It has been one week since I started the 30 Day Yoga Challenge.
For those of you who are joining me in this challenge, congrats! I have to say I was pretty surprised when friends, family, and acquaintances showed interest in doing this with me, committing to an entire month of yoga practice, but it has been a pleasant surprise, filled with positivity, inspiration, and motivation.
Highlight of the week: Having a 30 minute tree pose staring contest with my boyfriend, Rand, following a few glasses of wine. Yeah, that happened.
That being said, I learned a thing or two during this first week. Let’s start with a disclaimer: I am very beginner when it comes to yoga. I can’t stand on my head or bend like a pretzel yet, but I am truly committed to learning and working from the ground up.
Here are my top 8 yoga tips for beginners.
Yoga Mat: I have no idea at this point how many yoga mats I have purchased in the past four years. Some people enjoy mats with a little more cushion (got to keep that tushy cushy), while others enjoy mats that feel practically like a hardwood floor (just thinking about those types of mats sincerely hurts my tailbone). Either way, purchase a really good mat that works for you. You can find yoga mats at most stores, usually for an affordable price (anywhere between $15-50). For my eco-friendly friends, they even sell environmental friendly mats, but those tend to be a tad bit more expensive. Remember, this is the mat your body will be utilizing every day during your yoga practice, so make sure you purchase what works for you.
Yoga Block: My sister purchased me a yoga block about 4 years ago for Christmas, and I just used it for the first time this week. Despite the fact that the yoga block could have been extremely useful the past four years, something blocked my prefrontal cortex from making rational decisions (I blame graduate school). Not only does it help provide stability for difficult postures, but it also prevents you from over-stretching, helping to avoid unnecessary injuries. Again, yoga blocks are pretty cheap ($10-20) and can be found at most stores.
Trial and Error: Finding the right yoga class or yoga video is like finding the right gynecologist/proctologist (oh yeah, I went there). Some instructors can be ostentatious and downright creepy. Try out a few different classes to see what it is you like/dislike. The yoga instructor is the one guiding you through each posture, so you want to make sure you feel both comfortable and connected to the practice.
Clothing: My favorite topic. Whatever you choose to wear during yoga, make sure it is practical. Baggy pants and tops usually get in the way when you are trying to transition from one posture to the next (Seriously, try doing yoga in sweatpants and let me know how quickly they slide off your booty). I am obsessed with yoga pants. Whether or not you actually practice yoga, I am pretty confident almost all females are equally obsessed with this fashion trend. Not only are they extremely comfortable, but they are super cute and sexy. Check out Victoria’s Secret yoga line. It is a little pricey, but totally worth it. Take away message: I am giving you an excuse to go shopping.
Learn the Language: To prevent sounding pedantic, hear me out for a moment. I previously did not believe it was important to learn the language. I’m not a yoga instructor and I do not want to sound like a pretentious hippie (Quite the oxymoron and yes, I am a bit judgy this morning). Learning the language will help you deepen your practice and make it a hell of a lot easier to follow each sequence. When learning the postures, we have to watch the instructor closely, but once learned, it is much easier to just listen and focus on the movement. For those who want to learn more, check out your bookstore and read a little. I just purchased The Complete Yoga Book, by James Hewitt. Unfortunately, Yoga for Dummies was not in-stock.
Invite your friends: As Chalene Johnson once said, “If your friends don’t like to workout, get new friends!” Okay, so that is a bit dramatic, but if your friends exercise with you, it makes hitting that yoga mat after a long day much easier. Rand, who would rather lift heavy weights than even look at a yoga mat, decided to join me a few times this week, supporting me in this challenge. If you haven’t tried yoga with your partner, do it. Not only can they help correct your form, but you will have a guaranteed laugh when you land on your ass. Half moon pose anyone?
Be Mindful: Previously when I practiced yoga, I had this neurotic urge to always be perfect with each posture. Well, if I were “perfect,” I would most likely be an instructor, so I needed a little reality check. Yoga is not about perfection, nor is it about pushing your body past your limit. If you are constantly comparing your posture to others in a judgmental way, then you are not being fully present with your mind and body. Focus less on being advanced, and focus more on your journey of getting there. I am fully aware I sound like a walking cliché right now, but it is true. I realized that by focusing on my breath and the movement, my postures improved and the more relaxed I felt following the sequence.
Laugh a little: Every person will fall, stumble, and roll off of their mat at some point. Yoga is hard. It requires concentration, balance, and flexibility. I know some yoga classes require silence, and you certainly don’t want to be a distraction in class, but every once and awhile, just laugh at yourself. Yoga does not need to be so serious all of the time. Remember, you won’t be perfect, you will fall, and mistakes happen. Get over it.
If you have any advice for yoga beginners that I did not include, please feel free to share.
Only 22 more days to go! Keep pushing. Remember: If you skip a day, try not to beat yourself up about it! Life Happens.