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  • Chris

Things I wish I knew when I started yoga.

Yoga can be quite a daunting activity to take up, I certainly thought so. To me, it had this illusion it was only for a select few bendy people and middle class mums, and despite some of my love for waitrose I am neither of those. Yoga is for everybody and I really mean every body! If you are thinking of trying yoga, I have put together a few things I wish I had known before doing yoga.

1- Breath is key

It sounds so simple right? I mean I have gone this far in life without really having to think about it so why all of a sudden is it so important.

There are a number of reasons why the way we breathe has a profound effect on our overall health and wellbeing - but that is a post for another day. I just wish someone had stopped me and told me, the inhale and exhale cues aren’t just for fun, try following them. The rhythm of your breath links movements together, and is a chance to bring you into the present moment. If you are in a posture which is making you hold your breath, back off slightly. There are several pranayama practices (yogi term for breathwork) that encourage you to hold the breath, but during a vinyasa (moving from posture to posture), we want it to flow effortlessly.

You will inevitably go through a practice and forget the breath, that is fine. If your teacher isn’t cuing breath, a general rule of thumb is inhale on an upward movement, exhale on a downward e.g. Exhale - high to low plank, inhale to and upward facing dog.

2- Everyone has a different body

This took me a surprising amount of time to realise and really accept. I am a 6ft 3 male with long legs and next to no torso. So to assume my body is going to move in the same manner as a 5 ft 4 woman with hips evolved for giving birth was somewhat naive. There are aspects of our physiology that we do have control over such as the flexibility of our hamstrings or calves, and there are some we do not.

I was listening to a Scott Johnson’s Still points podcast where he was interviewing Simon Borg-Olivier; Simon has been a teacher of yoga for over 30 years and realised when he qualified as a physiotherapist, that our desk bound bodies don’t move the way the traditional yogis did, thus we need to adapt our practice to cater for that. A modern lifestyle means that some of the traditional postures can be inaccessible for a lot of people practicing. Discovering current weaknesses is part of the learning process- embrace it.

3- Search for sensations not shapes

Leading on nicely from the above.. When doing the postures, I no longer search for the perfect shape, rather try to understand where I should be feeling the posture and make adjustments that best serve my body. Searching for the grammable shape will often end in tears, or tears (classic british grammar pun there).

If you are ever unsure, make sure to ask your teacher where you should be feeling to pose, they will often be able to offer modifications that might suit your body better. If you find resistance in a certain pose, don’t be afraid to pick it apart adding in any props you need to give you the sensation.

4- Props aren’t just for beginners

The props aren’t just there to make your practice easier, they can be used to make it a great deal harder (as I found out in my teacher training) or offer a new depth to a pose for you. Never be ashamed to use props, it is your practice after all.

I am currently playing with adding blocks under my hands in an upward facing dog, it gives a lovely front body stretch for me. They can also offer support for you in a pose that you perhaps can’t quite get into. Have a play and let me know how you get on.

5- Ego

I had a large ego going into yoga (see blog post about me). This held me back at the beginning, mainly by stopping me from practicing yoga, so much so, I avoided classes to protect it. Then as I went to more and more classes it evolved into a competition for me, to be the best, to hold the poses the strongest. Anything I could do to stop me from actually going inside, listening to my body and finding out what I needed.

Everyone will traverse this in different ways, if there is one piece of advice I can give you. No one really cares what you are doing. When I was ‘competing’ with others in the room, I wasn’t judging them, I was being critical of myself. Most accomplished yogis will be in their practice not yours and newcomers will be focusing on trying not to fall over, trying to leave your ego on the sofa will allow you to learn so much quicker and most importantly of all, enjoy the experience.

6 - It gets easier. A lot easier!

I remember thinking my arms were going to fall off about a third of the way through my first practice. This was when I was doing strength based training so this hit the old ‘Ego’ nerve a treat.

Simply put, consistent practice will lead to the postures becoming a lot easier (much of that comes down to listening to your body and the breath). I am not saying that you need to be doing 4 hours a day for a year, I mean 20-30mins several times a week will make it a lot easier. When I first heard downward dog was a rest posture it was a genuine laugh out loud moment. With time, it really does become one.

Hopefully some of that was useful to you, and if you have any questions feel free to reach out to me on instagram where I would be happy to chat.

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Keep it slow

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