Being a Yoga Teacher is like being a parent in many ways. One major parallel is wanting to share everything you know, so your students can avoid the same pitfalls or learn the same lessons you have. As with parenting, these pitfalls and lessons have to be learned at your own pace with your own experience. So, here's some food for thought on your journey and a few things I hope you learn along the way.
That's exactly why you should practice. The number one reason people tell me when they start yoga is, “I'm not flexible.” You know what? Most of the people in the room started out in the exact same place as you did. Give it time. With consistent practice, you will notice your body begin to release and before long you may even touch your toes.
No one said it would be easy. Basic Yoga does not mean Easy Yoga. Basic yoga can be very challenging. Focusing on your breath, physical posture, intention, following the instructor, listening to your body, there's a lot going on in these classes. You will also find beauty in the basics. Taking the time to really understand your body, your practice, your limitations, your natural abilities, your breath and your intentions will help you in the long run to find and maintain a fulfilling practice.
What's your favorite flavor? Yoga teachers and classes come in all shapes, sizes, intensities, disciplines and music preferences. It's like flavors of ice cream. There are some that most everyone likes; your vanillas, chocolates and strawberries. And there are some who are acquired tastes. Your best friend may rave about an instructor and you may or may not agree and that's okay. If you are in class and it's not your favorite flavor, maybe take the opportunity to see if there's anything you do like about it or if there is something you can take away from it.
Two steps forward, one step back. When you are learning something new, there's a tendency to want to plow forward, move onward and upward. But, it's worth taking a step back every once in a while. Just because you can bring your hand to the floor in parsvokonasana (side angle), doesn't mean you should every single time you visit that pose. From my personal experience, I was able to cultivate more length, stability and space in this pose when I picked my hand up from the floor and moved my forearm back to my thigh. I was able to really focus on the stability in my legs, lengthening my side body and opening through the heart. This helped me cultivate the ability to bind in the pose and find energetic radiance from head to toe.
You want me to spin what where and press what to what? The prompting and queues that teachers delivered are intended for the class as a whole. They may or may not apply to you. Those queues may not even make sense. As your practice matures, so will your understanding of prompts and how or if to use them. My evolution of understanding queuing goes something like this; a) I have no idea what she's talking about I should probably just breath, b) Okay, I get that you want me to press my right hip forward, but honey it's not going anywhere, c) Ohhhhhh, that's what you meant.
Step out of your comfort zone. – There are lots of ways to advance your practice that don't include harder poses. A few to try include; move to a different spot in the room, practice with your hair down, try a new instructor or new style, eliminate fidgeting and adjusting, tone down the intensity of your practice, or try practicing at home.
Seek and ye shall find. – There is so much information out there. Decide what you want to learn more about and ask questions of your instructor, read a book/article/blog or take a workshop. You can delve into the asanas (postures), mythology, meditation, sutras, 8-limbs, doshas, or Ayurveda to name a few. The topics are endless.
Physical, emotional, spiritual. It is your practice and your motivation and experience can take many forms. Your practice can be purely a physical pursuit, it can be a great work-out. Your practice can be a vehicle to release or affirm emotion. You can also welcome your faith and spiritual beliefs to your practice.
What information, advice or tidbit was helpful to you as a beginner? What would you want a new yoga student to know?