Stretching in the Winter; Safe Ways to Stretch When It’s Cold Outside

One of the reasons people take up yoga is to get more flexibility. Men are especially known as being less flexible on the mats than their female counterparts. During the summer months when it’s warm outside it’s easier to get a goodcartoonbigguyyoga stretch, especially in the beginning of a class. It typically doesn’t take much to get the muscles loosened up and ready to go.

 

But during the cold winter months, it can feel like an hour or more of warm up is needed just to get the muscles loosened up to take a class. And for those that are naturally less flexible, it can be very frustrating and potentially injurious. What can be done during this time of stress, super tension and cold? Is all hope of flexibility lost? Fear not, for there is still hope.

 

The key to getting a good stretch while minimizing the risk of injury is a good warm up sequence. Waking the muscles up, getting the blood flowing and getting your whole body warm are the three tips to getting the most out of stretching in the cold months. First a little on why it works, then a handy little set you can use to get yourself fired up inside and ready to go.

 

Why it works

During the warm months (weeks if you live in New York), the ambient heat from nature helps the body to relax. The body, muscles and connective tissues are in a pretty constant state of being warm, and as a result are more relaxed. This state of relaxation is what allows the muscles to stretch and lengthen when stretching exercises are done.

 

Now think to the winter months. It’s cold and the wind is slicing through every layer of clothing you have on. Most

Image courtesy of shootingafly.blogspot.com.

Image courtesy of shootingafly.blogspot.com.

people actively pull in towards their center during this time. This is a protective reflex buried in our bodies. What it also does is put the muscles into a constant state of tension. While tensed in this fashion, the muscles are far less likely to stretch safely as they are actively shrinking and pulling in. And that’s why injuries such as pulled muscles occur. But, take those same tense, cold muscles and warm them up first, and you create a safe state for the muscles to stretch.

 

How to warm up your muscles safely

  1. Take a few minutes to acclimate to the warmer workout environment (assuming it is warmer)
  2. Start *slow* and then build the intensity of the warm ups
  3. Stay focused on the fact that these are indeed warm ups and while some of the exercises contain a little cardio, this is not the cardio portion of your work out
  4. Be honest with where you are in getting warm; some days you may need a little more time to warm up adequately, treat yourself to that time
  5. The more body parts you warm up, the safer your work out becomes; avoid warming up just the legs or just the back in favor of time on other parts of your work out

 

To help get you warmed up, I’ve drawn up a list of exercises that will get the whole body warm and the blood pumping.

 

Warm up set

  1. Body tapping – tap your body, shoulders to palms (palms up) and back (palms down). Tap the around the body and finally tap down and back up the legs. This should leave you with a tingling sensation telling you that your blood is flowing now.
  2. Hand squeezes – make a fist as tight as possible and open as wide as possible, repeat 30 or so times
  3. Elbow and shoulder rolls – rotating the joints to open them up both physically and energetically
  4. Hip, ankle and knee rotations – same idea as the shoulders and elbows
  5. Squats – slow motion and holding
  6. Plank/push-ups – slow, steady push-ups with holding planks in between
  7. Jumping jacks – any variation
  8. Coordination drills (hand/knee and hand/foot) such as ladders or mountain climbers

Yoga (2 of 6)

A note to avoid lateral foot work drills before you are warmed up. Those put a lot of pressure on the connective tissue and muscles of the joints. If performed cold you run a greater chance of getting injured.

 

I know that I’m warmed up enough when I have little beads of sweat just starting to form on my forehead. Another good sign is when I check in with my shoulders and quads. When I feel those loosen and relax, I know I’m ready to start my work out safely.

 

This kind of a deliberate warm up isn’t always an option. The top question I get is how to get into a class safely when

By Kennguru (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Kennguru (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

this type of intentional warm up isn’t possible. The short answer is to manage the intensity of your work out. If you’ve not had the time to warm up before a class, cut the intensity of the work out down until you are warmed up. You can still do the exercises, but instead of going full bore, you can lessen your effort or limit your range of motion until you feel you are warmed up and ready to go.

