I thought about taking yoga for a full five years or so before I even stepped into a yoga studio. Like many people, I felt intrigued by the practice but intimidated by the prospect of actually taking a class. Could I keep up? Would I look silly? Was I yoga-y enough?
I bought a random yoga VHS I saw at a store — partly to satiate my curiosity and partly to try out the poses before debuting them in public.
In 2006, I finally gathered up the nerve to try a class at a studio near my house. Looking at some of the super-flexible yogis in the room preparing for class, I didn’t know whether I’d make it through the practice. But I hung in there, despite the fact that the class kicked my butt, despite the fact that I felt all kinds of sore for the next few days, and despite the fact that many poses didn’t come easily for me. I ended that class sweaty, exhausted, and ready for more.
If you’re like I was a more than a decade ago, waiting for the right time to try yoga, the right time is probably now. It may take days, weeks, months, or even years before you see the results you crave and find ease in once-difficult poses, but the first step toward realization is just trying out the practice.
Here are a few resources to get you started:
1) Go to a class. I know, I know — you’re not flexible, you’re not strong, you don’t know what to wear, you won’t know what to do, you’re afraid you’ll look ridiculous. BUT an actual yoga class with an actual teacher is essential to making sure you’re executing the poses in a way that is safe for your body. This is especially the case if you’re nursing an injury. Plus, being in a studio allows you to see a class full of people doing the poses. You’ll probably see some people melting effortlessly into forward folds, and you’ll see people struggling to touch their toes. The range of bodies and experience levels are great reminders that yoga doesn’t look the same from person to person — and this is a fact easily missed if you’re only getting your yoga from a video.
How do you find a class? Word-of-mouth reviews are a great start; someone’s first-hand experience can give you an idea of a studio’s feel. Google searches and Yelp reviews can also provide great leads. If you’re super shy about attending a class, or just want one-on-one attention, contact your studio for a private lesson. This can be a fantastic segue into a robust studio practice.
2) Find a great video. This is important because a)Not every town is fortunate enough to have a yoga studio on every corner, b) You may not have the time or money to make it to a yoga class as often as you’d like, AND c) Let’s face it: you’re probably going to want to see what yoga is all about before you don those stretchy pants and enter the studio.
YouTube has so many great options when it comes to yoga videos for beginners. Adriene Mishler (Yoga with Adriene) is prolific in her video production and has a friendly, down-to-earth personality. I love Esther Ekhart of Ekhart Yoga for her precision — her directions and alignment cues are clear and easy to follow. Tara Stiles has an easy-going “it’s just yoga” vibe that I enjoy, and Jessamyn Stanley is frank, hilarious, and skillful (most of her YouTube videos are snippets of longer videos you can pay for). All these ladies make me smile!
3) If you prefer more detail on the poses and yoga itself, you’ll find a great resource in the Women’s Health Big Book of Yoga by Kathryn Budig. Budig is another one of my favorite yogis, and travels the world teaching and giving workshops. The book breaks down poses, offers simple yoga sequences, and feels more personal than clinical. It really is a big book of yoga – there’s a lot to dig into and enough to last you from your very first downward facing dog to your one thousandth. I’ve been practicing yoga since 2006, and I still love perusing this book!
4) Get social. Instagram and Periscope are my new favorite ways to expand my practice. Be careful though: there are a lot of bendy yogis out there with a feed full of photos that are awe-inspiring, but that I consider strictly artistic and aspirational. Make it your intention to find yogis who regularly break down poses for beginners, or who often post progress shots so you can get a sense of how long it may take to achieve a certain pose. Start with @new2yoga by Kerri Verna and Kino MacGregor, Candice Neo (@yogineo), and the aforementioned Jessamyn Stanley (@iamjessamyn). These ladies all balance super bendy poses with progress photos or detailed tutorials. I love that all these yogis are transparent about how much practice they put in daily. It’s easy to think that all yogis are just naturally strong and flexible, but they didn’t necessarily begin practicing yoga with skills you see displayed. These yogis will help you remember that!
Best of blessings as you embark upon your yogic journey! If you try one of these sources, let me know what you think!