September 25, 2011

It Is Your Practice - a little tip for beginners

One of the most common comments I hear from beginners in the yoga studio is, I'm not flexible enough to do yoga.  This is such a huge misconception.  You do not need to be flexible to practice yoga.  Flexibility is one of the products of a regular yoga practice.

Another comment I often hear is, I'll never be able to do what you do or why can you do this and I can't.  There is one thing that I cannot stress enough when it comes to a yoga practice, just try your best, do what you can do in the proper alignment and above all STOP comparing yourself to anyone else.  And, if you want to see changes you need a consistent practice.  2 days a week will probably not result in many noticeable changes.  Now that doesn't mean that 2 days is not good for you but you need to practice consistently and constantly to really see changes.  In the past 28 months I have had a very steady practice of an average of 5 classes a week, which is why I think my poses have changed a lot.

Let me give you a little breakdown on how my Bikram yoga practice has changed since I first entered the studio in May 2009.  
  • 28 months ago, I could not keep my arms straight and elbows locked through the entire Half Moon series.
  • 28 months ago, I could not wrap my legs completely around each other in Eagle pose.
  • 26 months ago, I thought my heart would explode out of my chest during the standing balancing series.
  • 26 months ago, Camel pose made me feel sick. 
  • 26 months ago, I had to walk my knees up to meet my head in Rabbit pose.
  • 24 months ago, I could not kick my leg out in Standing Head to Knee pose. 
  • 24 months ago, I finally learned how to breathe properly on the inhalation in Pranayama breathing.
  • 20 months ago, I could not see my foot above my head in Standing Bow Pulling pose.
  • 18 months ago, I could not wrap my arm around my back in Final Twist.
  • 18 months ago, I could not sit with straight legs and a flat back in Stretching pose.
  • 12 months ago, my elbows did not go below calf of my kicked out leg in Standing Head to Knee pose.
  • 12 months ago, my chin never touched my shoulder in Standing Bow Pulling pose.
  • 12 months ago, I could not meet my own eyes in the mirror.
  • 8 months ago, I could barely kick my kicking leg forward in Standing Head to Knee pose, in order to keep my hips in one line.
  • 5 months ago, I could not get into Fixed Firm pose for 5 classes.
  • 2 months ago, I started feeling sick in Camel pose, again.
  • 1 month ago, I could not keep my arms locked above my head in Half Moon.
  • Today, I could not lock my knee in Standing Head to Knee pose. 
I didn't want this to be a list of things that I can't do in my yoga practice but I wanted to show that I have struggled, I still struggle, that our bodies change all the time and that EVERY BODY is different.

You may look around the room sometimes - you are hot, it's humid, sweat is in your eyes and you are struggling to keep your knee locked and your thigh contracted - you see people locking their knees, with what appears to be, such ease.  It's not.  It's not easy for any one.  You may think that the person next to you has a beautiful Standing Bow, I can guarantee you that 95% of the people who first try Standing Bow feel exactly the same way - that it is nearly impossible.  I know I did.

Stop comparing yourself to other people because your poses will never look like theirs.  You are unique and completely different to the person next to you.  Remember that walking into the hot room and practicing yoga is more than most people will do in one day.  Remember that you are there for yourself - be good to yourself, be gentle, be compassionate - if you can't balance one day, it just is and let it go.  Remember that if you don't understand something, ask questions!  Keep asking questions!  Ask different teachers the same question!  And above all, remember that it is your practice.  Do what you will, do what you can, try and simply get your ass to the studio.  The rest will take care of itself.


YoginiBear said...

Great post, J. I used to rock the Awkward; nowadays I am struggling with it, and my knees feel like they have aged in the past few months of inconsistent practice.

bikramyogachick said...

So true! The body changes...always. I've been practicing for 4 and 1/2 years and all of the sudden I can't get into standing bow on the right side. Or if I do get into it, I fall out sideways. Something is out of alignment. So I'm just going back to the basics, focusing on my set up and not beating myself up for any of it.