by CASSIE MCINTYRE
The ultimate goal in yoga is not to get the perfect pose instead it should be self-realization.
You do not need to hike to a mountain top in order to do any soul searching. You don’t need to do yoga in a sun drenched studio lit with soy candles to find your inner Zen. You definitely don’t need to drink green juice or eat raw vegetables in order to become a “yogi.” And you definitely don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on the perfect yoga attire.
If you have an open mind, a sincere desire to learn, and try to apply the yoga mentality gained from your practice you’ve already started overcoming any yoga fears you may have and are beginning your yoga journey.
Yoga is super accessible these days, we can easily go to a yoga studio, go to a gym that offers classes, and even some of our workplaces have hour-long yoga sessions. But what if you’ve never done it before?
You’ve heard stories (I know I have) from some people who’ve been to that one class their friend dragged them to and “It was so hot I could barely breathe or do any of the postures.” Or “It was too fast I couldn’t do any of the moves.” And even the best line “There was this girl in the class who could do everything so good and she didn’t even sweat.”
Like I said, I’ve heard it all and as intimidating as some of the things you may have heard may sound, you and your friends have to remember everyone starts somewhere and there are many different styles of yoga.
If you’re thinking of going to your first yoga class I recommend either looking for a gentle yoga class or a beginner’s yoga. If neither are available, an all levels class is your next best option. Maybe introduce yourself to the teacher to let him or her know it’s your first class. That way he or she can make adjustments for you and even give you another modification for a difficult pose. Everyone I’ve met in my yoga journey has been super friendly, helpful, and welcoming so don’t be afraid to meet your teacher.
Think of yoga as a tool. Even if you don’t want to devote your life to becoming an accomplished “yogi” just know even at the beginner level yoga can enhance your life.
I’ve seen a lot of younger athletes start coming to classes and I think it’s very refreshing that there’s a lot of interest coming from the local youth. Yoga has no age limits and anyone can do it.
Yoga can restore flexibility for virtually every athlete from football and basketball players, runners, soccer players, cyclists, and anyone who performs a repetitive form of exercise that constantly contracts their muscles. It can help people who have lower back pains, knee pains, suffer from arthritis and even help people who are recovering from injuries. It can help with your balance, body awareness, and mindfulness.
Remember to not let what you can’t do get in the way of what you can do. Respect your body’s limits and don’t give up just because you can’t touch your toes. You will get there!
Yoga isn’t just about moving through the poses. Mindfulness plays a huge role in any dedicated practice. No matter which style (of yoga) you practice yoga helps quiet the mind of all distracting thoughts from the outside world bringing you to a place of peace within. Being mindful of your thoughts will help you become truly connected with your body and overall helping you to complete the mental and physical heath you want to achieve.
Remember your practice is your practice and nobody can take that away from you. The best part of going to yoga classes is that no one is there to judge you. When you walk into your next class introduce yourself to some of the people around you and don’t be surprised if someone reaches out and welcomes you first.
Whether your yoga journey is physical, mental or spiritual go for it. Don’t be intimidated by the first class you go to it does get easier over time. You’ll find yourself surrounded by like-minded people who are there to support you, share similar values and interests, and you’ll gain a sense of community and belonging.
Overall, yoga can be that powerful force that drives people together especially in a world where we seem to be so disconnected from one another and ourselves. You don’t need to be flexible to do yoga you just have to practice.
Cassie McIntyre is a NASM certified personal trainer, yoga instructor, and nutritional coach. She works at LA Fitness.