My exercise routine always consisted of the treadmill, elliptical and maybe some of the machines or free weights. When I was in high school I took a kickboxing class with my mom and every class we would have to wait for the yoga group to finish. The lights were dimmed and the music didn’t have any words and I would lean over to my mom and say, “I would never take yoga. It’s so slow. I would fall asleep.”
Five years later I finally gave in and took my first yoga class. I already purchased yoga pants much earlier for purely lazy reasons, so when my mom raved to me about how much yoga has helped her, I thought it was time to give it a shot. During my two weeks of yoga research I found out a lot of information that people should know before they start yoga to make it a worthwhile experience.
• The teacher
I had two different yoga instructors in my week of experimenting with yoga. One was very fluid in moving from position to position and had a nice, clear voice. It wasn’t until I experienced a teacher that would mess up her left and rights and accidentally skip something that I realized how important it is to have a good teacher. Just like how it’s easier to learn from some professors over others, it’s the same with yoga. If you have limited options for who you can have as your yoga teacher, try going to a couple more classes and see if their teaching style is something you can get used to, which brings me to my next point:
• Never take only one yoga class — the first class is the hardest
My first class was the most difficult class — and that was with the teacher I liked. It’s always going to be the most challenging because you and your muscles are going in there not knowing what to expect. Not only is it mentally draining to keep tabs on what names go with which positions (warrior pose, cat-cow stretch, child’s pose, pigeon pose) but the teacher will also ask you to breathe along with the positions. So you’re moving and breathing, inhale, move one foot, exhale, move other foot, and eventually you forget to either move or breathe, or it’s in the wrong order and you get upset with yourself and before you know a minute has gone by and you’ve been holding your breath the whole time. Breathing along with the instructor gets easier once you learn the poses, but this takes time and until then it won’t hurt you to breathe at your own pace.
• Being comfortable
This plays a huge roll in your concentration. In all the yoga classes I went to, I used the mats that they provided. This may work out if you’re no taller than 5’5” but I’m 5’9” so it became a problem. During some of the lunging moves my feet were off the mat and I didn’t have a lot of space to lie down comfortably. The instructor often will tell you to free your mind, but this is very difficult to do when all you think about is how uncomfortable you are. Not only does this go for the mat, but also the clothes you wear. Try not to wear loose clothes because you’ll be doing a lot of poses; the fabric will be flapping around and it even might get in your face, which will also make you lose your concentration.
Depending on your reasons for exercising, yoga may or may not be what you want or even need. Yoga was a good class for me to stop stressing about life’s little problems, and also it has now made me more aware of my awful posture. If you’re looking to lose weight, however, yoga isn’t going to get you too far. Yes, there were beads of sweat going down my forehead and my muscles felt stronger, but it gets to a point where everything is second nature and you can only challenge yourself so much. After my yoga classes I still felt that I needed to do more, so I would run 30 minutes on the treadmill and do some abs crunches. So think about what you want out of your exercise routine and if yoga can really provide that for you.
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