Starting a yoga practice can be challenging. Whether you’re trying yoga for the first time, or coming back to it after a long break, it can feel like an impossible mountain to climb. So here’s my best shot at some decent advice on starting your yoga practice.
You have to make the time for it. I’m busy all. the. time. Even when I really don’t have to be, I always find some way to make myself busy. Some days, yoga and meditation just don’t happen and that’s totally fine. If I don’t do yoga or meditate for a while, though, (several days…. A week…. Or more…. Hey- life happens!) I start to feel all kinds of frazzled and turn into a really high-strung, high-stress person that I don’t like to be around. Admittedly, this often happens because of horrible time management. I don’t put in the time for myself. I’d rather spend an hour watching Netflix after a crazy day at work than an hour practicing Asana (physical poses of yoga) some days, even though I know which one would make me feel better in the long-run. (Hint- It’s not the Netflix.) So this is something I’m personally still working on– making the time to practice. Try out different options- early morning, after work, before bed- and see what works best for you.
There’s no such thing as a “bad” practice. You might feel like you have to practice every day or for a certain length of time, or do a specific style or be able to contort yourself into a specific pose to really have a “good” yoga practice or to “be a yoga person.” Fortunately for most of us, none of this is true. A “good” yoga practice is one where you step onto your mat. Period. You don’t have to be there every day, you just have to show up consistently, whether that’s once a day, once a week, or once a month. Starting a yoga practice is different for everyone and spazzing your way through downward dog and feeling good about it is just as great as someone else gliding through a handstand and feeling good. The whole point is to show up and be present in what you’re doing. It may sound cliche but it’s really the thought that counts.
Yes, you are flexible enough, fit enough, calm enough, etc. The biggest misconceptions about yoga are that you have to be flexible or fit or calm to be “good at it.” First of all- I couldn’t touch my toes when I started either. Second of all- some types of yoga are so far from a workout it’s not even funny. And third of all, “yoga people” are totally nuts- that’s why we do yoga. So get out of your own head and onto your mat! Flexibility will come with time, fitness can be built if you want it to be, and if you’re super strung- out, then yoga could definitely help with that.
Yoga can be exactly what you need it to be in that moment. Yoga is essentially a shape- shifter. Whether it’s a super difficult, super sweaty Vinyasa class, or a super chill, super relaxing Restorative class, or meditation, or five seconds of deep breaths at your desk at work, yoga can really be anything you need. If you need more energy, or if you need a nap, it can be anything you make it.
It will make you more aware of yourself, and not in a self-conscious “he can do a handstand and I can’t” kind of way. You gain a level of self-awareness that extends beyond a knowledge of muscles you didn’t know you had before and now are sore from doing so many chaturangas (yoga push ups). It extends into knowing how you like your body to move and knowing how you feel happy when you’re barefoot in the grass. Your knowledge of yourself will grow (whether you like it or not), to show you why you have a fiery personality and how a deep breath can make you feel like the whole world is melting off your shoulders.
You can make some pretty awesome friends. “Yoga People” are good at finding their flock. It can be so much fun to commiserate in how challenging a hot Vinyasa class was, or zen out over tea after a restorative class. Like-minded people usually come to the same classes, or rather- people go to the class that resonates with them, which means that if you put enough people who resonate similarly in a room together, odds are that they’ll make friends.
It won’t happen overnight. Literally no part of yoga will happen overnight. None of it. You won’t just wake up one morning and BAM you’re perfect at this whole yoga thing. We use the word “practice” for a reason. Again- not to be cliche, but practice makes perfect…. But there’s no such thing as “perfect…” so maybe practice makes more practice…. Forget I said that. What I mean is that developing a consistent practice takes time, good energy, and patience. Three things we all need more of, myself included.
Anyway, all of this is to say that starting a yoga practice can be super challenging, but the hardest part is just getting out of your own head and onto your mat.
We always think that we have no time, or energy, or we’re not flexible enough, or fit enough, or calm enough, or whatever BS we want to believe about ourselves, but actually, yoga helps to fix everything that needs fixing. It’s a kind-of hippie medicine cure-all because it can be anything we need it to be.
So my best advice for starting a yoga practice is to not think about it. Just start somewhere… anywhere… and see how it goes. See how it makes you feel, mentally and physically, and see if you want to do it again, and again, and again.