by CASSIE McINTYRE
I often get asked “How many times a week do you practice yoga?”
Before I really started buckling down on my practice it was very minimal. I started about seven years ago with maybe 30 minutes twice a week. Those half hour at home sessions eventually grew into a full hour session twice a week and then grew even more from there to about three or four times a week for much longer than an hour. I started with watching YouTube videos mainly for the fear of going to an actual class and facing judgment from the other students. It’s funny because when I built up enough courage to physically bring myself to a studio some of the yogis there would scoff at the fact of me not having a physical teacher to guide me through a practice.
I have a pretty extensive dance background but when it came to starting my yoga journey (and recovering from a serious injury) I found it very challenging. Physically and emotionally it was difficult because I wasn’t as flexible as I once was when I was dancing and the injury didn’t help my esteem in the studio classes. So naturally, YouTube was a good outlet for me until I regained some strength to seek out a studio.
Now many people, including myself, at one time thought flexibility was everything and the key to a proper yoga practice when in reality it’s not. Yoga is about the inner journey to find peace and balance and about keeping a calm and equanimeous mind in a chaotic world.
Whatever your perspective on your yoga journey is I can tell you it’s not about how bendy you are but rather the amount of effort you put in. Whether you’re practicing for 30 minutes a day or three hours a day the time will make no difference if you can’t focus on what you’re doing and why. Consider why you practice. Are you looking for a sweaty workout? Are you practicing for the restorative benefits? Maybe you’re searching for a spiritual experience but whatever it is focus on the why. We could start a pose, work on it for several years, and finally get dialed in but when we try to put the body in positions that aren’t ready for us it could set up for injury.
I can say that finding a studio and the right teachers made a huge difference in my practice and I can only recommend you do the same. The truth is, you might not even know what you’re looking for until you start trying different classes.
Some people are born yogis and for others it can take a lifetime to get there. It can take years to master even the simplest of poses but that one thing is certain, it is a journey. Pay attention to how you feel in your class. The pace and level of practice should feel challenging but not overwhelming. You should feel more relaxed, open, and grounded in your body, not more stressed and disconnected. It’s important you feel some sort of connection to the style you choose so you’ll want to take the class again and develop your practice further.
If you’re looking to start practicing somewhere I highly recommend going out and trying the surrounding studios and finding a style that works for you. Not all yoga is the same and that’s a part of what makes the practice so special.
I can say I practice Asthanga yoga, which may be a little more difficult for some. But again find one that works for you. There’s no superior or inferior style. You want to do the one that feels the best for you. There’s Yin yoga, Hatha yoga, Bikram yoga, Vinyasa Flow, Baptiste power yoga, I mean the list goes on and on. The surrounding studios are amazing and super welcoming.
My favorite studio is West Hartford Yoga, or WHY, located in (obviously) West Hartford, Conn. I didn’t know what to expect when I started going there years ago but I have learned a lot and met some amazing teachers along the way who have helped shape my practice. I even had the pleasure of meeting my favorite yogi there, Kino McGregor, whom I started out with because I used to watch and still watch her on YouTube. I am thankful because she is coming here again in October and I honestly can’t wait to practice with her again.
Lastly, you know you’ve found the right class when you feel safe and supported. Like I said, the studio you pick and choose to practice in is imperative so please branch out and try the local studios. Finding a teacher that customizes his or her teachings to the ability and skill level of the student’s present is also a must. When the teacher respects and honors your physical limitations while helping you move outside your comfort zone (in a safe beneficial way) you know you’ve found the right one.
Just know you can always approach the teacher and ask him or her your questions or concerns before class. you should never feel intimidated by a yoga instructor.
Overall, it’s the journey that keeps us practicing and journey that keeps us motivated to push our limits further than we ever thought possible. Timing isn’t everything. Listening to your body and just doing what feels best is enough.
Cassie McIntyre is a NASM certified personal trainer, yoga instructor, and nutritional coach. She works at LA Fitness.