People have been writing to ask about starting a yoga practice. Some common themes, or excuses, come up in these messages. The end of the messages usually end like this: “I’d do yoga, but…”
• I’m not flexible;
• I need to get into shape before I go to a class;
• I need to lose X number of pounds;
• I’m afraid that I’ll be forced to listen to shitty music;
• I have some stink foot from my combat boots and I don’t want to take my shoes off
I can’t do anything about your feet and I can’t tell you about what music a teacher might play during class, but I suggest that you just start a practice and not get caught up in the details.
If you follow the steps in this post, then you’ll be well on your way to starting a practice regardless of what kind of physical shape you’re in.
1) Start by blasting Bongripper’s Hippie Killer album. This will get you in the zone and will help you to forget about whatever music that you might associate with a yoga class.
2) Next, put on some comfy clothes and find a spot to sit in. Sit in that spot with your legs crossed and your eyes closed.
3) Focus On Your Breath: Sit for 5-10 minutes and practice breathing deeply and slowly. The foundation of the yoga practice is the breath. The ujjayi breathing style is how you should breath throughout most of your practice. Advanced yogis can make their ujjayi breath last a really long time. Some yogis have allegedly stopped their heartbeat on purpose with this breathing style. Here’s a video of the famous yogi BKS Iyengar demonstrating Ujjayi breath (in some rad tiny shorts) in front of a microphone:
4) Practice Meditating: Spend a few moments sitting and meditating. For people brand new to practicing yoga, and specifically for those of you who are out of shape or disconnected from your body, I suggest focusing on exploring your current physical sensations: are there any places in your body that are really tight? Are there parts of you that feel really open?
If you notice that you’re really weak and tight, then that’s ok: this is a good place to start.
5) Try some basic postures: Next, pick a yoga pose and work on it. If you have tight shoulders [trust me, you probably have tight shoulders], then I suggest trying this shoulder opener pose:
For some general beginner yoga poses, check out Yoga Journal’s website. Down Dog, Cobra, Mountain, Dolphin, and Triangle are some common poses that you might encounter.
Have fun trying out some poses on your own, but don’t do any dumb stuff. Stay away from handstands or advanced poses until you’re in shape and warmed up. Don’t try walking up the stairs backwards like my teacher Steve Emmerman when he emulated the The Exorcist’s Spiderwalk scene:
Whatever pose you try, don’t do anything painful. Being uncomfortable is ok. Pain is not ok. Get it?
When you get into a pose, stay in the pose for at least four deep, slow ujjayi breathes and as many as eight breaths.
6) Corpse Pose: After you’ve practiced, end by laying on your back, breathing deeply, and sitting still. This is called savasana, or “corpse pose” and it’s your chance to be chill after you’ve worked your body and maybe your mind. Repeat step three when you’re in this pose.
7) Finally, congratulate yourself and check out Unwound playing “Corpse Pose.”
Here’s a link to my yoga practice soundtrack as of late: Runhild Gammelsaeter & Lasse Marhaug’s “Quantum Entanglement” LP from Utech Records. Get it!
If you have other questions about starting a yoga practice then type your question below.