7 Things I Wish I Had Known About Yoga
Yoga was one of those things that those “other” people did. You know, the ones with sexy leggings or baggy, hippie pants. They always looked so cool and “with it”, like they knew something no-one else knew.
I always thought yoga was for people who like to stand on their heads for hours. Or contort their bodies in various positions that I simply couldn’t imagine my own body doing. Secretly, I envied them and wished I could be as serene as they were with such flexible bodies.
The thought of venturing into a yoga class full of supple-bodied, meditating yogis kitted out in skimpy, brightly colored yoga gear stopped me from exploring yoga for many years. Until one day, I saw a little advert on my Facebook page. Somehow, Lunar Sky didn’t make yoga seem so intimidating. So, my partner and I signed up for a class.
This was over three years ago and I’ve never looked back! Plus, I discovered what really goes down in yoga. I wish I had known these things many years ago because I would have discovered that yoga is for everyone and that’s it’s not as intimidating as I thought it would be.
1. There Are Many Different Types of Yoga
I thought all yoga was the same – headstands, backbends, and twisting my body into such weird positions without falling over. Well, yes, there are these but there are also different yoga types that use a variety of yoga poses.
Lunar Sky focused mainly on hatha yoga (correct me if I’m wrong here, Brigette!) which I learned later is a great yoga type to start with as a newbie to the game. Its practice is slower and brings a lot of attention to breath work while aligning the body – gently.
The other major types of yoga you can take include some of the following:
Vinyasa Yoga: This is a more athletic style of yoga that entails flowing from one posture into another. This is coordinated with your breath. Sequences may vary depending on the teacher you use.
Iyengar yoga: Poses are held for a long time and relies on using props to help the person apply certain postures. This style of yoga entails being methodical and slow with each pose.
Kundalini yoga: Being more spiritual in nature, this yoga focuses on releasing trapped kundalini energy in your body. You work with your core and move faster, using various poses and breathwork.
Ashtanga yoga: This one is definitely not for newbies and entails sun salutations with various floor and standing postures. This is a particularly demanding style of yoga and better suited for the more experienced yogi.
Bikram yoga: Also known as hot yoga, this type is done in a hot environment similar to a sauna. It focuses on 26 basic poses done twice throughout the class and focuses on proper body alignment.
There’s a whole lot more out there that you can pick from but these are the ones I heard of often and I had no clue what they meant! What I do know, is that I’m glad I started with hatha yoga and our teacher (Brigette) did include various other poses and routines which were fun to try out.
2. Anybody Can Do Yoga
I discovered, very quickly, when I started yoga, that anybody can do it. This isn’t some trendy fitness exclusive regime suited to only a few agile and nimble people. In my class, there were people younger than me and people older than me. There were the ones who wore the right gear and then there were the ones like me who wore the closest thing to stretchy pants.
However, I do sometimes wish I had got some of the really cool yoga clothing. Check out these if you're looking to improve your yoga wardrobe soon.
We came in all different body shapes too which was great. I didn’t feel like an elephant amongst the lithe and gorgeous. Plus, I wasn’t the only newbie in the class fumbling my way through the different postures (that didn’t include standing on my head!).
What’s more yoga mats were provided so I didn’t have to try and figure out which one to buy for myself. I learned that anybody can do yoga and it’s not a problem if you do wobble over while trying to conquer the Warrior!
I know yogis like to take their own yoga mats and I found some really cool ones on Amazon.
3. You Don’t Have to Do Headstands
I confess – the thought of doing headstands prevented me from trying out yoga. Seeing anyone in this pose would get me breaking out in a sweat as I visualized every bone in my neck popping. So, when my new teacher promised me I wouldn’t have to do them or any other posture that seemed too “out there” for me, I knew I had found a winner.
I’m no expert on yoga so I can only talk from my own experience but in our yoga class, we worked at our own pace. There were times we were challenged to try the headstands, or raise up on our shoulders, or that pose where you lift your bent legs up without falling flat on your face. But, if we didn’t want to venture into them we didn’t have to.
