Yoga for Beginners

Make sure your yoga teacher can be empathetic and perceptive to your abilities.

I injured a shoulder 2 weeks ago and was going to follow a beginner yoga class on YouTube. I don’t usually do online classes, but I thought I’d open my mind a bit.

Mind Open—-Quick, close it, close it!!!

The teacher was this beautiful blonde lady doing yoga on a beach. I thought, yeah, how relaxing! As we started along, maybe the 3rd pose turned out to be a hamstring tear waiting to happen. I wouldn’t do that pose until fully warmed up or in a hot yoga class. As we went along, there were other poses that clearly were not beginner friendly. Be careful with an uber flexible and monsterly strong yoga teacher. Sometimes they underestimate their abilities. Something simple for them can be very difficult for others.

When I was cutting my teeth on yoga teaching, I used to teach at a fitness center. They had this Silver Sneaker program that subsidizes senior citizens who want to do fitness. I really loved the people in my classes. To be honest, some yoga teachers condescend to seniors. But if you think about it, they’ve seen it all. Some of my yogis attend yoga retreats on cruise ships and at extravagant resorts abroad with notable yoga teachers. I can’t imagine what they’ve seen and the expertise they’ve been exposed to. So when I taught classes with them, they were gentler and more aware of our bodies. Something about getting older, we often tend to speak our minds. We don’t have to beat around the bush anymore. And that’s what happened. When I would teach a pose that was too difficult, you could hear people exasperated and disgusted. One lady even said [LOUDLY], "THIS ISN’T GENTLE YOGA!!!" Before class, one lady who I really grew to love would list poses she wasn’t going to do that day (meaning, the harder poses I sometimes throw in). I learned very quickly what was possible and not so possible.

Many years ago, I took a power yoga class at the studio where I currently teach. The teacher did the same thing. It was 2nd pose we did that was supremely difficult when not warmed up. I thought "somebody is definitely going to get injured today". You just can’t do that to a class.

Here are some tips for your practice when in a yoga class:
-Warm-up your body on your own before you begin. Do a few slow sun salutations on your own or whatever else your body needs. Do this especially if you are sore or injured.
-In a cooler room, start out wearing some clothing layers. Then shed as you warm up.
-Its your practice. You don’t have to do everything.
-Always modify for your own body. Use straps frequently.
-Never create pain in your body. You shouldn’t feel pain in yoga.
-If you have an injury or health problem, mention this privately to your teacher before class.
-If a teacher is adjusting a problem area for you, kindly remind them of your issue before being adjusted.
-I always say try. Try your best. But don’t hurt yourself.

In the end, you are responsible for your own body. You usually sign a waiver in a yoga studio that confirms this fact. If a teacher tells you to do something crazy, or something that is not good for cold muscles, then modify or ask for a modification from your teacher. Sometimes, we forget to give you a modification for a pose or we just assume everybody can do it. For the most part, I don’t enjoy when students just sit there and do nothing. We can always do "something" that looks like the pose. Part of yoga is not only physical things, but mental resiliency as well. Don’t give up and get frustrated. And by all means, don’t be angry with yourself or someone else. I see people cursing at themselves sometimes because they can’t do something. That’s not a very yogic attitude to have.

Yoga should be challenging, but not defeating.
Yoga should make you feel better, not worse.
Yoga should give you peace, not more chaos.

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