I have a large repository of tips for yoga students new and experienced. Here are a few of my favorite:
Go to a Beginner’s Class
New to yoga? Go to a beginner’s class. Experienced? Go to a beginner’s class. Never been to one? Go to a beginner’s class! The word beginner comes with the assumption that it is easy. I have to tell you, most beginner’s classes I’ve gone to are not easy. I find myself holding key poses for longer than I do in my home practice as the teacher carefully goes through alignment points. Many times, the tips are repetition to me, which I never mind because repetition (japa in sanskrit) is an integral part of learning. Other times I learn different ways to carefully prep and warm the body, or even new ways to use props. I don’t take beginner’s classes every week, but if I have a hankering for a public class, or if there is a particular teacher that I’d like to experience, and the best option is a beginner’s class, I jump right in head first and I never regret it. Remember, those level 1 yoga poses are preps for the more advanced ones. So practice them often and with integrity.
As I say to my fellow yogis all the time, props are your friends. Sometimes we try to avoid them because our ego views them as “crutches” that “weaker” students use. In reality, they are amazing tools for any student at any level to experiment with. Whenever I go to class, I always grab two blankets, two blocks, and a strap. I don’t always know what my teacher has in store, but I like to be prepared. There are times when I don’t use them at all, and there are times when I use them just to get the experience. And of course there are times when I absolutely need them like when my teacher asks us to take gomukasana arms and my right shoulder is like, “What the WHAT? You think I’m open enough to bend that way after you sat at your computer all day? You crazy.” I then silently grab my strap and vow to open my shoulders in between e-mails the next day.
But in all seriousness, it’s better to have props next to your mat whether you use them or not. If you don’t have a prop handy, you might not want to leave your mat to go get one in the middle of your practice, and then you might do something without the support of a prop and get injured. So prop up my
Warning: Yoga Causes Bodily Functions & You Should Probably Ignore Them
In many ways, Yoga gets your internal “workings”…well…working. Asana stimulates the digestive system. Bringing your body into full relaxation through restorative yoga activates the digestive system (also known as rest and digest mode). Needless to say, you are going to hear noises. I hear students’ stomachs all the time, and oddly enough I delight in that sound because I know it means their body is working in ways that it should. Ignoring the sometimes gross sounds that students emit from their bodies is the way it usually goes in a typical class. I once observed a woman fart in an inversion, and then continue to fart all the way to the floor WHILE the teacher was spotting her. We all just pretended like it never happened and continued with the class. I’m sure she was thankful for it.
I also feel compelled to mention that you will undoubtedly hear snoring during savasana at some point. I used to either laugh or get incredibly annoyed that the dude next to me was creating thunder-like noises via his nose. Nowadays, instead of allowing it to ruin my relaxation, I just focus inward and pretend like he’s not there.
Eat Before Class if You Need To
I’ve read and heard a lot about this. Everyone has an opinion: “Don’t eat for 2 hours before class!”, “Wait, make it 2 and 1/2 hours!”, “Your stomach should be empty!”, “Don’t eat meat on the days you do yoga!”. Well, here is my opinion: do what is best for your body. When you are in tune with your body, you know what it needs to perform at an optimum (and quite frankly, safe) level. When I first started yoga, I was afraid to eat before yoga because I had read on the internet that I shouldn’t. Personally, I need sustenance before I get on the mat. If it’s a 1/2 hour before my class and I’ve literally had no time to eat, I will eat something very small but potent. I’ll grab a handful of nuts, or a rice cake with peanut butter. I’ve noticed that a little sustenance makes a huge difference in my practice and doesn’t bother my stomach. Just don’t go eating a bacon cheeseburger right before your next vinyasa flow, I’m absolutely positive you will regret it.
Don’t Lotion Up Before Class
Years ago, I was assisting one of my teachers with a class as she was guiding a large group into crow pose (bakasana). I noticed a student struggling and went over to see if I could help. I went through every alignment point that I could think of and carefully watched her as she attempted the pose over and over. No matter what she did, her knees kept slipping off her arms. Finally I asked her, “Did you put lotion on before class?” She looked up at me and said “Ooooohhhh, that’s why I feel so slippery.” I learned this a long time ago; you put on lotion, you go to class, you slip and slide on your mat, and on your own body. Sweating makes things slippery enough, so sweat with lotion mixed in it is a recipe for disaster. Skip it! The person on the mat next to you is not going to notice your ashy knees when they are attempting to hold Virabhadrasana 3 without falling on their face.
Hope you enjoyed the above tips from Movement Yoga & Wellness! Namaste my fellow yoga warriors.