I started learning about yoga from YouTube, attended my first yoga classes at the gym at uni for 6 months (when I was living on campus), went back to practising at home for 2 years (when I moved into a studio on my own), and fast forward to present-day: I'm practising yoga both at home and at a studio near work.
@jmichbio asked what yoga was like when I first started and to be honest, it was much, much harder than I expected (and it wasn't really love at first downward dog).
I didn't enjoy my first yoga class. It was disappointing — I was expecting a profound spiritual moment in my Virabhadra I (that came much later).
The yoga teacher kept chanting, made us hold poses for a painfully long time and I really didn't know what the heck I was doing. The next week, I went to a different class and fell in love with the teacher's hilarious, light-hearted approach to yoga. For the next 6 months in this weekly class, I learnt a lot about the importance of alignment, minor adjustments and breathing. In hindsight, I think I would genuinely enjoy that first class now. It's a positive reminder that we are always growing and changing. What works well for others may not work for you, and in the same vein, what works for you now could change as you do.
I slowly gained the confidence to explore yoga in my own private space with the tiny amount of knowledge I had absorbed so far. I learnt to pay more attention to my body and explore what felt good.
Now that I'm working more, there has been less opportunity to practise at home, but I joined a yoga studio close to work about 2 months ago and have been going to classes on lunch breaks and sometimes after work.
I'm still adjusting to being in a studio. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to practise regularly once again, for the wonderful teachers and the beautiful space but I still love the simplicity of practising at home. There's no time limit to the practice, no need to be embarrassed to fail or self-conscious about whether my outfit is appropriate for class (which, it usually isn't).
But my ideal environment would be outdoors (or in a sunroom in winter) where everything is thrown out the window and it's just you, connecting with yourself, grounded in nature, learning to be grateful on the mat and learning how to feel it every moment, even when you're not doing yoga.
My (hopefully) practical tips for beginners:
- Don't push yourself too hard: every body is different. Your hips or your shoulders may be tighter than others, so listen to where your body is telling you there's pain and learn to distinguish between a challenge and a potential injury. Trust me. (Let this guide your practice also — just because you could do a backbend last week doesn't mean you should do it now if it's too much for your back.)
- For those that opt to practise at home - don't be afraid to research and learn by example. Watch lots of videos on YouTube, especially those that will help with your alignment. And use reliable sources such as Yoga Journal (ahem, not websites with articles touting 5-minute-beach-body yoga workouts and booty-licious routines).
- Be playful! Yoga is about you so don't be afraid to express yourself.
- Be humble! But always check in and be proud of your achievements!
- Let yoga bring out your best and show you your worst. I am the most honest to myself when I'm on the mat.
- I can no longer tie my hair up fully for yoga so my hair gets gross real quick.
- I do yoga before I eat so my stomach likes to remind me every few minutes that IT WOULD REALLY LOVE SOME FOOD, RIGHT NOW.
- Bugs like to bite you when you practise outside.
- Yoga at the beach (on sand) looks better than it is practical. Not recommended - unless you're only there to get some photos.
- Sometimes savasana is peaceful but sometimes I can't switch my brain off (and that's okay).
- Clean your mat regularly (every 1-2 weeks). It gets smelly when you get sweaty.