Open Letter To A Beginner Yogi.
You’ve heard the health benefits. You’ve seen the glowing limbs contortioned into unimaginable shapes set against dramatic landscapes like art. Hell you’ve even watched the Goat Yoga videos on Youtube!
And you want some of that.
As you prepare to take you first legging clad step into the world of yoga here are the things I wish I’d known when I started Yoga.
"In all honesty my first experiences with yoga were not ones I look back on with a fond heart. I was desperate to love this thing I knew was so good for my mind body and soul but in reality these first attempts were spent in frustration and self consciousness – my mind was in knots as opposed to my body."
I had placed so much forceful expectation on what I thought yoga was supposed to be like, how I was supposed to be in class and ultimately the way it was supposed magically sort out all my problems, organise my messy head and allow me to levitate through the rest of my life.
A Journey for life
Now I see Yoga is a journey for life. When you approach it without an end goal, embracing the dynamic practice days as equal to the nourishing days when you spend your practice lying on your mat moving very little. It’s all the same, its all contributing to a sense of completeness, a joining of the yin and the yang. It’s all a practice. And it is my passion to convey my personal motto; practice not performance. What physically happens on the mat stays there. The good. The bad and the downright ugly poses.
Every day is different
One day you might be a high flying lizard, the next day you might be a very down dog – and that’s Ok! You may actually find you learn more about yourself in the days you really don’t want to be doing yoga – that’s often when we need it most. Take yourself out of the pose you are struggling with and notice if you are holding your breath? Inhale deeply and sigh it out. Are you tensing your tummy? Your cheeks? Your jaw? Let it go. When we struggle we often sub consciously hold tension in other areas of the body making things harder for ourselves. By finding the softness your body learns to relax into postures rather than force and exert itself in them. And just as we have good and bad days in work/relationships/life we have them on the mat too. Just take each day as it comes. Each practice as a learning and don’t be hard on yourself.
Just show up
Your presence is enough. Everything great in this world was developed piece by piece, bit by bit, from great architecture or cakes on the great British Bake Off, each stage contributes to its final wonder. From a 10 minute round of sun salutations to a deeply indulgent hour and half exploration on the mat it’s all contributing to improving your balance, strength and flexibility equally.
It goes beyond the mat
With practice you start develop compassion towards yourself.
"Yoga is an expression of quiet self love, you are doing something amazing for yourself."
On a scientific level you are actively reducing stress hormones and tension in the body, which helps you let go of little grudges and annoyances – the things that don’t serve you. It really does make you a nicer person! So spend your time trying to induce that feeling of carefree kindness in others – smile at people, ask them if they are having a good day, offer a genuine compliment. You never know, it might just help someone realise that there is so much more than the bad day they may be having. If you extend your practice into the philosophy you gauge a deeper understanding of our intricate connect to nature and our duty to look after the planet by making conscious and ethical choices.
Its not all about the physical
While the physical practice or Asana initially attracts students to Yoga the mental benefits by far outweigh this for me. To balance and enhance the movement we also need the stillness. Creating your own inner place of calm you can escape to whenever you need is empowering. Stillness and breathing can work in both restorative and energising ways. Savasana or relaxation at the end of class can feel weird at first but allow yourself to melt into it, pretending you are the only one in the room. Let your body go. Let you mind go. The feeling is beyond words.
Different bodies, different limbs ,different lives
"Yoga is for everybody and every body. There is no such thing as a “text book” yogi, we all have different length limbs, proportions and lives. Instead of worrying about not being able to touch your toes just notice the areas you are feeling the stretch."
Then notice perhaps why you are feeling it – do you love to run? Play football? Maybe you enjoyed an extra long dog walk on the weekend. These hobbies or life pleasures make you who you are. Instead of feeling flat that your body may be tight feel elated that yoga is now serving to compliment the things you enjoy.
And finally take a deep inhale and sigh it out.
Breathe … you are exactly where you are supposed to be right now. Welcome to the beginning of your journey.