I was a first grade teacher when I decided to take my first yoga class. If anybody needed stress relief, it was me. The studio was a few blocks from my house and offered plenty of class times before and after work.
I am not your typical "There is no way I can do that! I can't bend like a pretzel! Yoga isn't for me!" person. After seeing the happy, calm faces leaving the studio, photos of people smiling in lotus pose on a mountain top and hearing it was mostly a relaxing practice focused on breath, I thought "No problem! I am an expert at relaxing and at breathing! Surely, I can do this!"
I bought a yoga mat and walked into my first yoga class. It was a level one class. What I didn't know, was in this particular version of "level one", the instructor would be verbalizing instructions for inversions at the midway point through class. I was glad that I had even made it to the half way point.
Three-fourths of the way through class, the instructor was adjusting my stance and asked softly, "Is something wrong with you?" I laughed out loud (a no-no for yoga class) and then was relieved from the stares of the experts surrounding me, when the instructor laughed out loud, too. Before long, my downward dog had collapsed on the floor, in a mixture of pain, laughter and wounded pride.
My first yoga class taught me to laugh at myself. I will not be good at everything. I will make mistakes. I will keep trying.
What to expect
Yoga terminology confuses people. Much of the confusion about yoga comes from the various styles of yoga that are available today. In the traditional sense, yoga was a spiritual practice. Like most everything else in the world, we have westernized it and added our own American flair (or lack thereof). In some styles today, those who wish to incorporate the spiritual practice should have no problem finding a class that meets their desires. At the same time, with the introduction of (what I like to refer to as) "gym yoga" there are versions that focus only on the postures, strength building or health benefits, without any connection to the spiritual realm.
Yoga Alliance offers teachers certifications in many different styles of yoga. If you have tried yoga and found it wasn't what you expected, maybe you were practicing a different style. Here is a list of popular styles and what you can expect from each class.
Hatha Yoga is going to be your generic yoga class. It offers both the poses and the stretching, but without the flow. Translation -- it's a slower paced yoga class, great for beginners or those just wanting to see what yoga is all about. Hatha yoga is about connecting the mind, body and spirit.
Vinyasa Yoga is a faster paced, "flow" yoga experience. What you focus on in vinyasa is commonly "one breath, one movement." It trains your body to become one with your breath, a main yogic principal. It is faster paced and will often follow a sequence of postures. Don't let this intimidate you though. A good yoga teacher, will show you a resting pose to fall back on, if any part of the class pushes you too far. Vinyasa yoga is concentrated on connecting the mind and body and breath.
Bikram Yoga is creating a lot of buzz these days. In layman's terms, this a hot yoga. In most of these classes, you will find a flow sequence with the temperatures cranked up! Why? To create sweat, to gain deeper stretches and to burn more calories. The higher temperatures will help you reach deeper stretches, which in turn will increase your flexibility and all the sweat as an added detox bonus.
Restorative Yoga is what I would recommend for a newbie. Its gentle. Its easy. It's a place to let all your stress go and teach your body how to relax. I have been to restorative classes, that never require standing. There are props used in restorative yoga. Don't let this intimidate you, a trained instructor will show you exactly what to do and when to do it. Restorative yoga offers deep physical, emotional and mental relaxation.
Kristi McDonald is the creator & teacher at Kids Yoga Zone. Kristi is a graduate from the University of Texas, Corepower Yoga Teacher Training and Collinson Massage School. She is the founder of Kids Yoga Zone school. She is a reiki practicioner, licensed massage therapist, published author and former elementary teacher. Kristi can be heard on The Indigo Project: Meditation for Children album available on itunes. Visit: http://www.kidsyogazone.com
Random Thoughts on Personal Yoga
Find your personal favorites and practice when you can: Yoga has many benefits. A regular practice can lead to increased flexibility and strength, greater concentration, improved posture, larger lung capacity, a sense of calm, decreased blood pressure, and so forth. However, between work and personal commitments it can be hard to set aside 60 to 90 minutes for a regular yoga practice. Thankfully, there are many short yoga workouts available online -- and what's more, they're free! While a short yoga session cannot fully replace an all-out yoga flow, incorporating a regular brief flow into your day can still lend many of the same amazing benefits of a longer practice. Check out some of these free yoga flows currently available on the internet. See Youtube video below as an example.
Thinking ahead on how to practice: There are four basic definitions of vinyasa: the linking of body movement with breath; a specific sequence of breath-synchronized movements used to transition between sustained postures; setting an intention for one's personal yoga practice and taking the necessary steps toward reaching that goal; and a type of yoga class.
Yoga is a personal journey: Yoga is union--the union of mind, body, and spirit. In Iyengar Yoga, this search for union begins with ongoing practice of the yoga postures. In time, students learn to penetrate beyond the outer, physical layers (kosas) to the inner layers of mind, energy, and spirit.
The Grateful Dead were certainly musically centered: In the mid 1990s, Schultz traveled on tour with the Grateful Dead as the band's personal yoga teacher until Jerry Garcia died. While on tour with the Grateful Dead one of the band members asked Schultz what was the name of his yoga. Schultz said it didn't have a name, at which point in time Bob Weir said, "it should be called Rocket Yoga, because it gets you there faster." It was Weir who encouraged Schultz to write his first book on yoga, Ashtanga Yoga As Taught by Shri K. Pattabhi Jois.
Yoga Experience Related Items For Sale
My Personal Yoga Practice - Backbend Flow
My personal practice of a 20 minute backbend flow in fast-motion! Randomly filmed after a morning class. This video is NOT intended to be a tutorial or instr...
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