Seasoned yoga practitioner Shahnaz Soehartono lets you in on the 10 secrets of yoga beginners should know.
As someone who does yoga regularly, I have had my share of discovering surprising things, and most are not related to achieving challenging poses. Let me share 10 secrets about yoga that I wished I knew before starting the practice. I hope they help you, especially if you are a total beginner.
1. There are so many types of yoga—Vinyasa, Hot, Asthanga, Bikram, Hatha, Kundalini, Power, Yin—I did not understand which one I should start with. My advice for newbies is to just go for as many trial classes first, and from there decide which one you like best. It is definitely okay to be the newbie in class and then master the type of yoga later on, than to not try the class in the first place. In the end, regardless of which type of yoga you do, they all aim for you to achieve a union of body, mind, and spirit.
2. Yoga is not about competition, it is about being better than yourself. So what if your neighbour is an elastic band and can contort into different positions? That is her personal achievement. Turn the focus back on yourself, be grateful for how far you have gone from the first practice to what you can do today. Just compete with yourself from yesterday, and nobody else.
3. It is okay to not understand Sanskrit before starting yoga. While the Sanskrit names describe the yoga poses, the good news is that most teachers hardly use them. Just concentrate on performing your poses, and you will eventually remember their sanskrit names.
4. It is okay to sit silently on your mat and wait for the mantra or chant to end. You can choose to join in, and nobody will bother you if you do not.
5. We know it is impolite to let off gas next to someone, but it is perfectly normal when doing yoga. A lot of poses in yoga concentrate on creating a healthier digestive system, so it is common for a symphony of sounds and mixture of smells to fill the class. Just as you should not make the wind blower feel more uncomfortable than she already is, you can simply say ‘excuse me’ if you are the one letting off gas, and quickly return to your practice.
6. Be respectful of others who are practicing yoga—arrive on time or even early if you can, and if you feel that your body is unable to do any more poses, get into child’s pose or virasana and patiently wait until the lesson is over. Leaving halfway or early disrupts the energy and flow of the class.
Respect other’s practice just as much as you do yours. Arrive on time (early, if you can) and whenever you feel like you can’t do any more poses, just lay on child’s pose and wait for the class to finish.
7. The Savasana or Corpse Pose will become your favorite pose, as it is for me. This is one of the most important poses for completing your yoga session, in complete stillness and relaxation. This pose helps you focus on and give gratitude for what you have achieved during your session.
8. Just like a good nutrition plan or diet does not have a deadline and should last throughout your life, so is your yoga practice. In yoga, you cannot declare that you will achieve a pose by a certain date; there is no way you or anyone could possibly determine this. All you have to do is follow your practice everyday, and once you finally can do the pose, you will be surprised at your achievement. Then it is time to smile and be grateful for all the practice you have been doing regularly.
9. Resting well is important. Although yoga seems like a low-impact exercise, it is not—I went for a hot yoga session following a late night out and much sleep, only to start sneezing badly during the class and barely could finish it. I ended up being sick for a couple of days. Your body needs sufficient rest and hydration recover both before and after doing yoga.
10. You will fall deeply in love with yoga from your first lesson. It will catch you by surprise, but be assured that this is a healthy love relationship that will only bring bundles of positivity to your physical, mental, and emotional well-being.