A large part of the art and skill in yoga lies in sensing just how far to move into a pose. If you don’t go far enough, there is no challenge to the muscles, no intensity, and little possibility for opening. Pushing too hard in yoga, however, increases the possibility of both physical pain and injury.
Q: Lynn, boy am I glad that I managed to find the courage to try yoga. I am not sure what all happened at my first session but I am going to do it again, and again. Your answers to my previous questions were both helpful and inspired my confidence but I have some more questions now that I have participated in one class. I really pushed myself in classes and several times my muscles were screaming, “Enough, already!” How hard should I push the discomfort envelope?
A: A yoga practice contains many simultaneous sensations, details, and distractions. Discomfort is subjective, but I encourage you to explore the movements, backing off, slowing down, pausing when the breath is no longer flowing easily. If you are clenching your teeth, pursing your lips, or holding the breath you are too tightly wedged or wound into a pose. A sharp pain or deep discomfort tells you that you are in over your head or out of the range of what is good for your body. That feeling tends to speak pretty clearly. There is a way of exploring your body where you can find comfort and also release tension. Developing awareness, insight, and enjoyment are three guiding principles; you should not seek discomfort in asana, but instead seek to decode it.
Q: I signed up for the six group, one private lesson package and went to an “open” class. Everyone was welcoming and helpful but I was the only raw recruit. I assume I should look for a “beginner” class?
A: It’s always an adventure when you’re starting something new. A beginner’s class is a great place for anyone new to yoga or to Yoga from the Heart. These classes establish a foundation of basic postures, alignment points, movement techniques, basic anatomy, and an introduction to yoga philosophy that will enhance your daily life and prepare you for open classes – all along-side other yoga newcomers.
Q: Depending on when the classes are that you recommend, I am hoping for two classes a week. Is that about right?
A: Any amount of weekly yoga practice is better than none, but I recommend two or three hour-long or 90-minute sessions per week. A short daily session — even 30 minutes – can yield greater benefits than a longer session once a week. It takes a minimum of two to three sessions a week for eight weeks to measure increases in strength and flexibility from a yoga routine according to the “Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants”.
Q: Also, can you help me with a beginners at home practice? I think I would like to do a little meditation and stretching.
A: Establishing an independent home practice is a rite of passage for yoga practitioners. It’s the point at which you really learn to move at your own pace and listen and respond to your body. A good starting place to begin creating your own at-home practice is with preparatory poses. These poses enable you to check in with your entire body and bring awareness to the areas that feel stiff or just plain yucky and then ending with Savasana and meditation. We offer a video with these prep poses that would be a fantastic way to begin a home yoga practice.
Q: Finally, I get that yoga is not a competitive activity but I would like to get a “baseline” of where I am starting. Maybe you could take a few pictures (with MY camera, no one else will see them!) so I can have some “before” record.
A: Great idea! Seeing before and after shots may keep you motivated to continue coming back to your mat for years to come!