 

In the end, it’s about listening to your body. It will tell you when you are and aren’t ready for something. Everyone is different and every day is different. Some days you may need to just think about getting to your work out and you are set to go, no more warm up needed. Other days maybe the warm up is all you ever get through. There’s nothing wrong with either of those extremes or anything in between. Push your limits, challenge yourself, but do it safely so you are able to stay healthy and don’t have to recover from injuries.

I Eat Healthy and I Don’t Apologize….

What does eating healthy have to do with meditation? Many strange things have happened to me since I started meditating on regular basis. I crave exercise. I am less angry and judgmental. I actively look for ways to help others. I like eating healthy food.

 

That’s right. I eat (moderately) healthy foods and take the time and extra effort to plan and prepare meals and snacks that are relatively healthy and tasty besides. And I don’t apologize for it. chickenpotclipart

 

What I am finding interesting, is that people; both friends and random people I meet, make semi-apologetic excuses for not eating better themselves. I don’t know if anyone else is experiencing this phenomenon, but I find it a little unsettling.

 

I like to socialize over lunches and dinners as a way to strengthen or help to forge the bonds of friendship and camaraderie. However, my diet has been changing over the years to a healthier diet, giving up cheese, soda, eating more vegetables and so on.

 

I never paid much attention to what others were eating (unless it looked better than what I ordered) and was never concerned about what my companions thought of my meal. Having said that, I have been on the receiving end of near militant ‘ians who had no lack of opinion and were more than happy to “share.”scaredchickenclipart

 

And perhaps that mentality is what my friends now anticipate from me; although I hope not. I make my choices and choose what I will and won’t eat. I choose to go into restaurants and order off menu if there aren’t choices that I find palatable. What I don’t do is expect others to make the same choices.

 

 

And yet my friends, family and even complete strangers give me the impression that they feel bad or ashamed about what they are eating, and end up basically apologizing to me for their diet; or making excuses to me about why they are not eating better. It’s creepy to be honest.

 

I don’t know the real reason they act the way they do around me. I am very careful not to push my own choices, and I generally don’t even mention them unless contextually appropriate. I’m not the food police and I certainly don’t critique everyone else’s meals.

 

I’ve just begun looking for the cause of this odd behavior. Don’t get me wrong, I like the idea of inspiring others to benobully1 their best and to cheer them as they strive for new goals. But I have no desire to be the self-righteous bully that looks down his nose at the choices and lifestyles of others.

 

For one thing, it isn’t my place. For another, it sounds like a lot of work. I don’t want to have to keep track of everyone all the time. And finally I’m still learning and growing. I have and will likely continue to make missteps and mistakes; have to back track and even apologize at times.

 

 

If there is one thing anyone takes from this, I hope it is to be yourself. If you aren’t happy with where you are in your life, make a change. If you don’t feel you can make that change alone, ask for help. No one can offer a helping hand unless they know you need it.

 

Drop the excuses and take action. If you don’t want to make a change in your life then don’t. Be confident in yourself and your choices. Everyone else can either support and accept you, or not.

 

“You have to meet people where they are, and sometimes you have to leave them there.”

– Iyanla Vanzant

10 Minutes To Get The Body and Mind Moving

Job, family, kid’s activities, dinner, home projects, pets and a million other things compete for our time every day. With all that noise and competition it’s tough to carve out time to take care of ourselves. Sleep deprivation is one option, and I’ve certainly used it in the past. But there are still days where even that isn’t an option.

 

Instead of stressing over missing a day (and for me, the grumpiness that fills my day), I have a quick (and in my opinion fun) way to get a little stretch and strengthen put back into the day. And it’s only 9 moves and 10 minutes. Full disclosure, this is not a super cardio, super stretch, ab ripping or other intensive set. It’s meant as a way to get the body (and energy) moving on days where there just isn’t time for anything else.

