I’ve been teaching a class at the Mt Airy Learning Tree in Philadelphia the last few years called, “ Beginner Yoga for the Stiff and Inflexible“.
A lot of the students that come have a lot of anxiety about the poses. Many times they confirm they are in the right class before we get started. Last night a student came up to me and said, ” This is my first time doing yoga, so I’m not going to know a lot of the terms and poses. ” I assured her that she would be fine and she was in the right place. I’ve always thought it was pretentious for yoga teachers to only use the sanskrit word for a pose. Unless you are in a yoga teacher training class, 90% of the students will have no idea what you are talking about. Beginner students won’t know the pose even if you use the English word for it. Ok folks…. everyone get into staff pose. I always thought it was a sign of an unskilled teacher to just bark out names of poses without anatomically describe how to get into them. How easy is it to tell someone to do a downdog and opposed to tell them what they should be doing with their feet, toes, elbows, hips, legs, head, ribs and neck?
I’ve taught a lot of yoga the past few years and this particular class has always been the most popular one. I think it taps into the anxiety people have about trying someone new. There is a lot of performance anxiety in any sport or physical endeavor and I always spend a fair amount of time telling students to use the practice just to become more aware, to let go of performance anxiety and to stop the pose if it is painful. I can hear audible sighs of relief when I tell the class to be mindful of these things.
Beginner Yoga Tips for the Stiff and Inflexible
1. Avoid a heavy meal right before. No double bacon cheeseburgers or cheesecake right before class. If you eat, something light like a grilled chicken salad or a few handfuls of almonds. Part of the secret reason I started telling students this is that I use to have a lot more farters in class. Advising people what to eat and not eat right before has cut down and people cutting the cheese audibly in class.
2. Bring a yoga mat. Last night in my class I had two students out of seventeen that forgot mats despite a few messages out to the group to buy a mat. Even if the studio has mats, they are often not cleaned very well or very often.
3. Wear clothes you can stretch in. For some people this may mean sweats. Sometimes people wear shorts but these can rip during some of the wide-legged poses. For women this means a fitted shirt so if you do a forward fold your shirt doesn’t flip over. If you wear a tank top, be aware that you want one that covers your cleavage so you are not giving too much of a show.
4. Turn your cell phone off. I see some people that have their cell phones on their yoga mat. Occasionally, medical professionals that are on call or people that have pressing child care issues tell me before they might get a call and have to leave during class. Everyone else though, please turn off your phone.. if it’s important then they will leave a message.
5. Come early. Arrive a few minutes early to decompress. When I lived in New York, my apartment was so small I couldn’t do legs up the wall. I used to get to class 20 minutes early so I could get some bonus yoga in. How annoying is it when you come late to the class and there is all kinds of rearranging that has to happen to accomodate you?
6. Watch some beginner yoga on youtube before you come to class. Then you’ll be familiar with the langugage, flow etc and it will be less intimidating for you.
7. Let go of the need to do the poses perfectly. It’s your first time. Allow yourself to experience it fully without fear of your performance. Many of the students have been doing this for years if not decades so they might be more flexible than you. It’s not a stretching contest so no one wins a prize anyway for putting their foot behind their head.
On an unrelated note. My new yoga mat tie. I know this seems like the most simple product ever, but that’s because it is. And sometimes, you don’t need all of the bells and whistles–you just need something streamlined and basic that does the job–and that’s what The Yoga Mat Tie does. It’s been a great little solution for unruly mats.