Starting Your Practice on International Day of Yoga

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Starting Your Practice on International Day of Yoga

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By now you guys know how to tell what’s playing on repeat in my brain. There’s an instagram photo about it. Then a blog post. Then more instagram photos. And then probably more instagram photos. And then… you get the idea. Right now, that is yoga.

One of the things I talked about in my anti-New-Year-resolution post a few months ago was committing to improving my health. It’s a ‘resolution’ I’ve made pretty much every year since I was about 25 and usually I’m one of the many, many people who fall off the wagon by March-ish. I can’t be 100% sure why, but this year has been different. I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s because I was truly alarmed at how out of shape I was instead of just being pouty that my jeans were tighter. I’m glad to say that almost seven months into the year, I feel better in pretty much every way than I did in January. There’s a lot of stuff that went into that, but International Day of Yoga is coming up this Friday (6/21/19), so I’m gonna focus on that.

And by the way – contrary to what I initially thought, this isn’t just an Instagram holiday. Nope, it’s the real deal. It was proposed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, and the UN drafted a resolution making it so.

In the spirit of a day focused on sharing yoga with the masses, here are some thoughts and practical tips on how to start your own practice.

I’ve been to classes at my university gym off and on for years, but for some reason the idea of stepping into a real studio – with real yogis – was intimidating as hell. What if I was the only one who couldn’t do a pose, or I fell over, or some other trivial but still anxiety-inducing thing? But I reeeeally wanted that yin yoga class so I sucked it up and went. Obviously, I survived and I’m here to tell you it’s really ok. I learned quickly that literally no one is paying attention to anyone else except the teacher, and that’s purely to help you (and make sure you don’t fall on your head, I guess). And yes, I have met poses I can’t do yet, and fallen over, and farted during class, and fallen asleep in shavasana – and so has just about everyone else. Moral of the story: If anxiety and general social awkwardness are holding you back, don’t let them win!

Pro tips for your first class

I’m well aware that saying “don’t be anxious about your first class” is almost definitely not going to make you less anxious (wow thanks, I’m cured!), so here are some tips that might actually do something for you:

  • Pick a beginner class. If you’re new to yoga or getting back to it after a long time, beginner classes (sometimes listed as basics, all-levels or foundations) are usually slower paced and have more thorough explanations of each pose.
  • Plan to get there early. A lot of studios seem to be tucked away in weird places, so you want to give yourself time to find the place. It will also give you a chance to fill out any waivers and talk to the teacher if you have special concerns (questions, injuries, etc). This is also your perfect chance to let the teacher know if you’re not familiar with the names of poses.
  • Grab your favorite spot. Personally I think near the back of the room is a great place for beginners. Most teachers walk around the room making suggestions and adjustments, so it’s not really necessary to see the front of the room. If you’re at the back instead you can look at everyone else for reference if you don’t quite understand the cues. There’s also the benefit of being out of everyone else’s line of sight, if that bothers you.
  • Wear comfy clothes. I like leggings and a tight-fitting tank top so that it doesn’t get all up in my face in down dog. I don’t recommend loose-fitting shorts because you might end up displaying way more than you intended.
  • Don’t sweat the gear. Most studios have mats to borrow or rent if you don’t have your own (call first or check their website to make sure), water fountains or bottled water and any props like blocks and bolsters. Taking a small hand towel with you is always a good idea in case your face/hands get sweaty, though. If it’s a hot class, a large bath/beach towel or a yoga towel is a must.

Studio Etiquette

I’m forever worried about making some unintentional faux pas, but luckily yoga is one of those places where people are pretty accepting (that’s kind of the point, right?). There are still some general guidelines most people follow to be considerate of others.

  • Use your inside voice. There might be other classes going on, and other folks are probably working on getting into their mindful mode.
  • No shoes in the studio. Outside is super gross and no one wants to put their mat in all that mess. The studio should have cubbies or lockers for you to stash your shoes and other belongings.
  • Feet on your mat only! Try not to step on anyone else’s mat, that’s all.

Where to Practice

The other thing that kind of tripped me up was deciding where even to practice at! There are quite a few studios here in Lexington to choose from. I lucked out a little bit though, because I knew I wanted to take a yin yoga class specifically to help with my flexibility. There was only one place near my house that offered yin classes in the evening, so that dilemma was solved! If your choice is a little harder, my best advice is to try a few different studios & teachers. Most places have an intro offer for your first couple weeks or the first month. Classpass is also a great way to try out different studios and classes without committing to anywhere specific (plus you can use it in different cities!). Oh yeah, and they have a free one month trial for new users.

I always always recommend at least a few group classes with a trained teacher, since they’ll help you get the basics down and make sure you’re doing everything safely. If you don’t have a studio nearby or cost is an issue, there are tons of great videos – beginner and advanced, all styles – on youtube. My personal favorite is Yoga with Adriene because she has really easy-to-follow cues and tons of different types of videos. Anywhere you can carve out a half-hour or so without too much distraction is perfect – living room, back yard, wherever you’re happiest. When I do yoga at home, it’s in my office with all my houseplants :-D

International Day of Yoga Events

If you’ve been waiting for ‘the right time’ to start your yoga practice, Friday is the day! I mean, it IS a yoga holiday after all. There will be lots of events all over the world celebrating it, with people new and experienced all coming together. It would be impossible to list them all here, but definitely do a quick google search for your area to see what’s going on. In the meantime, here are a few that I think sound awesome:

What are you doing for International Yoga Day? If you’ve got something special planned or know of any awesome events in your area leave them in the comments for the rest of us!

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