 

Empty Coat Sleeves (2 minutes):

Feet shoulder width apart, let the arms hang down at your sides like empty coat sleeves (hence the name). Start by slowly twisting side to side letting the arms flop against the body. Slowly increase the tempo and as you turn, let the opposite side heel come up. Play with the tempo and the slowly add breath to the movement. Inhale as you come to center, exhale as you twist. Start to slow the swings and let the arms come to rest.

 

Hip Circles (5 each leg each direction):

Root one leg into the ground, shift your weight to that leg, engage the abs in and up then inhale to float the opposite leg up, bent at the knee. Keeping the planted leg engaged, draw the largest circle you can with the bent knee. Reverse the circles. Slowly lower the leg, shift your weight to the second leg, and repeat on the second side.

 

Leg Balances – each leg about 15-20 seconds (2-3 sets):

Start as above, feet hip distance. Plant one leg, thigh muscles gripping the bone, engage the abs in and up and inhale to slowly float the other leg up, bent at the knee and hold while continuing to breath. Float the leg down, shift the weight to the other leg, and repeat on the second side.

 

Wall Push, each leg forward (3 sets, 10-15 seconds each):

Stand with palms pressed against the wall. Step one leg back a comfortable distance. Front knee is stacked over the front ankle, the rear leg is long and strongly planted into the ground. Engage the abs in and up, inhale and slowly exhale as you press into the wall (10-15 second) and release. Repeat two more times. Switch feet.

 

Low/High lunges – just a good stretch:

Starting with feet planted, hip width apart, step far back with one leg. Keep the front knee stacked directly over the front ankle. Place your hands either on the floor or a block for balance. Keep the hips square and lengthen though the spine. Keep your rear leg straight and slowly pivot up at the hip, lengthening the tailbone down. This is a great stretch for the hip flexors and thighs. Stay here for a minute or so and enjoy the stretch. Switch sides before moving on.

 

Standing Wide Angle Forward Fold – a good stretch and release the head to relax:

Start with the feet a comfortably wide distance apart, legs straight but the knees aren’t locked. Engage the abs in and up, lengthen through the spine and fold slowly from the hips. Only after folding as far as you can, release the hands to the ground (or blocks) and let your body fold down and release your head and let it just hang loose. Relax here for several breaths and enjoy the mini-inversion. To come out, place hands on ground or blocks and use your arms to push up to a flat back, bend the knees slightly and hinge up to standing. Walk the feet together.

 

Seated Forward Fold (legs together) for good stretch; keep back long:

Come to a comfortable seated position with the legs straight out in front. Lengthen through the spine and the heels. Engage the abs in and up and begin to hinge forward at the hips. Hold here for a few breaths. You can then release and fold forward, supported by your hands. Hold here and breathe. Engage the abs, press the palms into the ground to straighten your spine. Hinge up from the hips to finish the release.

 

Seated Twist (each side):

Leave one leg extended and lengthen up through the spine. Bend the other leg at the knee and place the foot to the outside of the extended leg. Keep the spine lengthened and slowly twist towards the lengthened leg. Breathe a few times and slowly release. Switch legs and repeat on the second side.

 

Savasana, focus on belly breathing:

Lie down on the floor on your back. Feet slightly more than hip width apart and let the feet fall open. Hands about 45 degrees from the body, palms up. Release and relax every part of your body. This may take a minute or two, but don’t rush. When you’re ready, focus on the lower belly. As you inhale, let just the lower belly blow up like a balloon filing with air. As you exhale, let the belly sink down towards your spine; repeat. Take as long as you want here, but to keep it short, about 10 breaths or so will do. To come out, turn slowly to the left, pause, then push up to a seated position. Pause again before standing up and moving on with your day.

 

And now you’re done. Short, sweet and just enough to get your body, energy and mind moving and staying sharp for as long as you need. As I said earlier, this isn’t a cardio blast by any means, but it will get you moving.

 

Once you are comfortable with the series, I encourage you to play with different types of breathing to either bring up or level out your energy and mind.

Yoga: Path to Enlightenment or Damnation?

