So You Want to Do Yoga: 8 Tips for Beginners
Yoga is not new in the Philippines, it’s been around since the ’70s. Nonetheless, yoga studios have been sprouting like mushrooms around Metro Manila and there is a resurgence of interest, especially with “new” variations such as heated or Bikram yoga, acro-yoga and even laughter yoga.
While the term “yoga” comes from a system that includes exercise, breathing, thought process and tenets for way-of-living, the popular definition and understanding is that yoga is generally a physical activity (and, therefore, a form of exercise) that emphasizes breathing.
While chanting and meditation (and underlying ideologies) can come with it, most yoga studios offer just the exercise component. (Whew, I know right?)
So, you think you want to give it a go. But where to start? How to psychologically and emotionally prepare oneself for bending one’s body into a pretzel shape? Fear not! Here are 8 tips for yoga beginners.
8. Ask around
While taking the plunge and walking into your nearest neighborhood yoga studio can be exciting and adventurous, you may want to ask around first. Friends can give valuable testimonials of which yoga studios will be worth your time and effort. They may also know of studios that are nearby that you didn’t know were there. (“There’s one around the corner?! Since when? I’ve been going to the one in the other city!”)
Compare prices and ask about the training and experience of a studio’s instructors. Ask also about the particular style or styles of yoga that a studio offers. Popular these days is vinyasa flow, a series of poses that are done while linking either an inhale or exhale for each part of a pose. You could get a small warm, fuzzy, excited feeling when you hit on a style while going through the descriptions. No, you’re not having an anxiety attack, it’s your gut feel telling you that it’s THE ONE for you. After you try that style, try the others, too.
6. Bring a towel and extra underwear
You know your own body. But yoga first timers sometimes meet parts of their body they never knew existed. (Hello excretory system, I didn’t realize you were still alive!) While most studios rent towels, save money and avoid potential grossness by bringing your own fluffy, absorbent towels. While not all yoga styles are physically demanding, if you’re not used to physical exertion, you may be in for a surprise. And yes, if you don’t want to walk around with wet garments after class, make sure to bring a change of clothes. (Some people actually take class in swimwear.)
5. Bring a water bottle
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Taking sips throughout your class is fine. Especially for Bikram yoga (a specific series of poses done in a heated room) and other heated yoga classes. Just remember not to gulp down water, your tummy is not going to like you very much when you do poses that require you to bend over, twist or be upside down. Eventually, your body evens out and you’ll have a better handle on how much water you’ll need. It’s better to have a water bottle on hand and not need it than crawling out of class almost collapsing from thirst.
4. Do a regular-level class first
So many styles, so many levels of challenge per style, so overwhelmingly confusing! Talk to the front desk staff or one of the teachers. They will patiently and encouragingly explain each kind of style. Within the vinyasa flow style are levels of difficulty though taking a regular class will allow you to figure out where you’re at. If you haven’t been exercising or are coming into yoga from an illness, a regular class might be too hard on you and you can opt to take the gentler classes. If you’re a hardcore athlete and find a regular class too easy, then you can opt for the more difficult classes.
3. Trust your body
Wherever you’re at physically, trust your own body. The instructors repeat this reminder again and again, and again. If you can’t bend over to touch your toes, don’t. Don’t risk injury for the sake of ego. That’s not the point of yoga. As cliché and corny as it sounds, it’s the journey, not the destination, blah blah blah. The point is to use yoga to help condition your body until one day, boom!—your fingers say hello to your toes. And after that, to maintain it. (And to eventually insert your entire palm under the sole of your feet, hehehe.)
2. Do not compare
Yoga is not a competition. No matter how tempting it is to, never compare yourself to your classmates. Yes, you look to the long-practicing students to see how a pose is done but don’t feel bad if you can’t do (yet!) whatever it is they’re doing. This is your practice, not theirs. You have your own level (and reasons for taking up yoga) and it’s up to you how yoga will help you. Every class, every day, every body and everybody is different.
1. Have fun
Learning something new can be scary and confusing, let’s admit that. But it is also fun and, most of the time, funny. Come on, the names alone of some of the poses are giggle-fits just waiting to happen. (Adho mukha whatsit now?) Falling over yourself in attempting to get into a pose? Laugh. Even instructors make mistakes. This isn’t an accountancy board exam. Stand up and try again. Don’t forget to breathe. And smile.