When I think back to my first experiences of yoga, I can’t seem to pin point what specific thing captured me, what made me continue to go back class after class, and what particular benefit I wanted to receive from the practice (probably weight loss as a teenage girl). All I remember was how truly, utterly and amazingly happy it made me feel. I felt so inspired by the teachers that I met and by how different it was to any other exercise that I knew I wanted to continue. At that point I was oblivious to the big world of yoga that I was yet to discover.
At the beginning of 2018 I completed my 200hr YTTC at Sampoorna in Goa, India. I learnt countless amounts about the practice, the philosophy and myself, but in this blog post I want to highlight 3 key things I learned on my TTC that I would want to share with my ‘just starting to discover yoga’ student self (and for anyone reading this who is thinking of starting or has recently started yoga).
1. Every BODY is different.
In all my classes that I teach I try to emphasise the fact that it is NOT HOW YOU LOOK in the poses, as long as you are feeling the stretch/release/opening in the right parts of the body. I completely understand that we as humans want to look appealing to the eye in most situations, BUT comparing yourself to someone else in a pose is completely pointless and is not going to serve you. Body proportion is a huge, very real thing. On one of my first days at the training my alignment teacher (Eli) got around 10 of us to get into the same pose (downward dog) and for the rest of us to walk around and observe what we saw,. The most beautiful thing I learned from that lesson and every lesson of Eli’s to follow, was that as everybody has different bone structure, no 2 people looked the same in a pose. I love that I get to experience the uniqueness of everyone’s bodies daily when I teach, and as a girl with short arms and legs (in comparison to the rest of my body) I was so relieved to know that, yes, short arms will make certain poses more difficult, but it’s just an opportunity to work harder towards something.
2. Nailing an advanced yoga pose does not make you a good yogi.
If you are attending yoga classes purely for the physical benefits to your body, then this point is probably not relevant to you. Once you understand that balancing on one leg, twisting like a pretzel and bending like rubber are not what make you a ‘good yogi’, you can start to take yoga away from the mat and into your daily lives, using the Yamas and Niyamas. Yamas and Niyamas are ethical guidelines to help you change your mindset and make skilful choices in every situation you are faced with. There is way too much information to include in this post but I recommend Deborah Adele’s book ‘The Yamas & Niyamas’, I have found it so relatable and easy to understand, go and have a read! These practices generally just make you a better person, not just a better yogi, it’s just great that they are summarized and It makes yoga more of a lifestyle choice and not just an exercise choice.
3. Muscle memory is very much a real thing
Have you attempted a pose in class, found it really challenging or even completely out of your reach and sort of given up on it already? When a teacher offers a moderation of a pose, it is because it is still working the same muscles and teaching your body that you can do the full pose eventually. It is much better to take the modified pose than an incorrect alignment version of the full position, which can cause injuries. Every single time you attempt a pose or a modified version of a pose, you are building up the muscle memory in your body, teaching your mind that you are safe in the position and building up the strength to eventually see progression in that particular pose. No matter how many times you attempt the pose, keep going, keep practicing, progression WILL come. As the famous saying goes… ‘it’s the journey, not the destination’.
I hope at least one person can benefit from reading this blog post, weather you are just about to attend your first ever yoga class, you’ve been practicing half of your life and anything in between. Well done, you are awesome!