While visiting my in-laws for Christmas I was taking a yoga class in Dallas, TX. Nice place, good teachers and close by. My first class there was great. It was a Vinyasa flow with lots excellent transitions, a tough work out and a little quirkiness thrown in for good measure. At the end after savasana, the teacher simply said ‘a thanks for coming by I’ll be outside if you have any questions,’ hopped up and left.

 

I’m not a huge chanter, but after an invigorating workout and a good savasana, I like an OM thrown in. It helps me wrap up the integration phase of the class. But not that day. I stretched a little more, took my time and wandered out to the front desk. I started chatting with the teacher and during the conversation I asked why no OM at the end of the class. She looked like a chanter (for those that have been going to classes for some time, you’ll know what I mean).

Image courtesy of Ajna Chakra.

Image courtesy of Ajna Chakra.

 

She explained that in that section of Dallas, the studios wrote into the teacher contracts that there would be no chanting. The studios were afraid of backlash from the very influential churches labeling the yoga studios as a place of false worship and urging the parishioners to no longer go to classes there. It’s Dallas, and that is a very plausible scenario. The churches hold an incredible amount of sway and I’ve seen firsthand how the bishop/minister/preacher can speak for or against something in the community and how the impact of that can make or break an organization.

 

 

 

 

So I did some exploring. The good news is that not all studios have that restriction, and there are even some that are very chant/yoga/Namaste everything over the top to balance things out. The unfortunate side is that many of the schools close to where I was were strictly non-chanting.

 

This raises (yet again for many I’m sure) the question of is yoga a religion. Some believe it is and that it will lead you down the path of ruin. Yoga has roots in many religions and references deities, spirits, God and all sorts of other religious based topics. I don’t view yoga as a religion. I view it as a spiritual practice. For clarity, I will define the two as I use them.

 

Spiritual Practice – any physical or mental activity or action that align my mind, body and spirit in an attempt to bring me closer to harmony with the universe and all beings/things in it. This could be my morning cup of tea, it could be a yoga practice, it could be a Tae Kwon Do class, helping at a soup kitchen or meditation, among other things.

Image courtesy of  { lillith }.

Image courtesy of { lillith }.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Religion – following a prescribed set of practices, physical and/or mental, with the intent of following a specific set of guidelines as proscribed by a particular deity or deities. This could also be done to bring the practitioner closer to said deity or deities. This would be Mass, Communion, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, Baptism, Naming Ceremonies and more.

Image courtesy of Beth Levin.

Image courtesy of Beth Levin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I believe yoga is spiritual and can be used to support any religion. In my brief research, there doesn’t appear to be a specific deity or religion that “owns” yoga or claims to be its sole root uncontested. Ganesha, Buddha, Shiva, Brahma and the like are referenced in various styles yoga, but none of them are the total focus.

 

When I was going through my yoga teacher training, one of the guest teachers led sadhana (morning practice before the class work started) and spent the entire time referencing Jesus and God. Instead of using the name of Brahma when referencing creation, he referenced God. This theme was so prevalent that the end of class was closed with Amen instead of OM. Linda Johnsen wrote an interesting piece comparing the similarities of yoga and Christianity.

 

I’m not a religious person. Too many rules and too much reliance on how others interpret what someone else may or may not have said (think the Telephone game but after thousands of years). My opinion, try the yoga class. There is no requirement to chant; you can just sit there quietly as I have done many times.

 

Image from: Virtuousplanet.com

Image from: Virtuousplanet.com

If it just doesn’t feel right, don’t go back. But if it does feel right, if it does feel like a step closer to your religious beliefs, why not keep going. For the guest teacher, yoga is a part of his religious practice. He uses the physical postures in it to bring himself closer to the teachings of God and Jesus. They have Catholic Calisthenics after all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whether the class uses Buddhist references and mantras, Catholic ones, Jewish, Hindu, Islamic or some other, I believe yoga is a spiritual practice that can be used to support any religion. If a spiritual practice is available and it brings you closer to your religious beliefs, is that a bad thing? More importantly, if it can be used by one religion for support, does that mean it can’t be used by other religions?

