The mental and physical health benefits of yoga are wide-ranging. They include increased flexibility, strength, balance, and even stress reduction. It’s no wonder that for those who haven’t yet begun a practice, yoga is often on many lists of New Year’s resolutions. One of the hardest parts of getting started is just that; showing up willing to try something new. Though it may seem intimidating to step on the mat, or into a silk for aerial yoga, for the first time, there are countless reasons to add yoga to your 2020 goals and then stick with it for more than 30 days. To help, we’ve compiled some tips to ease any worries about getting started and keep your practice going throughout the year ahead.
New Year, New You
A lot of people choose the new year as a time to make changes and start new habits. Not only does it feel like a clean slate, but it’s a marker for reflecting on the previous year and taking note of where to seek improvement. Health and wellness are a common theme for New Year’s resolutions with many resolving to eat better, exercise more and stress less. Fortunately, yoga can help with all of these!
The most important thing to note when working towards any new goal is to make them manageable. Too extreme and you’re likely to fall prey to failure and quit. One way to start off on the right foot is to try a 30 day new student special. After the stress of the holidays, and all of the resolutions, yoga can be a great antidote to the chaos, reminding you to breathe and take time out for yourself. If you start your practice slowly, by the time Spring arrives, you’re already in a routine that you can actually stick to. Don’t stop in January, keep going through February and spend the month determining what your true goals with yoga are, whether they be spiritual, physical or emotional.
What To Know Before You Start
The first step to starting a yoga practice is to set intentions that are about feeling good rather than trying to change something that’s wrong with you. Too often people make resolutions that reinforce a negative perception such as the need to lose weight or stop eating unhealthy foods. Instead, choose goals that support a positive outcome such as gaining more energy, receiving clarity or making time for self-care.
Next, you’ll want to decide what kind of yoga is the best fit for your goals. There are a wide variety of yoga disciplines, but the most common are:
1. Hatha - this is a generic term for yoga that teaches postures. Classes indicated as Hatha are great or beginners and focus on basic postures.
2. Yin - this is a more restorative form of yoga and is great for relaxation and flexibility.
3. Vinyasa - this is often referred to as “power” or “flow” yoga because of the transitions between sequences. It is more fast-paced and focuses on linking breath to movement.
4. Ashtanga - this practice is similar to Vinyasa in that it is more fast-paced sequencing but it uses the same set of postures each class.
Most practices will use many of the same postures, so you may want to familiarize yourself with them before you start. There are countless videos available online that go through various sequences, including Sun Salutations which are core to most practices. Keep in mind that online videos are no substitution for hands-on, in-person classes where you can learn the right form and avoid injuries. Experienced yoga teachers make everyone feel welcome and support all levels with modifications, encouragement and necessary adjustments.
The biggest lesson to learn before starting a yoga practice is that yoga is not a competitive practice. Don’t focus on the person next to you whose Fallen Angel is flawless, instead remember that your pace and practice are truly your own.
How To Create a Habit
One of the reasons resolutions get derailed is because we crave instant gratification, Remember most habits on average take 66 days to stick. The good news is there are probably others who are in the same boat and looking for ways to stay on track, whether they are your friends, colleagues or those who share your studio space. Seek these people out to create a community; not only can you lean on them for support and encouragement, but they can also keep you accountable. You may find yourself showing up to class just because you committed to someone else that you’d join them.
The Benefits Of A Regular Yoga Practice
At heart, yoga is about meditation, time focused on breathing forcing you to focus and clear your mind. Not only that, the movement cultivates a sense of gratitude for our bodies, encouraging us to take heed of how we feel more than how we look (why else do you think most yoga studios don’t have mirrors?). What’s more, mindfulness gleaned from yoga extends to other parts of our lives such as how we eat, choosing to nourish with whole foods rather than satisfy an artificial craving. The physical aspect of yoga also builds strength and endurance which can help manage weight and its cardiovascular benefits can also help lower blood pressure.
Now that you know the benefits of yoga and how to start your practice, you can continue from the New Year, and through Winter, with a commitment to go with the flow and a goal to bring health and happiness to your life for years to come.
Lana Layton is a recovering lawyer and judge who decided it was time to make a change. She began practicing yoga and meditation, which led to her actually waking up, stop miserably going through the motions of life, and move into a career that matches her personality and skill set. Meditation profoundly and positively changed her life, and it can change yours too. Lana is available for corporate and private meditation trainings, coaching and more. You can also catch one of her meditation info sessions and classes at Firefly Yoga Center. Email us for more information or to set up a training or sample coaching session.