1. Become familiar with the Poses. As you step foot onto your mat for your first class, place the focus on getting familiar with the names of the poses and how to move in and out of them. Become aware of your bodies alignment. Step into each pose without any expectations, without any judgement of how you look or if you are doing the pose correctly. Listen to your bodies signals and be in the moment.
2. Mind Awareness is key. From the first yoga breath you take, begin to cultivate awareness. Take a moment to notice if you can tune out thoughts of the past or future. Focus on the sound of breathing and how you feel in that very moment. Tune into the notion that each time you come into a posture it will be a different experience. Let the way you feel in that very moment guide your version of the pose you take. Not getting ahead of yourself or becoming attached to the past.
3. Make your practice your own. Asana (the physical poses) is only one part of the 8 limbs of yoga. Asana in Sanskrit means “seat” or to connect with the earth. Your yoga does not have to be a 1 or 1.5 hour physical class. It can be 10 minutes of meditation, or a restorative class. It can be you lying in Savasana for the half or full class. Feel what you body is calling out for.
4. Connect to alignment and foundation. Each pose has a strong foundation that begins with alignment. Once you are stable and aligned, only then can you explore and go deeper into the pose. Begin, with your foundation. Stabilize yourself by even placement of connecting your feet to the earth. Work up, engaging the muscles in your legs, aligning your spine from the base of your tail bone, spine, neck, then out through the crown of your head.
5. Move with your breath. Every posture is connected to your breath. Notice your even rate of breath. Lengthening each inhale to eventually match the length of each exhale. Let your breath enliven your range of motion. Send your breath into each pose, with the inhale, the energetic action is always lifting, reaching, creating space, expanding away from the midline of the the body, with the exhale the energetic action is folding, drawing in, hugging into the mid line of the body.
6. It’s not the destination, but the journey. Work towards flexibility. Come into postures without strain. The more you practice, the more open and flexible you will get. Just because other people can reach and touch their toes, does not mean you will. And even if you have done that, it does not mean you will do that every time. The more you take your time to open and become loose in your practice, you will find that you will be more flexible.
7. Build strength and control. With Practice comes a balance of strength and flexibility. The more you practice the more you have an increased range of motion, and breathe control. Once the two aspects are combined, your practice will take on a new quality. Your will move with light fluidity, and strain to breath or strain to endure holding a posture. The integrity of each pose will become stronger and the alignment will become your own. Ideally you will cultivate your own practice, to your mood, body, and energy of the moment.
Denise Pala, CYT