If you could go back in time and meet your beginner yogi self, what would you say? What words of wisdom or bits of advice would you share about the practice?
I’ve been teaching for over five years now, and when I think back to those first days, weeks, and months in front of my students, I have to smile. My teaching, like my practice, has evolved and grown and helped shape me. It's also gotten stuck and bored and uninspired.
All of those normal moods and temperaments we move through off our mats can find their way onto the mat. I’ve learned that while life can step in and create clutter, the more time I dedicate to movement on my mat, the easier it is to climb my way out of the clutter.
Your Practice Grows with You
Four years ago, however, I probably would have told my beginner yogi self to get off her ass and get moving no matter what. That's the side of me that was always striving for more, that poked and prodded, telling me I wasn’t enough.
As time went on, that voice softened. I’ve learned to mold my practice to my life and moods. I’ve learned to pay attention to what my body needs. I now recognize when I’m being lazy and need that extra push, or when I’m emotionally or spiritual exhausted and need to take a legitimate break.
My yoga happens all around me now, and this is one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from my practice. Here are my top five bits of advice to new yogis.
1. Test the flavors.
Yoga is not a one-stop shop. There are many different styles, disciplines, and teachers to taste and try. The same goes for studios. So try them on for size and see who and what is your best fit.
Can't get to a studio or don't have the funds to support a practice? The same theory applies for online classes. Do some research and try different teachers until you find your match.
2. Let your inner child come out to play.
Remember when life was exciting and full of curious moments? When the simple act of spinning in circles or running with the wind was the best feeling ever?
Sadly, we have a tendency to lose that connection to simple pleasures as we grow older. Responsibilities, family, work, and life in general tend to bog us down. Insecurities grow stronger and the fear of the possibility of looking foolish stands in our way.
I’m no stranger to those feelings. I was shy as a child and that grew stronger into adulthood. I used to envy those people who could put themselves out there and not care what others thought.
As I stepped into the practice and teaching, though, I let go of those insecurities. I found that the more I gave into the movement, the less I cared about what others thought or about what I looked like.
Try closing your eyes when you practice. Yes, I know that if you’re new, you need to peek at what others are doing to get the hang of it, but when you have moments in class where you can, close your peepers. Go inside and just move. This action of closing you eyes may allow you more freedom to play.
3. Make friends with your body again.
This goes hand-in-hand with letting your inner child come out to play. Embrace where you are no matter what’s going on with you. That voice that tells us we’re not good enough needs to go away. And while he or she are there packing their bags, send excuses packing, as well.
Your body is perfect and so are you. Try as best you can to leave judgments at the door. Make friends with every jiggle and crevice and all the spaces in between that are flexible and not so flexible. We all have our own challenges within and outside of ourselves that we work on every day.
So what you’re capable of doing or not doing is going to be different than that of your neighbor… and that's a good thing. Embrace it and learn how to work with it, not against it.
4. Put on the breaks.
Literally and physically. We're our own worst critics and it's easy to compare our movements to others. Rome wasn't built in a day and neither were you, so give yourself a break mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
And while you're there, check in physically. If you're getting frustrated, tired, and angry…Child's Pose is your home. I see many students, at all levels, powering through a vinyasa that become schlumpy when they're tired. This will only lead to injury down the road.
So take a break, whether it's in Down Dog, in Child’s Pose, or by sitting and chilling for a bit. I spent a whole class in Child’s Pose and it was one of THE best classes I'd ever stepped in to.
5. Give yourself a high five!
You did it! You make the decision to step on your mat and see what happens! AND you did it in a room full of strangers. That’s not an easy task, so give yourself a massive amount of ‘I am the bomb’ credit for having the courage to do what so many others talk about, but don’t put into action.
And this applies for any type of movement or physical exercise. And if you went with a friend or loved one, give them a high five, too!
Are you a veteran or experienced yogi? Which of these pieces of advice resonate the most with you? Share your thoughts with me in the comments!