1. Set your Yogi Attitude. It can feel quite strange to learn something completely new as an adult. Many students find it surprisingly uncomfortable and exposing to be in a class situation where you feel like you do not know what you are doing, and might embarrass yourself by making a mistake or not being ‘good’ at it. We can be really hard on ourselves! This is one of the teachings of yoga straight away. Imagine you took a child to a new class – what kind of encouragement would you give? I guess you would tell them they did fine and you could see they really tried hard, you would reassure them that with practice things that seem hard get easier and easier! You would be kind. In yoga practice we are cultivating the qualities of kindness, humility, self-acceptance and patience, among others. Can you enjoy the new experience without self-judgement and even have a bit of a laugh with it? It’s not anything serious! It’s just breathing and bending into shapes.
2. Try Hard! Rest as Needed! So much of yoga (oh, and of course life in general) is about finding balance between opposites. Set your intention at the beginning of class to focus 100%, to pay attention to the details of instruction and to what you’re feeling, and try, even until your muscles shake and you feel challenged physically and mentally. And then remember tip 1, forget pride and bring necessary kindness. When you have put in some effort and feel like you’re straining, it might be time for a few breaths in Child’s pose. You might be extra tired today, or you might have a sore shoulder or a weak knee. So rest, come out of poses whether you’re supposed to or not. Only you can decide when enough is enough. Make it YOUR practice.
3. Have a Takeaway. No I don’t mean a chickpea curry on your way home, although that can be a good decision too. I mean, after each class take a few moments to reflect, “ok, so what did I learn today that I really want to remember? ” . Keep it simple. It might be a particular pose, or it might be remembering to rotate your arms outwards before you lift them over your head. If you like to be really methodical, you could have a yoga notebook and write these down each week, with drawings, and brilliant things your teacher said etc. etc. Or not. Just focus on one takeaway to help you build your learning.
4. Be Curious Miranda! As wise Prospero advised his young daughter, be curious, get interested! Was there anything you didn’t quite understand in class? Ask your teacher questions, and for yoga resources. Personally, I love it when students ask questions after class. It shows me they were interested and engaged so I kinda think that I must have done something right : ) And I’m a teacher, which means I am a yoga geek. If I can’t answer I will be delighted to have to go and look it up! You can too. Remember the wonderful world of the internet (with caution) and look stuff up. Having a little yoga project, like warrior 1 Pose, can be a good way to keep motivated. Just make sure you refer back to your teacher, and don’t get sucked into the online world of yogi bikini/bare torso handstanders. It can be crazy out there.
5. The 30 minute check-in. For 30 minutes after your class, pay close attention to how you feel. Your mood, your thoughts, your behaviour. What do you notice? What effect, if any, does doing yoga appear have on you? Even further, do you sleep better that night? Do you make any different food choices? How are your interactions with people in your day? This is a great habit to start from the beginning of your yoga life. You may notice some interesting things over time. Just saying.
6. Bonus Tip. You have the rest of your life to do yoga should you so choose. Take your time, take care of yourself and enjoy the journey.