Navigating your first yoga class
Greetings Beautiful Souls,
So you want to start yoga.
However, deciding how to start a yoga practice in the 21st century is more intimidating than stepping into Starbucks for the first time! You can’t order ‘coffee’ its a double, venti, skinny, mocha, latte thank you very much!
Much like going to Starbucks, the variety presents both a blessing and a curse and much like Starbucks you’ll probably take a while to find your perfect fit.
This wasn’t the case for me at all. I stumbled into yoga back in 1999 (before the massive proliferation of yoga brands and styles) offered for free during my lunch break at work. It was a Sivananda class and it was all I knew for the next 2 years. My love affair was instant and I later went on to study as a Sivananda Teacher.
In the intervening years I tried all the styles available – Iyengar, Astanga, generic Hatha and anything else that was nearby! I clearly remember the first Bikram studio opening in London. There was a lot of excitement about yoga in a heated room and I used to take sick days to spend them at that hot, hot studio.
Sivananda still held my heart and did not mind at all that I cheated on her over the years, the pull was too strong and after many workshops at the Ashram in Putney I finally decided to follow my first love and began teaching Sivananda.
Sivananda yoga is a beautiful form of traditional Hatha yoga. It uses the body to connect with the breath and the mind. It is a sequence that can be gently modified as your practice improves and you grow stronger. Sivananda taught me about breath control and how to meditate for the first time, it was the perfect introduction to yoga.
It wasn’t until almost 8 years later that I discovered Kundalini yoga. Initially I was put off by the turbans, white clothing and CHANTING! It took 2 or 3 classes for me to really feel the amazing effects of this yoga on my body, mind and soul. It is completely different to any other form of Hatha yoga and it has a strong spiritual element. I once heard someone describe Kundalini yoga as a journey back towards yourself which I though was so beautiful and true. Kundalini yoga takes you out of your comfort zone and forces you to face yourself. Not something we always want to do!
Those are two of my favourite styles but the truth is that I would probably do any yoga that happened to be in my path. I love how each style feels different and speaks to a different part of me in different ways on different days.
So my advice to you before heading off to your first yoga class is this:
- don’t do any research. Arrive at your local class and experience what is presented to you
- keep an open mind. Maybe your first yoga class doesn’t speak to you? Find another teacher/another class and see if you prefer it
- keep an open heart. Yoga will speak to your heart. It will go beyond your muscles and it will touch something deep within you
- prepare to feel uncomfortable. First in your body. The movements are unfamiliar and will be uncomfortable to begin with but the discomfort soon moves to your mind and soul as you begin to become aware of how you live your life.
- prepare to smile! Your heart will sing with delight and your soul will shine with joy (eventually…)
So do it, go to your local gym, google local teachers and keep trying until you find a style that suits you, that lights up your eyes and makes your heart sing with joy!