5 Things Every New Yogi Needs to Know

New Yogi

This post is about the 5 Things Every New Yogi Needs to Know before starting yoga.

When I started practising yoga several years ago, I must admit there was little thought to it. I was working shifts and yoga seems like the best activity to do after all night up and working. I’d tried running a few times and almost fainted. So I just chose the class in the gym nearest to 9am. Since those humble (and naive beginnings) I’ve become a bit more experienced but realise that when I started I had many misconceptions about yoga and what it was/was not.

Here are 5 things that I’ve learnt that I wish I’d known at the beginning of the journey.

1) Go Slow

I think the biggest change for me was allowing the improvements to come slower. In running, you might take it up and 6 weeks later have lost all the weight, or improved your time by 20%. In yoga, the gains (seemingly) some slower. In reality, they probably come faster, but as it’s often difficult to gauge, it seems like it’s taken you 6 months to go that one inch closer to your toes! I always tell friends interested in yoga, not to expect miracles overnight. As, along with the new surge in popularity in yoga and great results people get, some people expect too much, too soon. Be patient and it will come.

2) Test, test and test

I tell new yogi’s to test different aspects of yoga before committing to a conclusion, like it’s not for them, or yoga is boring, or you don’t improve strength. We all come to activities with expectations and pre-conditioned beliefs about what we think is true. And this clouds our experience. I always suggest doing different styles, with different teachers – even if you really like the first one. Just to give you perspective and a better platform to make a decision from. If you just go to one class and think – “well that was too easy compared to what I’m used to” then you are generalising all yoga to that one experience. And this can have the power to affect whether you continue or not. Test teachers, styles, locations and formats. Then decide.

3) The mat is a mirror for life

What happens on the mat, stays on the mat? Not really. How you perform on the mat is often a microcosm for your life. Are you scared to take a risk in that headstand? Are you concerned about what others think about your inability to do the splits? Do you constantly pick up on any errors you think the teacher is making? I once heard a speaker say “How you do anything, is how you do everything.” And it’s often true. Are you always late and flustered for class. Do you think that it’s too easy for you and you have nothing to learn from it. Well, the mat is a mirror, so use it to get a better understanding into your own psyche.

4) Find out what you’re sensitive to

It’s one of the little discussed aspects to yoga, but all that stretching, twisting and breathing can, well… release “tension” built up in the body, and expelled through, well, you know where. And struggling to keep in a bit of flatulence is going to affect your practise. One thing I came to realise was just how what I ate affected my ‘practise’. So find out what might cause you to pass gas – typically it’s things like dairy, eggs, fried food, crisps/potato chips and many other products – for me it’s often almonds! Refrain from consuming anything that gets you going and you’ll be able to relax more.

5) Make mistakes – and many of them

We heard it a lot as children. That it’s okay to make mistakes – as long as we learn from them. Well, somewhere in growing up we forgot that. But the thing is, in order to learn a new skill, we must make mistakes. The reason is that has we repeated do more activities, our neuro connections in the brain strengthen. The more we do the said activity or task, the more the connections strengthen. If you imagine the neuro connections as copper wires that send information from one part of the brain to another, then the more you do something the stronger the signal becomes. However, it’s a substance called myelin that wraps around the ‘wire’ – like the insulating part of copper wires, that’s important to keeping the signal in. And myelin grows and get more insulating with deep practice. This is the kind of mindful practice where you make mistakes and then work to improve each time. So welcome the mistakes. Be conscious of where you go wrong and you will improve faster.

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