Stretch Your Way to Mind-Body Balance
Yoga is great for the mind and body, and it doesn’t just create a chiseled body. It can help you achieve inner peace too. If you’ve ever wanted to get involved with this ancient practice, here’s how to get started today.
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Take Beginner Classes
Beginner classes will help you get a feel for yoga without committing a lot of time or money. Most cities offer a free “community” class that is taught by a skilled instructor. Try to sample three to five different types of yoga classes to really get a sense of what the education and training is like in your area. If you like a particular class, sign up! If you can’t find a class or instructor that you’re fully satisfied with, it might be worth the extra cost to go on a retreat.
Go on a Retreat
A yoga retreat, like the Bali yoga retreat, will immerse you in the culture and practices of yoga, as well as get you familiarized with the basics. Once you’ve determined that this is something you could stick to long-term, a retreat will give you access to experts, other practitioners, and an environment where you can form a mental imprint for later.
Mental imprints are important. When you’re meditating at home, the memories of the retreat or the scenery you experienced can have a powerful calming effect. The retreat will also allow you to get the experience you need so that you can sign up for more advanced classes at home and get the most out of your time with your permanent instructor.
Headspace is a new meditation application for mobile phones and tablets. The app lets you start practicing meditation which can be very challenging, especially if you’ve never done it before. One of the major mistakes people make when doing self-guided meditations, is that they don’t really have enough experience or knowledge to do the meditation.
Those new to meditation either focus too hard, creating anxiety—the total opposite of what’s supposed to happen—or they relax too much and fall asleep. Headspace helps you practice good meditation habits, which will play a very important role in your yoga practice.
Some argue that meditation is more important than the physical aspect, since it’s the meditation that’s so often credited with many of the health benefits of the practice. Regardless of whether you’re a “mind over matter” type of person or you enjoy the physical aspects of yoga more than the mental, the fact remains that meditation is part of yoga, so it’s good to practice.
Beginner Yoga Poses
Start with easy poses, like mountain pose, pigeon pose, and bridge pose. Work into downward facing dog and cat pose. Tree pose is also a beginner pose that will teach you balance, while strengthening the thighs, calves, ankle, and muscles that protect the spine.
Beginner poses help acclimate you to the physical demands of the practice. Some poses, like triangle pose, can be more or less beginner or intermediate, depending on how you perform them. The important thing is that you start where you’re comfortable, while also challenging what you think are your limits.
Yoga’s methods are designed to strengthen both the body and the mind, and help you to develop the mental toughness required to get into, and maintain or hold, various poses. If you’ve never done any sort of physical activity before, start slow. You may be sore for the first few weeks, but it will pass as you become stronger. Eventually, you will transition into more advanced versions of beginner poses or additional poses that challenge your physical ability.
Commit to Long-Term Training and Practice
Ultimately, you’ll want a teacher who can help challenge and educate you. There are a lot of philosophies about training, even within yoga. Finding the teacher that you personally connect with may take some time.
A long-term relationship with your instructor will help you get the most out of your practice, while also helping you achieve your own personal physical and mental goals.
Most people get into yoga because they want a chiseled body, or because they believe that it’s healthy. After years of practice, these things seem very superficial. Yoga is really about balance, living well, being calm, and living a peaceful life.
It’s about being able to pass on knowledge, challenge yourself and any preconceived notions about the world around you, and to learn how to better love your fellow man.
Lily Goncalves is the founder and director of the Blooming Lotus Yoga schools of Bali and Thailand. Having received her Masters in Counseling Psychology from the University of British Columbia, Lily combined her knowledge of Western psychology with the self-development tools of classical yoga and now offers yoga retreats to clients from around the world to help them heal both body and mind. Based on the tropical island of Bali, Indonesia, Lily continues her life-long work of offering the sacred wisdom of yoga to her many students.
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