“Letting go isn’t the end of the world; it’s the beginning of a new life.” ~Unknown
As we welcomed the Spring Equinox on March 20th, with it came a sense of lightness in the air—in our bodies with healthier food options, in our minds as we flirt with the idea of summer on the horizon, and in our spirits as we are able to enjoy later sunsets with loved ones.
Spring also welcomes change and renewal, creating an opportunity to cleanse ourselves of hibernating winter habits and find inspiration in nature as wildflowers bloom all around us.
What better time to introduce (or reintroduce!) yourself to the ancient practice of yoga. Let’s face it: Yoga has stood the test of time, enduring over 5000 years, consistently providing a physical, mental, and spiritual outlet for its practitioners.
Now more than ever, yoga seems the perfect escape from our increasingly complex, technology-driven, distracted modern lives.
Finding peace and contentment in the present moment is one of the most challenging things to do, and yoga provides the tools we need to find that much-desired stillness.
As a yoga instructor, my proudest moment is not when a student who once struggled with Chaturanga perfects a forearm handstand. Well, that is a pretty sweet moment! But, by far, it is watching new students unwrap their first yoga mat. Typically of the drug store, super slippery variety, but still exciting nonetheless!
This moment resonates with me because I know, in that moment, that yoga will be a part of their world (whether in a big or small way) for the rest of their lives.
You see, yoga is a lot like chocolate. If you live your whole life never tasting chocolate, you can lead a perfectly content existence, as there is nothing to miss. But, once you have had that first taste, there really is no turning back.
Sure, you might stray from your cravings as you dabble into non-chocolate permitting diets. But the pleasure induced by that familiar taste always lingers somewhere in the back of your mind, until you finally find your way back home, onto your mat.
In honor of that joy we all receive from unwrapping our very first yoga mat, I compiled a list of five rather simplistic (and fun!) ways to integrate yoga into your life this spring.
1. Start Small.
One of the top reasons why people are resistant to starting yoga is the intimidation factor. With name-brand yoga gear, the rapid corporatization, and prohibitively expensive monthly class packages, it is no wonder that this industry seems not so beginner friendly.
Luckily, there is an endless amount of free resources online. From YouTube videos of hour-long classes, to anatomically-correct descriptions of each pose, to studio directories, there is an answer to every yoga-related question.
Use online resources to get comfortable with the names of poses, class etiquette, and the history of yoga so that any intimidation just melts away as you step into your first class.
2. Hop Around.
Finding the right studio and the right instructors is essential to your enjoyment of the practice. Many studios offer “First Week Free” coupons, so use those offers to explore yoga in your community.
Hop around to as many studios as you can, trying different styles of yoga and different instructors. Find a studio where they remember your name and inquire about injuries. If there is an instructor who inspires you, that’s a good sign that you are in the right place.
If you do not find your “home” within the first few studios, don’t get discouraged! With the proliferation of yoga in the US, there is a studio and style of practice for everyone – big, small, young, old, businessperson, veteran, able bodied and not so able bodied – there truly is a home in yoga for everyone.
3. Flow with a Friend.
Everything is better when you have someone to share it with! Convince a friend at your same experience level to attend some classes with you. This will allow you to let your guard down and enjoy the experience a little more.
Not to mention, you will have someone to laugh with. When the kooky instructor starts belting out the “OM” or the guy next to you in downdog lets out a questionable noise, your friend will be on the next mat over trying equally as hard to suppress the giggles.
4. Give it Your Best.
By this I mean, give yoga a genuine shot. Lots of students give up their practice when they cannot conquer Crow pose after only two weeks. Understand that when you enter the world of yoga, all the rules about competitiveness, comparison, and deadlines that we are raised with go out the window.
Yoga is about simply enjoying the journey. Your journey. Not the journey of the person on the mat next to you. Your uniquely beautiful journey.
Come to your mat each time with an open mind and a compassionate heart, and you will be surprised at how much easier the poses will come to you!
5. Just Let it Go.
Yoga is as much about the mental practice, if not more than, the physical practice. Make a conscious effort to clear your mind, letting go of negativity. First, try letting go of any preconceived notions about who should practice yoga, what they look like, how they dress, what they eat, etc.
Every yogi is different and defines yoga in his or her own individual way. Second, try hard to let go of any judgments and negative feelings you are harboring towards yourself. Just enjoy the present moment, enjoy the journey.
Know that each day is different. Some days your balance and your focus will be rockin’. Other days, not so much. Learn to accept your body and your mind as they are, rejoicing in the gifts they give you and not bothering yourself with the shortcomings.
Embrace the ancient concept of “just letting it go” and one day you will wake up and realize that you are a more peaceful person, not to mention a real-life, living, breathing yogi!