You see, my impression of yoga teachers (apologies to all of you out there) was that “If you can’t do a headstand then what are you doing in my yoga class?” kind of impression! What I discovered was you can work at your own pace and you can choose whether you want to do a certain posture or not. It’s about finding the right fit for you.
4. It Strengthens Your Body
I wasn’t convinced that bending my body into various positions would actually end up strengthening my body. I also couldn’t see how such seemingly slow movements would build up my muscles, at least not anytime soon.
I’ve always been a walker, and at times have done the treadmill type of gym. I also used to go to aerobic classes in my younger days. Yoga seemed a more sedate approach to exercising that barely worked up a sweat. So, imagine my surprise after my first class when I discovered a whole lot of muscles I never realized I had. And, I certainly sweated as if I was running a 21-mile marathon! Amazing considering, we were hardly moving.
It didn’t take long for my body to start firming up, strengthen, and gain better balance. I discovered I loved the plank pose – I could feel my back, arms, bum, and core muscles tightening every time. Such a powerful feeling!
5. You Connect With Your Body
During the postures, you become more aware of every part of your body. You learn to connect with yourself and become more aware of what drives your body. You learn that your left side may be stronger than your right side or that some days, your right side doesn’t want to do yoga! This kind of messes with your balancing poses, but you go with the flow. And accept.
Breathwork calms you down and also connects you with your core. Don’t ask me how but it does work. You learn to breathe from deep down in your stomach. This gives you so much resilience when pushing your body to do more. I discovered this on many hikes in the bush when I feel I can’t take another step. Then I focus on my breath in my stomach and somehow, I find new energy.
Yoga teaches you so much about your body and what a phenomenal structure it is. It’s strong, it’s connected, and it’s yours to treat with love and compassion.
6. Yoga Helps You Manage Stress Better
Most times, I would enter an evening yoga class, frazzled, frustrated with my job, and at times, completely exhausted. In fact, it would be so bad that I would be tempted to forget going to class and think about climbing into bed instead. If I was so tired how was I going to even get through an hour of yoga?
Within minutes of starting a yoga class, my body would start to wind down and my mind would clear. Suddenly, the worries of the day no longer seemed so stressful and overwhelming. Another few minutes further into the class and I no longer was even thinking about the day. I was now in the moment and connecting deeply with my body. That’s it – and that’s the power of being in the moment.
Yoga grounds you and keeps you in the moment. It teaches you to de-stress, calm down, and find balance and harmony again. And, you’re rejuvenated to face another day.
7. You Sleep Better After Yoga
While I was rejuvenated after every yoga session, by the time I was ready for bed, I was ready to sleep. There was no tossing and turning and agonizing about the next day. My mind was peaceful, my body was relaxed, and I slept well every time.
While I’ve been fortunate to never suffer from insomnia, I truly believe yoga would help insomniacs to sleep better. So, if this is your problem, give yoga a go. You may be pleasantly surprised.
Our teacher always ended a class with 10 minutes of mediation and I believe this winding downtime was also beneficial to decluttering the mind and bringing a sense of calm to your body. All of these things must surely contribute to a good night’s rest?
I’m glad I discovered what I did about yoga. It’s opened up a whole new world to me and how I connect with my body, both physically and spiritually. I truly believe it’s yoga that keeps me grounded, helps me to manage stress better, and of course, gives me a stronger and healthier body.
Unfortunately, our classes at Lunar Sky came to an end at the beginning of 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic reached our shores. But, our teacher taught us well and I continue to do yoga routines at home. Admittedly, there’ll be periods when I forget about doing it, and then when I start again, I wonder why I had ever stopped.
If you’re a newbie to yoga, I encourage you to explore it further. There’s a type of yoga for everybody and there’s a yoga teacher just right for you. You just need to find her or him. You won’t regret it!