Monday, September 19, 2016

Teacher Wellness Series, Part 1: Simple Tips and Free Resources to Start Your Yoga Practice

If you are a regular reader of this blog or follow me on social media, you'll know that yoga is a huge part of my life. For my entire adult life, I dabbled in the physical practice of yoga on and off, but only in the past two years have I developed a daily practice and certified as a yoga teacher. I often hear from people that they'd love to start doing yoga too, but they're unsure of where to begin. This blog post is for you!

If you live in a rural area, yoga studios are few and far between. For my urban friends, sometimes it is just really intimidating to show up at a yoga studio as a complete beginner. Not that it should be--I've found yoga communities around the world to be very warm, welcoming, and supportive. But sometimes you just aren't sure about the level of the class, and practicing beside someone who can do a headstand when you aren't sure what child's pose is can be daunting indeed! If you have access to a studio, consider signing up for a "Foundations of Yoga" or beginners' class. Classes like this will slowly take you through the basics and ensure that you have a thorough understanding of what key poses feel like in your body. If you're feeling some anxiety, it's a good idea to talk to the instructor first. Ask if he/she is comfortable with providing options for yogis of all abilities and if the instructor recommends his/her class for new yogis.

A few private sessions are not as pricey as you'd think and can go a long way to helping you feel comfortable on your mat. I began my yoga practice with private sessions with a yoga instructor and my best friend. It was a wonderful introduction to the practice and made me realize that yoga was key to managing stress and taking care of myself. But my private sessions were only once a week and I wanted to learn more on my own and practice on a daily basis. I had a couple of friends who mentioned 30 Day Yoga Challenges, so I decided to begin one on my own. Since then, I've discovered a number of great online tools, classes, and challenges.
Above: starting my first 30 day yoga challenge nearly two years ago with my $15 mat and my sheltie for company!

My Favourite Free Yoga Resources

30 Day Yoga Pose Journey: The Journey Junkie
One pose a day is delivered to your inbox, beginning with simple poses and moving to more advanced. There's a nice explanation of the benefits of the pose and a short tutorial video. This is an excellent way to build your practice, one pose at a time!

Yoga with Adriene: 30 Days of Yoga 
This was my first 30 day yoga challenge and it had a huge impact on me. Although Adriene can be really chatty and somewhat annoying, she does know what she's talking about. She really encourages you to listen to your body and "find what feels good". She has tons of free content on her YouTube channel, and you can sign up to have a weekly class sent to your inbox.

Erin Motz: Bad Yogi Official Blog
Erin Motz is my favourite online yoga instructor, and I did her 30 day yoga challenge after I completed Adriene's. She is very down to earth and accessible for new yogis, but her videos have a nice level of challenge to move you forward in your practice. If you visit her blog, she has lots of free content, and you can also sign up to receive a free weekly class emailed to you on Mondays. Erin is a huge figure in yoga counter-culture and maintains that we need to take the snobbery and pretentiousness out of yoga--yoga is for everyone and every body type.

Do You Yoga
Do You Yoga is a paid subscription site, but they have lots of great free classes, challenges, and articles too. This is a great resource and definitely worth a visit--they frequently have weekly and monthly challenges that you can access for free.

What supplies do you need to get started?
Truthfully, you can practice yoga on the floor in your bare feet with no props or mats. However, it is more comfortable with a mat. If you're not sure that yoga is for you, I'd recommend picking up an inexpensive mat at Winners for $15. If you continue to practice and want something more supportive, I'd recommend purchasing a mat from Lululemon or B Mat. Both are Canadian companies who make excellent products. I love Lululemon's 5 mm's super cushy and grippy.

I would also recommend two blocks. Again, you purchase them for about $7 each at Winners. A yoga strap isn't a must (you can always use a scarf), but a strap is very inexpensive and I always like to have the proper equipment. A strap is invaluable in seated forward fold if you can't reach your toes yet, and as well as variety of other poses! Lululemon makes a great strap that doubles as a carrier for your mat.

Important Points to Remember
They say it takes weeks to develop a new habit, so try and carve out a bit of time each day to explore yoga--even 15 minutes! I prefer to practice in the morning--it is a wonderful start to my day and no matter how crazy my day turns out to be, I've already got my yoga in! Make yourself a cup of  tea and put some music on...make this a special time for yourself (read more about this in a future post about morning rituals).

Some days you just won't feel like doing yoga. For those times, I have a rule that all I have to do is get on my mat and do child's pose (still wearing my pajamas). Sometimes I'll stay in child's pose for ten minutes, but usually it feels so nice that I'm inspired to do more. It's getting on your mat this is the important part...staying there is easy!

Listen to your body. If it hurts, don't do it! Pay attention to what your body is telling you. Some discomfort in a new pose is normal, but pain is not. And always make sure that your body is warmed up before increasing the demands on it!

Lastly, don't forget to breathe. Linking breath with movement is what makes yoga the transformative practice it is. And don't forget to be kind to yourself and enjoy every step of this new journey you have started!

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