I was recently asked by a fellow writer about my recommendations for getting started with yoga. This is a PERFECT question for the impending new year. Come January, many people will start out strong with a new exercise and diet routine. Who hasn’t made these resolutions? You know the best time to start reforming your lifestyle and getting healthy would be now, right? You know, BEFORE you set yourself back even farther with all the temptations of holiday goodies and lavish spreads in the workplace AND relatives’ homes. Yeah, you heard me, BEFORE. So that means now. Starting where you stand. Come on, given the plethora of food we are surrounded by this time of year, it’s easy to pack an additional 1000 calories into your day just by nibbling. Do you really want to do that? IS THIS YEAR’S SERVING OF AUNT JUNE’S GOLDEN CARAMEL CHEESECAKE worth the five hours it will take you to burn it off? (And that’s a conservative estimate — I wish I were kidding.)
Yoga Fact: Yoga isn’t just stretching. It can be quite aerobic and challenging.
So, yes, this is a perfect time to get started with yoga. If nothing else, it can alleviate a lot of holiday stress! First off, you’ll need a yoga mat, which you can pick up at Walmart, TJ Maxx (I really like their selection), or even the Goodwill (just make certain you disinfect the heck out of it) for $10-20. (If you’re tall, get a 72″ one. I’m 5’10” and my feet still want to slide off the ends. The mat is about all you’ll need. If you want a DVD, go for one of the beginner ones from Gaiam. You can either buy them on their website at Gaiam.com or on Amazon. Stay away from DVDs by fitness gurus, such as Jillian Michaels. They are far too challenging for beginners. I like anything that Sean Corne puts out as well. I just love her energy and her voice isn’t distracting. I find Rodney Yee, although an amazing teacher, talks too much through his videos and that’s just annoying to me – or maybe it’s just because I’d rather look at him than follow what he’s doing. If you don’t want to invest in a DVD immediately — I RARELY work out with one and my daughter who has been a devotee of yoga for nearly a year has done a yoga video exactly ONCE — go to the YouTube channel of Tara Stiles. You may recognize her from the runway. She’s a former model turned yoga guru, and the girl quite possibly has the longest arms of anyone I’ve ever seen. Yes, she’s skinny, leggy and pretty, but she’s always completely kooky and doesn’t make yoga about judgment. I love watching her videos that just catch up her fans with what she’s been doing. You can follow her on Facebook as well. I LOVE her book Yoga Cures, which gives yoga poses for health and lifestyle challenges… like “Office Brain” where you’ve got too many things to do in too little time and don’t know where to begin!
What you should not do when beginning yoga is sign up for a class immediately and buy blocks, straps, mat sprays, gloves, bolsters, etc. When you do yoga correctly (and I’m not talking about your form), you’ll know when you need anything extra, like blocks. I didn’t buy those until I was into yoga for a couple of months. I made my own strap by going to the fabric store, buying two yards of belt webbing and tying knots in both ends! Waaaaay cheaper than the stuff sold. I also made my own bolster, but I sew. Go to Walmart and find a sturdy neck pillow – instant bolster. Yoga is not about how well-equipped you are to get each posture perfect. It’s about what is perfect for you. In yoga, you need to let go of your ego because ego tells you that you must be perfect. And ego will stand in your way of gaining the full benefits of yoga.
One thing you should know about yoga as a beginner is that no two days will be the same. One day you’ll float right into a pose, and the next day you won’t be coordinated enough to bend or stretch or balance that way. Why? Because your muscles are changing. They are getting stronger. The muscle fibers will develop their strength unevenly, and one side of your body may be coordinated one day and the next day it’s a sloppy mess. When this happens, and it soooo will, calm your frustration. Let it go. Remember that this is a process and the next day or the day after, will be different. Your body wants to do what you want it to do, and it’s trying, but there are some internal changes taking place that you don’t know about just yet. Trust your body to do what it needs to do. It’s “workin’ on it!”
Congratulations on choosing to give yoga a try. It’s easy, and then it’s difficult too. It all depends on which poses you choose to make part of your routine. My favorite pose? Dancer. Because of its grace. Do I ever fall out of it? Yep. Because even after 20 years, I’m still not perfect and some days my mind wanders and ego gets in the way.
If you’re just giving yoga a try, let me know. I’d also be happy to answer any questions you have.
Or if you just want to tell me about your journey to yoga, what your favorite pose is, or how you’ve handled difficult poses, feel free. I love hearing funny, interesting and even frustrating stories!