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!
Summer is officially here! We just celebrated the summer solstice yesterday with our first, live, online Summer Solstice Event. Sending a big shout out and thank you to everyone who joined us for that event! By attending the event, you were supporting the education of underprivileged girls in India, so a big thank you from my heart to yours.
Today, I am going to lead you through a yoga posture to help you cool down for the summer. The pose is called baddha konasana, or bound angle pose. This pose is both cooling and grounding. We will do a restorative version of this pose today, so some props will come in handy. If you don't have yoga props at home, no worries! You can still do this practice using a rolled up blanket as a bolster and also having a few cushions handy. We are all about making this super simple for you to practice at home!
Baddha Konasana – Restorative Props:
Bolster, or Rolled up blanket
Block, or Cushions
Watch the video or follow the instructions below.
Extend your legs in front of you
Bring your hands behind your knees, draw your knees into your chest
Allow your knees to fall out to the side and bring the soles of your feet together
Draw your feet close into your body a comfortable distance from your seat
Restorative modification: Grab your bolster or cushions and place them over your feet. Fold forward and allow your forehead to rest on top of the bolster or cushion. You may need to adjust the height of your bloster, blocks, or cushions so that you are comfortable in this position.
Once you have found your comfortable position, I encourage you to close your eyes and draw your awareness inward toward your heart.
Enjoy 5-10 deep, full breaths here, just allowing yourself to experience any sensations that you feel within the body.
When you feel complete with the pose, take your time coming out of it. Gently open your eyes. Bring your torso upright. Place your hands to the outside of your knees to draw your knees together. Then, extend your legs out.
I hope you enjoyed this pose – it is certainly one of my favorites!
Over the next few weeks, I will offer you more cooling yoga practices to help you beat the heat this summer!
My life these past couple weeks have been characterized by a lot of movement and mobility. I know that I am not alone in this. We all go through phases in our life that feel like we are constantly “on the go,” and for many of us this may be how we feel most everyday! For this reason, I am constantly learning and practicing tools to really ground my energy and get centered. I love finding little pieces of time to squeeze in practices that ground me, that create feelings of stillness and stability. Today, I want to share one of those practices with you. I know how busy all of our lives are, and I am all about making it easy for you to practice self-care! So, let's get started!
Tadasana (Mountain) Pose Today, I want to break down Mountain Pose for you. This pose is the foundation for all of the other standing yoga postures. In one of my teacher trainings, we literally spent over an hour on this pose alone, because when you master the alignment in Tadasana, you are building the foundation for every other pose. Another great reason to learn Tadasana (and the reason I am sharing it with you today!) is because it such a grounding pose. When I think of a mountain, I think of Earth, stability, strength, and unshakeability. I also think of beauty, of the beautiful high peak of a mountaintop that can only arise from a firmly grounded base.
So, stand up and join me! Watch the video, or follow the instructions below:
Come to a comfortable standing position
Take your feet about hips distance apart
Make sure the second toe on both feet are pointing forward, so that your feet are essentially parallel to one another
Take your awareness to the soles of your feet. Allow the ball mound under your big toe to feel grounded on the floor; next, feel that the ball mound under your pinky toe is firmly planted; then, allow yourself to feel grounded through the outer and inner edges of your heel, so that now you have created a solid base with all 4 corners of your feet rooted on the floor. Just for fun, lift up all 10 toes off the floor, and then just just softly place them back on the mat to make sure that your toes are not gripping the mat. We have now created a solid foundation, while at the same time allowing our feet to be relaxed
Find length along the entire back of your legs, your spine, and through the crown of your head so that there is a sense of lifting and lengthening through the body
Allow your shoulders to be soft, falling away from your ears as your shoulder blades draw together along your back
You have now found your mountain pose! Just like a mountain that is connected to the Earth, you have a strong and solid foundation; from that base, you are lifting, rising up.
You can practice this pose anywhere, although I highly encourage you to try practicing this posture outdoors, barefoot on the grass. Allowing our feet to be in direct contact with the Earth is a grounding practice within itself, and so practicing Mountain pose in this way gives rise to added benefit.
Leave a comment below to let me know how you enjoy this practice! As always, sending you so much love!
We've spent the past couple of weeks talking about how the practice of yoga postures can lead to greater flexibility, ease, comfort, and steadiness within the body. I thought it would be fun today to offer you a quick 5-minute practice so that you can begin to experience these benefits right away! Practice these postures on their own; or, for a longer practice, combine with some of the other videos I have already made (links below).
Want more? Join us for our weekly live, virtual classes where I lead you through your practice live and in real-time!
This is Sutra 2.46 from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, one of the main handbooks for hatha yoga. “Sutra” means thread of wisdom, and this book has 4 chapters of distinct Sutras of which only one directly refers to the yoga postures. This Sutra is “Sthira Sukham Asanam,” and it translates to “May our posture be steady and comfortable.”
In today’s blog, we continue from last week when I answered the question “Do I need to be flexible to start my practice of yoga?” I explained that we do not need to be flexible to start our practice of yoga, but it is through the practice of yoga postures that our body naturally becomes more flexible. In previous blogs, I have also described that Hatha Yoga consists of an 8-limbed path and the postures are just 1-limb on that path. As we gain greater flexibility in our body through the practice of postures, we also ripen our mental and emotional flexibility.
When I contemplate this Sutra within the grander concept of yoga, I am reminded of the analogy of “being as flexible as a blade of grass.” So that when the storms come, we are able to bend, flow, and adapt. In our lives, we all experience rainy seasons. It is simply Nature’s tendency to have a rainy season; at the time that I am writing this, we are in Springtime, which is naturally a rainy season. So, not only do we need to be able to adapt physically, but also cultivate flexibility and the ability to adapt mentally and emotionally. The practice of yoga postures helps us cultivate this flexibility, so that when the rain comes, we can bend, flow, and adjust. And, when the rain clears, we stand tall once again, with grace and poise.
What are your thoughts on this Sutra and this idea of being as flexible as a blade of grass? Share your thoughts below!