- Stability comes before flexibility: if it’s a beginners class, you should be working on standing poses for the first few weeks to build a strong framework. All this ‘flow’ stuff is for people who don’t have the stamina for (or understanding of) real yoga, yet.
- Cultivate humility: however much experience you’ve had, you need to listen to and follow the teacher’s instructions. Yoga is a huge subject so loosen up your brain and be prepared to be broadminded, open and flexible in your thinking.
- Wear modest clothing: from the perspective of your teacher, or the person behind you when you bend over, neither a thong nor a tiny tank top is a good look. No-one needs to see your tattoos or body piercings.
- Avoid baggy leggings and short waisted tops: your teacher needs to see what your legs, ankles and feet are doing so wear high-waisted leggings and/or modest shorts (please mind the gap, chaps…). On top, wear a short/long sleeved t-shirt, long enough to tuck in for inversions and it won’t ride up when you raise your arms over your head. A wardrobe malfunction in the middle of a blissful pose is deeply annoying.
- Don’t bring water into class: it’s a trip hazard and a distraction. Drinking during class disturbs your digestive system and, unless you have a medical condition, you should already be properly hydrated.
- Food: a good yoga class calms your appetite. Have an empty stomach or a little food an hour beforehand. If you have low blood sugar, fruit is a good standby to have afterwards.
- Change your perspective: don’t cling to the same space every week and don’t ask someone else to move – move yourself. If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got.
- Never say, “I can’t”: we cannot avoid our own weaknesses or use them as an excuse not to try. We learn to cure what can be cured, endure what we must endure, and how to tell the difference. A 90-minute weekly class is enough to feel the benefits after 6 weeks.
- Sooner or later, we have to go inside: a good teacher will use different methods to achieve specific effects. The same pose can be energising, relaxing, challenging or healing, depending on the approach. To find out what’s going on, go inside.
- Leave the outside world outside the door: allow your perspective to change and even the most intractable of problems will shift.
Category Archives: Yoga – Beginners
Yoga is not about the outward form of a pose, the asana. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali define “asana” as a position that, “is steady and comfortable”. Patanjali also mentions the ability to sit for extended periods of time as one of the eight limbs of his system.
One of the stories Abhijata tells is of her pride at staying in Sirsasana for over half an hour. She went to Guriji and said, “Grandfather – I stayed in Sirsasana for over thirty minutes!” She assumed he’d be delighted, amazed at her progress. Instead he said, “But what did you DO?”
If we’re not waiting for the flashbulb to go off and record our moment of perfection, what exactly are we supposed to be doing when we hold a pose? And what do we do if it is not “steady and comfortable”?
At first, before we are able to stay and hold a pose for any length of time, we have to go the the edge of our capacity, connect with each part of the body, check the balance and alignment of the body. At this point, yoga becomes a science.
It helps to think of your body as a laboratory. Your skin, muscles, organs, bone and breath are your equipment. Your mind is the clipboard where you record your results. You apply the shape and form of the asana to the body. What happened? On the left? On the right? Will a prop extend, release, facilitate, inform the results? Where did the breath flow, touch? What shape was it?
Yoga is to explore your internal world, using the asanas and the breath to map your universe. You may find surprising things there – pain, sorrow, anger. These are like the boulders in your path. Sit for a while with the boulder and examine it. Resist the urge to blame others, your teacher, yoga. These are the best learning experiences we can have, for this is when yoga truly begins to heal.
- A bottle of water: drinking during class disturbs the digestive system. If you need to hydrate, do so before or after class. And anyway, it’s a trip hazard.
- Baggy leggings: your teacher needs to see your legs, ankles and feet. Baggy pants fall down during inversions. And again, they’re a trip hazard.
- Food: have you noticed how a good yoga class suppresses your appetite? Have an empty stomach or a little food an hour beforehand, and if you have low blood sugar, fruit is a good standby.
- Your own space: don’t cling to the same space every week – change your perspective and help others change theirs. So don’t ask someone else to move – move yourself.
- Resistance to change: if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got. You cannot avoid your own weaknesses or use them as an excuse. Resistance is futile.
