Today, I am giving you the beginner's guide to yoga! This is for you if you have never tried a yoga class, if you have never stepped foot into a yoga studio, taken a yoga class at your local gym or tried out one of our live online yoga classes! In today’s blog, I am giving you tips to help make your first experience as wonderful as possible!
I remember the first time I walked into a yoga class at the local YMCA in Norfolk, Virginia. I was a first-year medical student and I was nervous. I didn't really know exactly what to expect. Luckily, I had a great experience and I want to make sure that you have the same sort of wonderful first experience!
In this blog, I am going to answer three most commonly asked questions about yoga:
Do I need to be flexible to practice yoga?
What sort of gear do I need to practice yoga? I don't even have a yoga mat, so what do I need and what should I wear?
Is there anything I need to know about yoga etiquette?
So, let’s get started! “Do I need to be flexible to practice yoga?” The quick answer - No. The flexibility will come with practice. I could not even touch my toes when I started practicing yoga; the flexibility came with time and consistent practice. So, the quick answer is “no.” It is totally okay if you cannot touch your toes before you go to your first yoga class; in fact, it is totally okay if you've been practicing yoga for years and you still cannot touch your toes! There is this thing we say in yoga that, no matter how long we've been practicing, we are always still a beginner. It is important to keep a beginner's mind as we move through our practice. I created an entire separate blog on answering just this question, so you can continue reading here “What sort of gear do I need to get started? What should I wear? Wear anything that is comfortable to move around in. There are lots of fancy yoga clothes and stores out there these days and if you want to get those, that's great! But, you certainly do not need it. Just wear something comfortable that you can move around in.
What else do you need to get started? For those of you who are starting out and don't have a yoga mat, most studios and gyms have yoga mats that you can borrow. If you want to get your own starter mats, I usually recommend just going to a store like TJ Maxx or Marshalls to pick out a starter yoga mat. I got my very first yoga mat from Barnes and Noble. If you want to know my favorite yoga mat, the yoga mat that I use now is the Jade yoga mat. I absolutely love it! It is a bit more of an investment compared to some other mats out there, so if you're not quite ready to make that investment, then just go to TJ Maxx or Marshalls. They have everything you need to get started! So, that's the basic kind of bare minimum, the yoga mat.
There are also other props that can be helpful. Again, if you go to a yoga studio or gym, they usually have all those props for you to borrow. Most commonly, there are blocks, cushions, blankets, straps, and bolsters. Again, you don't need to go out and get all of these props if you are just getting started.
And, if you are joining classes with us, it's even easier! Our classes at Shakti Vidya Yoga are all live, online classes that you practice at home. So, even if you don’t have a yoga mat, you can just practice on the carpet in your living room. The yoga mat helps a bit in the sense that, because of its material, it can prevent your hands or feet from slipping and sliding too much, but it is not a necessity. I practice barefoot on my carpet often and I also have a favorite yoga mat. So, it's completely up to you! Also, if you're practicing at home with us, in terms of some of those other props that I mentioned like blocks and bolsters, just grab a couple of cushions and maybe a folded blanket. These work great as props!
“Is there anything I need to know about yoga etiquette?” Yes, particularly if you are taking classes at a studio or a gym. Most all studios request that shoes not be worn in the practices space. Studio and gyms will often have a designated space where you can remove your shoes before entering the practice room. Many yogi's, myself included, practice barefoot. Some people prefer wearing socks. If you would rather wear socks, I recommend getting Yoga socks that have grips on the soles, so that you don’t slip and slide too much on your mat.
Also, most yoga classes end with a final resting pose called Savasana. In this pose, you lay on your back and rest in silence for a few minutes. If you are not able to stay for the duration of this pose and have to leave class early, most studios will request that you leave before the class gets into resting pose; that way you don't disturb the other students by moving around and making noise during Savasana. However, if you are able to stay for the whole class, I definitely recommend staying for Savasana! That pose is where the magic happens! At least, that is where the magic happened for me when I first started taking yoga classes, of where I really was able to experience peace, bliss, and spaciousness.
Now, if you are practicing at home with our live, online classes, then you really don’t have to worry about these tips on etiquette. Since you are practicing in the comfort of your own home, you don’t have to worry about where to put your shoes, coming in a few minutes late, or leaving a few minutes early. The platform we use for our classes is called Zoom and it is set to mute all participants as they join the class. So, if you’re running a few minutes late, no worries! Just log in and join us! Also, when you join class, your video is automatically on so that the teacher can interact with you and help guide you through the poses. But, if you want more privacy (hey, we know you're practicing from home and that is the beauty of these live online classes!), you can just turn your video off, so you can have complete privacy and still join us for classes!
So there you have it! Congratulations on completing your beginner’s guide to yoga! You are now all set for your first class! Whether you take your first class at a studio, gym, or with us from the comfort of your home, you now know all the basics to get started! We have a new schedule of classes starting August 1st and I look forward to seeing you in class soon!
Recently, I was thinking about how the physical practices of yoga really help us embody our experiences. In working through the body with our physical practices, we allow ourselves to let go of experiences we no longer need, process emotions that are unresolved, and hang on to only what is true and real. There are so many different yoga practices, such as meditation, breathwork, and the study of spiritual texts, and these practices are most effective when they are embodied, meaning when we apply them to the reality of our daily lives.
