Thursday, April 30, 2009
BlissQuest: Starting a Yoga Practice
I have been doing yoga for about 13 years. The very first yoga I did was from pictures in the Deepak Chopra book, Ageless Body, Timeless Mind.
I remember we were living in our attic apartment, with windows that had the tops of trees as our main view. It was hot hot hot in the summer, but there was something lovely about it -- very like a tree house or a bird's nest.
I would study a picture and then imitate it, yelling to Marcy, "Does this look right?"
Now there are much better ways to get into yoga.
My first VCR tape was the Erich Schiffmann/Ali McGraw yoga. I still recommend this to people for great asana sequencing and beautiful production values. (Hey! How can it be bad if they use Dead Can Dance in the background?)
I picked that tape, because the cover felt calm! Luckily it worked out.
Over the years, I have tried all sorts of DVD's and read many, many books, and I am now, as you know, a big proponent of Kundalini yoga, especially as taught by Ravi Singh and Ana Brett.
Which leads to my first piece of advice to anyone just starting out with yoga: get used to the idea of a home practice. This is a vital step that a lot of people are missing.
It's fun to go to yoga class. I mean, there is the whole socializing thing, and there's the being part of a group thing, and then there's stopping for a coffee or tea afterwards. It's a culture. You buy a pretty mat bag, get cute clothes, find a teacher who is almost a guru...
But yoga was traditionally for householders and it was done in homes. Not at lavish studios or in health clubs or at gyms.
Think about how small that mat is and you can imagine doing yoga anywhere.
Try a class. It's good to have someone guiding you and working with you if you don't have an already developed sense of how your body works, but try DVD's at home.
This issue reminds me of the American Christian approach to spirituality versus the Muslim world's. They integrate their religion into every aspect of their lives. Every single moment of the day. American Christians tend to save it for Sundays and in one spot.
Be the Muslim when it comes to your yoga and have a voracious appetite.
Do not settle for the first yoga you try. Keep trying different schools of thought, because like with anything, one size does not fit all.
I know there are yogis reading this; what would you suggest to someone new to yoga?
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(Photo Credit: Christine Reed, Alley Shot, 2009)