 

 

Why Letting Go Is Good for Growth

Spring cleaning. Growing up it was a ritual. Clean up, clear out, and move on. Growing up an Army Brat, we lived a pretty nomadic life. While I’m happy about the experiences, the countries and the people I was fortunate enough to meet and see, it also forced us to live very light on possessions.messy yoga

 

Moving every few years meant that everything we owned was packed up and shipped to the next post, and no one wanted to fill boxes upon boxes with junk. This was especially true when we were headed overseas. The houses were smaller; less room = less stuff.

 

Little did I know the very important life lesson I was learning; how to let go of things that were no longer helping me. I don’t mean that in the narcissistic way, but in the way that when looking at my stuff, I learned to quickly (before Mom did it for me….) determine what clothes I no longer wore, the toys I no longer played with, etc. And those things were let go. We would donate what was still in good condition, and what wasn’t, was re-purposed (dress shirts as paint shirts) or disposed of.

 

From that lesson (repeated many times throughout my childhood), I came to understand the necessity in cutting back or cutting away things and even people that no longer served a positive purpose for me. This might sound harsh, but it helps to understand that sometimes people come into your life simply to nudge you in a direction, and once they do that, they need to move on. Sometimes they need to be invited to move on.

Image courtesy of cirquedumot.com Page by Susan Silver.

Image courtesy of cirquedumot.com Page by Susan Silver.

 

Sometimes it’s a matter of sentimentality. Much like a favorite stuffed toy that we drag around until it disintegrates, some friendships we just hang on to. Maybe it’s habit, maybe it’s sentimental. Either way, some friendships are toxic and need to be evaluated, and if necessary, pruned, so that you can continue to grow.

 

Once you’ve identified what is no longer helping you, the next step (and sometimes more difficult step) is to actually get rid of it. When I was first given this advice, I was also given the analogy of throwing away the things I no longer needed. At least that’s what I was supposed to visualize. I sometimes found that visualization didn’t really work for me.

 

 

What I eventually came to visualize was simple; let it go. To throw something away, the very first thing I need to do is grasp it. When I grasp it (physically, emotionally, etc.) I hold it tighter. Instead I picture that whatever it is I need to move past is in my hand. Then instead of gripping it to throw it away, I simply turn my hand over, and let it fall away.

 

Image courtesy of www.naturerocks.org.

Image courtesy of http://www.naturerocks.org.

This subtle shift in how I prepare myself for “spring cleaning” has allowed me to make these changes in a way that is less jarring I suppose. Instead of the act of (at least in my visualizations) throwing something as hard as I could (emotionally and mentally linking that to a negative of get it away from me) I can picture a simple parting of the ways; acknowledging that for a time at least, this did help me and I’m grateful for that. The time has just come to part ways.

 

Whether it is a person, a thing, or some combination, it takes considerable introspection and sometimes brutal honesty to dig deep enough to see what is no longer working in our lives. It can be painful, but in the end, removing the toxic components from our lives makes room for new, healthier, happier things to move in. The next time you find it’s time to clean out, I invite you to not throw out what you need to get rid of, but instead, let it go.

Nature Hates a Vacuum

Nature hates a vacuum. This was the very first lesson I remember learning in my physical sciences class as a kid, and that lesson has stuck with me ever since. In fact, I see this lesson being demonstrated over and over again all around me.

 

Whether it is water filling a hole in the ground, blowing up a balloon and letting it go to fly around or the weather, nature always seeks a balance. Water rushes around and levels itself off. High and low pressure systems move across the globe either pushing out existing weather, or pulling it in. Nature just “knows” that seeking equilibrium keeps the world moving smoothly.

Image courtesy of seeker9.com

Image courtesy of seeker9.com

 

Nature likes balance and we are a product of nature. When we chase after some new fad or some extreme fast/instant change, we can throw ourselves out of balance. And when we are out of balance with ourselves, we are out of balance with nature and everyone around us.