- Pre-conceived ideas: teachers use different methods to achieve specific effects. The same pose can be energising, relaxing, challenging or healing, depending on the approach. Go inside and see what happens.
- Modest clothing: think of it from the perspective of your teacher, or the person behind you. Believe me, a thong/tiny tank top is not a good look and no-one is interested in your tattoo/navel ring.
- Humility: our attitude can often be narrow, limiting and rigid. With humility we allow our yoga practice to change and re-shape us, body, mind and spirit.
- Humour: good humour is strength of character. Laughing at ourselves, we challenge our difficulties and overcome them. Don’t give up on that handstand: laugh and try again.
- The outside world: by definition, things that are common in normal life but are not part of your experience. Leave it all outside the door. Allow your perspective to change and even the most intractable of problems will shift.
If you put the phrase ‘yoga leggings’ into a search you’ll see a lot more than you wanted to see. (And a lot of it is not tasteful, especially on Twitter!)
As ever, when it comes to what the body needs rather than what the ego wants, BKS Iyengar was a pioneer. He designed and perfected all the yoga props we see in use today. Arguably his most universal gift to the yoga community is what we now call Pune Pants. The design allows complete freedom for the body whilst protecting the modesty of the people in the class. They are designed like a pair of bloomers but with an extra piece in the gusset so you can bend, extend, squat and twist with no limitation imposed on the movement of the body by the fabric clinging to your skin, and pulling it in the wrong direction.
Try Eka Pada Sarvangasana (see image from RIMYI, left) in your usual lycra, then try it in cotton Pune Pants…..see? Your groins will love you for it!
For more choices, lovely Indian fabrics , hand-made in the UK, see this site: www.frannixon.com
So if you want to see yourself as others see you, push your fist into your leggings – if you can see your knuckles, we can see your knickers. And you won’t have to throw away all your cosy leggings – just wear them underneath in the winter. The opportunities for colour co-ordination and fashion statements are endless…..
Photo credit: Ray Burmiston http://www.rayburmiston.com
Zubin says: Spend one whole season with these potent thoughts. They have the potential to help you transcend the many ills which have befallen you or will strike you in future time and space.
If I ask you, “Tell me, till what point can your eyes see?” Most probably, and reasonably, your answer would be: until the horizon. But with a powerful instrument, one can stretch that horizon to far-off stars.
A discerning yoga practitioner, with the fine instrument of Yog, can learn the usages of our rich embodiment and look within and beyond the surface horizon, to see the marvellous world of associated body, mind and breath.
Just as an astronomer would peer through a powerful telescope to see and explore our expansive universe, use these ten themes to explore the universe of your own embodiment.
10. Goal is not the exclusive fitness of the body or mind but a unified condition.
‘Holics’ of any shape or size are deranged personalities. Workaholics were seen as extremely productive but it came at a high cost of their physical and mental breakdown. Hence ultimate fitness is never about exclusively building up your body or mental aspects but rather associated conditions to be engendered. The modern person should be aware of marketing spiel designed to trap him or her into buying their products. Energy drinks have no lasting energy, only a shot of extra sugar. A yogic deep breath in fact, will change the status of your body and mind.
So last but not the least, the human being has to give a deep thought and reflect on their act and behaviour, not of becoming but of being. A human ‘being’ is the end sought after and not a human ‘becoming’ all the time.
9. Trainers Vs real Teachers.
Coaches and body trainers have become ubiquitous. The problem is their very little and shallow knowledge of our embodiment. Take for example a trainer preparing someone for the marathon. Making a person orient to an act is one thing, and making that person orient to the whole range of life that the person will face is another. Say there will be upheavals in life; the person’s body, mind and breath have to be taught to cope in all such situations.
What is the end you are aspiring for; Patanjali speaks of kaivalya and dharmamegha samadhi, that is supreme aloneness and a downpour of wisdom and enlightenment. Trainers can take you so far. But a philosopher-teacher or a poet or a grammarian, ayurvedachar and a yogacharya like Patanjali all rolled into one, can help you transcend your limitations at every stage.