It is through our physical body that we express our spirit. Many spiritual traditions relate the body as being like a vehicle. It is a vehicle for our soul to communicate in the world, to share with others, and travel along in this journey. I am currently reading “A Course in Miracles,” which talks about a similar concept. The Course says:
The ego separates through the body. The Spirit reaches through it [the body] to others
The Course goes on to describe that the Spirit interprets the body only as a means of communication. It describes that the body can be used as a vehicle of “attack,” for example when we pound our body through our daily stresses of constantly being on-the-go, or we can see the body as a vehicle for transmitting our soul’s purpose in the world. In Yoga, we call this Dharma, our soul’s purpose. Our Dharma is not necessarily our job or career (although it can be); rather, our Dharma is interacting in the world aligned with our deep purpose, which may mean moving through the world with love, or being a supportive listener to everyone you meet. Your Dharma may be simply to see that the same light in you is also in others.
The Course goes on to say:
You are not limited by the body and thought cannot be made flesh, yet mind can be manifested through the body if it goes beyond it and does not interpret it as our limitation. Whenever you see another as limited to or by the body you're imposing this limit on yourself
So, life is so much more than the physical body, yet our physical body is so important because it is our vehicle for sharing our soul’s purpose with the world. When we recognize this in ourselves and in others, we are truly practicing yoga – the state of union and interconnection.
So, take care of your body by keeping strong and flexible; your mind will follow. We are launching a new schedule of classes and teachers on August 1st to help you do just that – to embody your experiences through live, online yoga classes designed to fit your busy schedule. Take this time for yourself, to nourish and strengthen your body, mind, and spirit. Stay tuned…
Today’s blog is all about self-care! What is self-care? It’s a phrase that wasn’t even in my vocabulary a decade ago! I really became more fully aware about it 5 years ago. So, what is it exactly?
Self-care is filling your cup first. It is filling your cup so that you can be your best self, whether that’s in your job, relationships, family, or even in your relationship with yourself!
Self-care is self-love. It is nourishing and loving yourself deeply, so that you live from a place of deep inner peace, love, and joy that just radiates out from your being.
Self-care is this idea of putting the oxygen mask on yourself first before your children in case of an emergency on an airplane. It is the idea that we can only give from an overflowing cup.
So, we have all been there, right? Working the long hours, pounding ourselves in the ground to get all of our to-do’s done, and at the end of the day just feeling completely and utterly drained. So drained that we are even still tired when we wake up again the next morning. And yet, the world still need us. We need to get up and keep on moving to fulfill our responsibilities to our family, job, friends, and community. Living in this way can lead to anxiety, insomnia, and depression.
I’ve been there! I have worked those 80-hour work weeks. I have experienced extreme heartbreak, of having to find a way to pick up all the pieces and put them back together again. This is how I discovered the value in making self-care a priority. Because here it is folks – Self-care is not selfish; actually self-care is self-less.
I know that if I take pieces and moments of time throughout my day to nourish myself, to say kind words to myself, to take a bath, go for a run, or to just nourish my body by eating fresh fruits and vegetables, then I am best able to serve in all of the other aspects of my life. I have noticed in my own life that when I make self-care priority, when I take time to do those little actions each day, then everything else just falls into place. It is absolutely amazing!
But, don’t just take my word for it! You have to experience it yourself to believe it, and that’s why the core mission of Shakti Vidya Yoga is to make self-care simple and accessible to you. I truly believe that self-care does not need to be a challenge or just something else on our to-do list. Rather, self-care can be fun, make you feel good, and be simple.
That is why we are creating an amazing new lineup of offerings to make self-care simple for you coming this August! We are bringing in brand new teachers, classes, and a new schedule of live yoga classes to fit your busy lifestyle! We take the commute out of the equation by bringing live classes to your computer, smartphone, or tablet. We are releasing a brand new Ayurveda online course called “Holistic Self-Care for the Modern Age.” In this course, I will take you on a deep dive into the core foundational concepts of Ayurveda to help you develop your own at-home self-care routine. Stay tuned as we release more information about these amazing offerings in the next few weeks…
The past few weeks, I have been sharing practices to help you stay cool and balanced this summer. According to Ayurveda, summer is Pitta dosha. It is fiery, hot, and humid. The first practice I shared with you was a cooling and restorative yoga posture. Last week, I shared an Ayurveda practice of using food to create balance. This week, I am sharing a meditation.
The fiery season of summer can often lead to the buildup of heated emotions within us of intensity, frustration, anger, irritability. The meditation in today’s blog is a beautiful practice to bring us back to a state of peace. It was the topic of our very first Instagram TV episode,* which I am sharing with you today. So, watch the video or continue reading to learn this beautiful practice from A Course in Miracles.
I am currently reading A Course in Miracles and the following practice really spoke to me this week! It is the perfect practice for summer, a time when heated emotions can easily arise. Quoting directly from the Course, today’s lesson is this:
I could see peace instead of this. Peace of mind is clearly an internal matter. It must begin with your own thoughts and then extend outward. It is from your peace of mind that a peaceful perception of the world arises.
So, peace starts with us. It starts with observing our thoughts, and that's exactly what meditation is all about. It wasn't until I started meditating that I really started to notice and observe what thoughts were floating around in my mind. Once I started to notice and observe those thoughts, I realized that I could influence my thoughts and change them to be more empowering and uplifting. This is exactly what today’s meditation does for us!
So, the practice is this:
Spend a couple of minutes observing your thoughts.
Notice what thoughts are coming in your mind and then say to yourself, “I could see peace instead of this, I can choose peace instead of this.” So, whether it's fear, worry, anxiety, or apprehension, I can always see peace instead of this.
Practice this meditation for 3-4 minutes, or as long as feels comfortable for you.
Leave a comment below to let me know how this meditation works out for you!
*Follow our Instagram TV channel for new episodes every Tuesday and Thursday morning!