First, I want to say congratulations! If you completed the 30 Day Yoga Challenge, awesome. If you did not, that is okay! I started this challenge because I wanted to improve my posture and flexibility. Now that I have completed it, I have learned so much more. That being said, I feel it is important to share with you what I have gained, and I also want to thank those of you who have reached out to me with such kind words and inspiration.
The Six Commandments for Yoga Beginners
- Yoga is not a race: When I first started the 30 Day Yoga Challenge, I had this idea in my mind that after one month, suddenly I would be able to bend like a pretzel and stand on my head. I don’t know if it was my Type A perfectionist personality or being slightly delusional, but I soon discovered that becoming an expert in yoga after 30 days is just not possible (and slightly insane). In fact, if you enter your own yoga practice with this idea in your mind, you are setting yourself up for disappointment and probably missing out on the actual benefits yoga provides.
- Be mindful: As a therapist, I often incorporate core mindfulness based skills into therapy sessions. These skills are derived from Buddhist traditions, but do not inherently contain religious practices. In short, it is a way of being in the present moment. It is a state of mind that allows you to be in the here and now, to fully participate and observe your own state of being, and to allow judgmental thoughts to float away so that you can be effective in getting what you want in your life. This, in my opinion, is the hardest part of yoga. Often times our thoughts, whether it be thinking about what we are having for dinner or the fight we just had with a loved one, distract us from the present. In order to fully practice yoga, mindfulness is key. Savasana, also known as corpse pose, can be considered the most difficult pose in yoga, as it requires you to be completely mindful. Although, my cats beg to differ. Yes, there are three of them and yes, I am obsessed.
- Practice: Practice, practice, practice. Yoga is hard as all hell. I know that yoga instructors appear to be some mythical creatures that can balance on their head and knit a sweater at the same time. How do you think they got there? If you want to really expand your practice, and eventually learn more intricate and difficult postures, you must practice. At this time, I am committing to practicing yoga 6 days a week, with 3 of those days involving a full hour.
- Get your friends involved: Friends that play together stay together? Or something like that…I found that the more I surround myself with individuals who want to stay fit, the easier it is to actually stick with it. I have nothing against eating pizza and drinking a beer (or five), and I certainly am not going to preach about organic this and all-natural that, but I do believe in a balance. If you want to eat that pizza pie, you better be willing to work off those calories the next day or buhbye. I have found that those individuals who refuse to try and have a balanced life, also tend to make attempts to sabotage your healthy habits. It is absolutely unbelievable how often some people comment about what I am eating in a negative way. I am often accused of eating like a “rabbit” because I choose a salad with grilled chicken over a large pizza and fries. Food is fuel people, and if I wanted to function like a McDonald’s, I would eat there regularly. The next time someone negatively comments on your healthy habits, take a good look at their habits. I guarantee they are unhappy with their life.
- Get Medical Clearance: This is a big one. I have suffered from numerous injuries and I am currently dealing with some sacroiliac joint dysfunction. Have I stopped doing yoga? No. Do I have an appointment with a doctor to get clearance to continue my practice? Absolutely. Although yoga provides numerous health benefits, it is still hard on the body. If we are being mindful, we must also be aware of any discomfort we have during our practice, and be sure to modify the postures to our own ability. Play it safe kiddies.
- Attend a Yoga Class: When I am at home, I am the yoga master. The reality? I have absolutely no idea if my form is correct (and half the time, no idea what the hell I am doing). The only way to know for sure is to have a qualified instructor assist you when developing your yoga foundation. Many studios offer introduction courses that you can register for. Do you need to attend yoga classes forever? No. Yoga classes can be insanely expensive, but you should at least build your initial foundation with the help of a professional. Check out videos on youtube and this awesome website for some free yoga!
I will be starting a New Yoga Challenge in May and I hope you will join me.