We’ve all heard about the benefits of Yoga. It’s been said that those who practice the ancient activity achieve greater flexibility and balance as they age, experience lower levels of stress, and are better able to relieve body aches and pains. Sounds like a worthwhile exercise regime to me. Unfortunately, if you’re anything like me, beginning Yoga can be intimidating, especially if you’re embarrassed by the current state of your body. Trying out those new poses in front of a whole class can be daunting. But it’s been an activity I’ve wanted to experience for a while.
Last week, I finally plucked up the courage to attend my first drop-in Yoga class (http://www.multifaith.utoronto.ca/Events-And-Programs/Basic-Meditation-and-Classes.htm). I walked into the studio in my sweatpants and tank top, dreading the hour long session. I positioned myself in the first row as our instructor took her spot on her mat. She asked her customary pre-class questions: “Does anyone have any injuries that I should know about?” and “Is anyone new to Yoga?” I timidly raised my hand. The teacher welcomed me and then explained that I would be able to see more clearly if I sat further back. I did as I was asked and the class began. I sweated and struggled my way through most of the standing and balance poses. I was very relieved when we moved on to floor positions!
As the class progressed, I realized that I wasn’t the only person who believed she was the least flexible person in the room. Most of my classmates were just as self-conscious about their own abilities and I was able to take comfort in that. Moreover, everyone was focused on themselves and their poses, not on me and mine! Besides, Yoga isn’t about having perfect flexibility. It’s about forming the right alignment for each pose. As my instructor said “It doesn’t matter if you can touch your toes or not.” I was finally able to relax and find my Zen.
When the class was over, I approached the instructor and thanked her for help and patience. She gave me several follow-up tips and invited me to her next class. I walked out feeling extremely calm and accomplished!
All in all, it was a wonderful experience for me and I would recommend it to anyone who is contemplating it. During my first Yoga experience, I learned several lessons for use in my next sessions (yes, I do intend to continue!). First, Yoga isn’t a competition. It’s important to listen to your body and rest when you need it. I wish I had realized this from the get-go. Maybe then I wouldn’t be nursing sore shoulders, hips, and legs! Second, look for clarification! I noticed a few students asking the instructor for help with their alignments. Asking clarifying questions will help you get into the poses correctly and get more out of your practice. Finally, don’t take the class too seriously! There is a mistaken notion that Yoga is a bland, humorless endeavor. I was pleasantly surprised to find that that isn’t the case. Yogis do laugh in their sessions!
Attending your first Yoga class can be a wonderful experience. From improved balance to increased mindfulness, you are sure to walk away with something positive. Keeping an open mind will ensure a smooth first practice. I hope you consider giving it a try!