We’ve gone over the beginner basics of astrology and now we’re going do a little beginner’s guide to yoga.
When practicing yoga one of the most important aspects is to be in charge of your own practice. Pop into the driver’s seat my friend, because although a teacher is guiding and transitioning you into different poses, you are the one who is in charge.
You are the one who sets the tone for your practice. If you aren’t being mindful of your movements, you could take a class and feel absolutely nothing. Or you could allow the movements to strengthen or relax you.
With anything, what you put in is what you’ll get out.
You Are In Charge
You are an expert in you and what your body can, and cannot take during your practice.
This means it is you who has the personal responsibility to adjust and modify as you see fit. Be mindful of where you are when you step on the mat — without judgment or expectation. Remember it’s one thing to want to push yourself really stretching into a pose and it’s another to get hurt while in one. We don't want anyone getting hurt here.
If you feel a pinch or pull, pull back. If you feel uncomfortable in anyway call your teacher over and ask for help, or if you’re practicing at home go to the wonderful World Wide Web and see what kind of modifications can be made for certain poses. Like anything, we have to practice and work our way up to building strength to get in, and out of these poses. There are also so many sites that will guide you to the correct alignment. There’s everything from YouTube to Instagram posts. So, please when in doubt, ask questions and/ or research.
Teachers should always offer a modification to poses. If you can’t do the more advanced one, that’s absolutely awesome and if you can't that's awesome too. Your body may not be ready for that and that's okay. Remember we aren't judging ourselves and how we move. We are being kind and open to how we flow.
Remember each day brings new energy. Your body may be more sore or more loose some days, and having that conversation with your body is so important. In fact, it's beautiful and essential.
Being mindful of alignment is key in ensuring your body is in the right position to not only avoid injury, but it allows you to get the most our of the posture. An example of checking-in with your alignment:
Knee in line with ankle: When working on poses like Virabhadrasana I (Warrior 1), Utkatasana (Chair) and Trikonasana (Triangle) you want to be mindful that your knee is in line with your ankle. This helps ensure your weight is evenly distributed and you aren’t on the tips of your toes.
Each posture has it's own alignment cues and once you get the hang of your practice you'll naturally remind yourself of what they are. This comes with time, but teachers should also be referencing alignment cues for every posture.
Before I received my yoga certification I thought using props was a weakness. Ugh, I know. I had no idea where that idea came from and I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Blocks, bolsters, straps and blankets are there for a reason. They are meant to help you ease into poses that you may find uncomfortable. They can also offer support. Our bodies aren’t build the same, so why should we assume everyone can easily pop into the same poses?
Spoiler: They can’t.
Whether it’s how we’re build or how flexible or inflexible we are, we should all have access to props in classes.
My tip: Before class starts grab all the props even if you think you won’t need them. And now that you have those props next to your mat, you can easily reach for one if you need extra help.
Blocks: Blocks are a beautiful way to bring the ground to you in various poses. From Mālāsana (Garland) to Kapotasana (Pidgeon) to Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana (Upward Facing Dog), all of these poses can be modified with blocks. Blocks can be used under feet, hands, hips, lower back, under the knees, neck and more.
Bolster: Big bolster energy! I am team bolster and in saying that, I need to get myself one. Every time I’d take a yin or haha yoga class, you best believe I was anxiously waiting to use that bolster in savasana. Whether it’s laying on it vertically or using it to elevate my knees, ugh I am here for it. Bolsters are the best when you need some added cushion that isn’t super hard.
Strap: If you’re looking to really stretch out your body, grab a strap. They just bring some added tension that you can’t really do on your own. There is nothing like using a strap to stretch out your hamstrings in a Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Fold) or reclined in Baddha Konasana (Butterfly).
I hope this helped bring some clarity when popping on the mat.