 

Today’s example for this post centers on chasing fads. Whether it’s the next super food, the next ab ripping 5 second work out or how to get the perfect mate, there’s so much being thrown at us in a truncated form that it is easy to be taken out of context. And that is where we run the risk of getting thrown out of balance; when things are taken out of context or with incomplete information. Ironically, this is the norm in today’s information overloaded world.

 

 

 

 

 

Nature seeks balance; even in nature too much of a good thing is bad. Trees convert carbon dioxide to oxygen.  That’s good. More trees produce more oxygen. That also sounds good. But too many trees eventually lead to forestation that is too dense to support healthy trees. This results in weak trees that spend more energy fighting for survival, nutrients and resources than they do converting CO2 to O2.

Image courtesy of Mikenorton; Rainforest canopy at the Forestry

Image courtesy of Mikenorton; Rainforest canopy at the Forestry

 

The same is true with humans. We’re like the forest. For us to prosper and grow, we need to maintain a healthy balance within so that we don’t end up clogging our energy and limiting our own growth. An excessive desire to acquire or achieve something (money, sex, my personal favorite, “enlightenment”) will eventually lead to a path of cutting out opportunities for true growth in favor of the focused, exclusive pursuit material or ego based desires. This can include cutting out our support networks of friends and family.

 

 

 

 

 

This isn’t to say that desires or goals are bad, they certainly aren’t. It’s focusing on them in such a narrowed fashion to the exclusion of everything else that becomes potentially unbalancing. I’m not talking about the type of drive where someone pushes through the naysayers to accomplish something fantastic or a life’s dream. What I am talking about is the chasing of the latest sparkly thing. Kale is a super food. Now every meal I eat has kale in it. Now the super food is coconut oil so every meal must have coconut oil in it and all the kale gets pitched out.

Image courtesy of creoleindc.typepad.com.

Image courtesy of creoleindc.typepad.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For me, the key to balance (and therefore a bit of harmony) is moderation, acceptance and the occasional splurge. I think of it like this;

 

Image courtesy of NASA

Image courtesy of NASA

I am standing in the middle of a massive tornado with everything flying around me at break neck speed. If I move toward any of those things flying around me (people, food, pleasure, desires, etc.) I risk getting pulled into the twister where I get tossed and whirled around until it spits me out. Staying centered doesn’t mean staying in one spot. The winds are dynamic and ever changing, as are the forces and desires in our lives. To stay centered sometimes means having to move off center in one direction to avoid getting pulled too far in another. You know, to balance things out.

 

 

 

 

 

Realizing that, and accepting it without judgment, is one of the most difficult lessons I’m learning. This is also where, from my observations/experience, people tend to go awry. Sometimes the seeking of balance and only balance keeps someone rooted where they are, and when the “winds of change” sweep in, they get swept away.

 

The opposite also happens quite often. In trying to always remain centered, there is so much “motion” and adjustment that there is never any time allowed for settling. I tried this approach, and it really didn’t work for me. In fact, that was a period of time where I was most out of balance with myself, those around me and the world at large. I was so busy trying to be all “Zen” and balanced, I missed the whole point of harmony and balance.

 

How you find balance is a whole world of self-discovery, self-observation (compassionately), and a lot of trial and error. For me, the journey hasn’t always been easy, but it’s been very worthwhile. I believe that when in balance with yourself, you can be in balance with others and the universe.

Image courtesy of David Flowers

Image courtesy of David Flowers

Essential Tips for Beginning Yoga Students

Yoga can be intimidating. Walk in to a class filled with bendy, twisty, super in shape people with designer clothes, personalized mats and a language of their own. Throw in the Sanskrit, chanting and occasional harmonium and it can feel like walking into an episode of The Twilight Zone.

Image courtesy of wisdomquarterly.blogspot.com.

Image courtesy of wisdomquarterly.blogspot.com.

