I hate to admit this, but I used to think that yoga was just for the super-calm flexible people who floated on clouds and hummed. Being an athlete, a hard core coach, and a person with a double-A personality type, it was not something I wanted to try. My only exposure was my husband’s old yoga book that featured an anorexic looking young man with a pointed shaggy beard wearing a loin cloth sitting with his legs crossed behind his head. Whenever anyone asked me if I wanted to try yoga, I visualized that picture and said “No Way! I have better things to do than contort my body into strange shapes.”
But one day I decided to give it a try when a yoga studio opened up down the street from my house and my friend asked me to try it with her. When I started to resist she reminded me that the first class was free and she heard it was a great workout, so what did I have to lose?
I reluctantly agreed and met her at the studio wearing my baggy, volleyball sweats. Not smart. We started the class with deep breathing exercises and I looked at my friend and almost started laughing. What did I get myself into? As we started moving slowing in and out of poses that resembled strange lunges and squats and a dog-like pose, people started to move together as if they were linked energetically in a choreographed performance. I was totally out of sync. And then came the balancing poses. Everyone was performing perfect trees and eagles while I was hopping around on one foot. After an hour of movement, I realized that my sweats were dripping wet and I felt like a deer in the headlights. How could I be so bad at something that looked so easy? At the end of the class we rested in corpse pose (how fitting).
Then, it happened! I felt an unusual wave of calmness flow through my body and my mind was in totally new place. Even though I had done a terrible practice, for some odd reason, I didn’t care. My competitive ego had just gotten a well- deserved time-out. I was hooked after the class and bought a package and went on to get over 500 hours of training and added the class to our college curriculum where I teach health and fitness and now, also yoga. I knew that there were probably a lot of students like me who didn’t think yoga was for them because it was either too weird or they feared that they were not flexible enough to do yoga. However, I wanted them to have a great introduction and hopefully after finding a class and a style that they enjoyed, would continue to make yoga an essential part of their lives. It is truly a practice that integrates mind, body and spirit and is also a great way to manage stress.
So if you haven’t tried yoga yet, or have and never went back, here are some tips to find a practice that works for you.
- Get some information about the class before you go. What level is it? What style? Who is the teacher? Make sure you know what to expect so you don’t end up like I did the first time—a deer in the headlights.
- Tell your instructor if you have any injuries or limitations. If you don’t tell them, they don’t know.
- Remember that there is no competition in yoga. No one cares whether or not you can do the poses perfectly. The instructor is the one who will monitor his or her students and give modifications as needed.
- Don’t eat right before doing yoga. Trust me on this one! The abdominal compressions along with the inversions common in yoga practices will not feel comfortable with a full stomach.
- Your body talks to you when you do yoga. Make sure you listen and never push into the pain area. And always rest as needed.
- Make sure your instructor is certified and has at least 200 hours of training and is registered with the Yoga Alliance. That should assure that your teacher knows what to do and more importantly, what not to do while teaching yoga.
Remember, if you don’t like your first yoga class, that’s fine. I’ve gone to some classes that were so bad that I walked out. Keep searching until you find one that fits you and your needs. Ask your friends, search online and be willing to try something new and be a beginner. Yoga practices can be easy, restorative, creative, spiritual, and also very challenging. That’s the beauty of yoga. There is so much variety that there is a style out there for everyone.
So get out there a find a practice you like. Give yourself the gift of yoga this year! Isn’t it time to do something just for you?
Sharkie Zartman, MA, is a college professor, a former All-American athlete, and award winning volleyball coach. She hosts Sharkie’s Pep Talk on HealthyLife.net Radio Network and is a certified health coach, speaker, and the author of five books including Take on Aging as a Sport; The Athletic Approach to Aging. She is passionate about helping people take an empowered approach to life so they can have optimal health, happiness, and success at any age.
For more information visit www.sharkiezartman.com