body. The movement doesn’t have to have a complicated Sanskrit name, or tie you into knots, or even be an “official” yoga pose.
You can shake your arms and legs, or squeeze your shoulder-blades together, or lift your shoulders up to your ears and then drop them again.
Bonus points for breathing as you do this; double points for breathing and noticing!
Meditation is a big part of yoga, and for some it may be a much more accessible way in. And there are loads of ways to meditate!
If you already meditate – you’re well on your way.
If not, why not give it a go? Meditation, just like yoga, doesn’t have to done in a formal setting. You can simply sit on park bench and notice the sound of the birds or the waves or your breath (or anything else!) for a few minutes.
Just like yoga, there’s plenty of ways to try meditation for free online (my favourite is the Headspace app which has a free trial).
So, If you’re nervous about stepping into the yoga world, try one of these techniques first. It might give you the confidence to finally book that class…