 

My first few yoga classes were unsettling to say the least. Incense, strange musical instruments (the harmonium), lots of Sanskrit chanting and a little bit of over-sharing were what met me. But with some encouragement, I kept going back and today, I’m comfortable in that environment, chanting, Sanskrit over-sharing and all, even if I don’t always participate.

 

I thought about what might have made my entrance into this world a little less traumatizing, and I’ve written a brief Beginner’s Guide to Yoga to (hopefully) help others with the transition. I’ve broken this down into three sections; Entering the class, During the class and Leaving the class.

 

 

Entering the class

  1. The Yoga teacher will be friendly; genuinely friendly, it isn’t a mugging or a con.
  2. The funny smell tickling your nose is incense, it’s supposed to calm your energy; it still makes me sneeze.
  3. The front of the room is for the people who want to be seen typically; beginners are better off moving to the sides; it’s a great vantage point and the whole class won’t be looking at your butt.

    Image courtesy of NazarethCollege    / Flickr.

    Image courtesy of NazarethCollege / Flickr.

  4. Grab props (blocks and a blanket especially) if available, and if the teacher recommends anything else, grab that too; props are your friend.
  5. Introduce yourself to anyone who isn’t meditating or face down in some odd looking stretch. This is a community environment (most of the time).
  6. Don’t take it personally if someone you try to strike up a conversation with ignores you; Namaste!

 

 

 

 

During the class

  1. Don’t compare yourself to others in the class – some of them have been going for years, and looking around to see who is better is just going to distract from the purpose of yoga, being in the present.

    Image courtesy of shootingafly.blogspot.com.

    Image courtesy of shootingafly.blogspot.com.

  2. Be kind to yourself – yoga can be challenging, both physically and emotionally, accepting that every day is different and working to your best for that day is the best thing you can accomplish.
  3. Leave the outside world outside the door – for whatever time there is in class, forget the outside world and connect with yourself.
  4. Don’t worry about the sanskrit or the chanting – whether you choose to learn the sanskrit or develop/have an interest in chanting, neither is required for yoga.
  5. Yoga (unless otherwise stated in the class description) isn’t religiously affiliated. It promotes good, nice, friendly things (except for that person that ignored you in #6 above); you are not required to shave your head, get an Om tattoo or anything else that doesn’t feel comfortable.
  6. Be prepared to sweat. Yoga is hard work and uses muscles most beginners either forgot or didn’t know they had in the first place.

 

After the class

  1. Give yourself a minute before jumping up and running out. The first few classes can be very tough, and a good savasana can make you loopy in the head.
  2. Talk a moment and talk to the instructor; especially if the class felt comfortable to you. Learn to tell what makes a good class for you so you can find others like it. It’s also good to occasionally experience classes you don’t feel so good about so you know what to avoid.
  3. Ask questions about the teacher, the studio and other classes. Especially if you liked the class and the feel of the studio.
  4. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Water is your friend, especially if it’s a hot yoga class.
  5. Be ready to be a little sore later.
  6. Don’t take it too seriously – yoga is about personal growth and improvement. The most authentic and wisest people are also the funniest in my opinion. Laugh at yourself, laugh for no reason, laugh when you fall and laugh when you soar. Like Om, laughter is a universal sound. You don’t believe me; try not laughing when a baby starts giggling uncontrollably.

 

Yoga is different from other forms of exercise in many ways. It also has a number of similarities. My best recommendation is to go in with an open mind, ignore whatever is just too weird at the moment, be kind to yourself during the class and have fun. Worst case, someone looks at you like you are a barbarian because you eat meat. Best case, you find a new fun way to build your mind, body and spirit and quite possibly, make a new friend.

By MIT-Libraries [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Flickr

By MIT-Libraries [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Flickr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fear of the unknown is a terrible reason not to do something. Not liking it after you’ve tried it is perfectly fine; you tried it. I have yet to find a yoga studio that kidnaps innocents out of the classes for brainwashing and robe fittings; at least they don’t do it on the first day. So try it out. You might just like it.