Is yoga part of your goals? Incorporating yoga into your life can be a rewarding part of resolutions to get healthier, improve fitness, reduce stress, combat fatigue, and/or cultivate space and ease in your hectic life.
As a lifelong flakey person, I’ve learned that the difference between the good habits I keep and the lofty goals that never make it to habitude is that the habits are things that I’ve made easy and convenient. The goals that are merely inexpensive, fun, and good for me don’t make the cut. Convenience is absolutely imperative.
So, you noble new yoga practitioner, how do you make your yoga practice something you stick with?
- Find a nearby class–look for yoga studios, but also health clubs, community centers and churches. Tons of fabulous yoga teachers make arrangements with churches and community centers, so definitely look for those too. You want to find a place that is close to your home, office, or somewhere else you have to be frequently, like your kid’s school. If it’s a pain to get to, you won’t go.
- Skip the Groupons and find a class you can afford at the regular price. I say skip the Groupons because those deals you buy are temporary. We’re talking about longterm habits, and finding a place and a teacher that you love, are affordable for you and easy for you to get to, are more important than getting the first 10 classes for $4 apiece.
- Try several teachers and classes out. Yoga comes in many different styles and levels of…athleticism. So do yoga teachers. Look for a class with a description that sounds like a good fit for your goals–a sweaty power yoga class late in the evening will probably not help you wind down and get a good night’s rest! Also, if you try a class out and the teacher doesn’t explain things in a way that makes sense to you, try another teacher or class. I can speak from experience that even if the class doesn’t sound like a great fit for you, if the teacher is wonderful, you may love it anyway. Personally, I have no great love of hot yoga, but there was one teacher in a studio by my previous office who I just loved, no matter the temperature.
- Be intentional about the trappings. Wear comfortable clothes you can move in without all your bits tumbling out. There is no compelling reason to pay $100 for them. Find something that works for you. Sweats, leggings, and pajamas are all ok.
- Get a mat you like. I wrote a post a few months ago about what to look for in yoga mats. Most places have loaner mats you can borrow or rent, which is cool, but you’ll be happier long term if you get your own. The loaner ones are generally either the cheapest the studio could find or the ones students leave behind and never claim. Try your class with the loaner mats once or twice and then buy your own, keeping in mind whether the floor feels hard (look for one with more cushioning), whether you felt like you were sliding around (look for more traction), and how much you’ll have to lug the mat around to work, walking to the studio, etc. (look for less heavy).
- Use the props. They’re there to help. Tons of yogis, both beginners and experienced, avoid props because they want the class to be more challenging or they think they should be able to wrangle their bodies into the “full expression” of poses on their own. This is the ego talking. When you set up your mat, grab a block or two and a strap. Every time. You won’t always use them, but your practice will benefit if you experiment with them. Props will help you do poses without sacrificing alignment, and good alignment is the difference between poses that are effective and poses that are not effective. You will make more progress faster in your practice and you will feel more vibrant after your class if you are more strict and deliberate with your alignment. It’s worth noting, also, that you can use props to make poses more difficult too. They don’t always make things easier–just different.
- Be gentle with yourself. Physically and emotionally. Yoga is not easy, and it does not get easier if you do it longer. There are always more difficult things to work on. Ten years ago, I used to practice along with “Inhale,” a yoga show on the Oxygen channel with Steve Ross, who became one of my favorite teachers. Steve would say (there were a lot of reruns, so I heard all his monologues over and over) that your practice is perfect because you’re doing it. Success in yoga is about showing up, in your class and for yourself. In your practice, look for an attitude of exploration, not pushing hard. If you’re in an active class, by all means make an effort and do some work, but yoga is not the place to push your body to its limits. Being gentle with yourself emotionally means not comparing your pose to the person’s next to you. Yours is perfect because it’s yours. Theirs is perfect too. If you’re exhausted and skip a class, you haven’t failed at yoga. Being gentle with yourself means going back. Practice again.
Congratulations on deciding to do new healthy things for yourself in 2015. You’re awesome. You’ve got this.