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Natural Awakenings Washington DC Metro

Yoga 101

Mar 31, 2014 02:12AM

If you are new to Yoga or thinking about starting a practice, here are some important ideas to keep in mind.

1)      Yoga is ancient. The practice dates back more than 2,500 years. It encompasses deep philosophy and contains a science to personality development, self-awareness, strength, perseverance, compassion, patience and love. If you want to gain the full benefits of yoga, don’t reduce it to being a means to get your butt looking tight or flexing your six pack—make sure you see the bigger picture.

2)      Health is as much mental, as physical. You may be accessing yoga at an aerobic/cardio workout level, but remember yoga is much more than this. If you are coming to yoga for the physical postures and benefits to your health, that is great, but remember, in order to continue and progress on your journey, you’ll have to begin to explore the science of the mind and spirit.

3)      Stick with it. At first it may seem challenging or hard. For sure, the physical postures will be difficult. You may be aching for days (even if you thought you were in good shape before starting) because you’re using muscles you’ve never exercised before. You might want to throw the towel in, but you’ve got to be patient. Give the practice time to work its magic. You’ll be doing yourself a huge disservice if you only go five times and decide  yoga isn’t working. If you're serious about growing, you've got to give it a regular schedule. Try three to five times a week, for about three months, and then make an assessment.

4)      Find a teacher that speaks your language. For your first week or two, visit a variety of classes with a handful of different teachers. Give yourself a chance to see what’s out there, and understand that each teacher brings a unique voice and perspective to how they convey and motivate you. After you find your favorite, you can move into the next step.

5)      Be committed to that teacher. Once you’ve found a teacher that you really enjoy, stick with them for a few months. This is important because it will allow you to become familiar with their style and vocabulary. With time, you’ll develop trust, which is an essential component to your progress. That teacher will also get to know your body better, and be in a better position to make specific adjustments that work for you.

6)      Start exploring again. If you make it this far and begin to feel established in your practice, then it is always good to give the body new movements and positions to challenge routine. At this point you may want to remain dedicated to your initial teacher, but also occasionally visit other classes with different instructors. Enroll in special workshops/retreats where components of the practice are explored deeper.

7)      Ask questions. If you think you’re doing something wrong and are not sure, ask your teacher. Don’t spend months doubting yourself; find out the proper way to do things early. This will proactively help prevent injuries from occurring in the future, and it will also help build community, if you take the time to get to know your fellow students and learn from their experiences too.

8)      Remember it’s about an entire lifestyle change. Going to class a few times a week is a great start, but if you really want to shake things up, you’ll have to start looking at the food you put in your body; the number of hours you spend in front of the television; the way you are interacting in your relationships and so on. With dedication, yoga will help bring all the various facets of your life into balance.

9)      Read introductory yoga books and articles. I promise if you read even just a few pages of an ancient yoga text before going and stepping into your yoga class, your experience in class will change dramatically. It will help get you in the state of mind to have experiences beyond just the physical body. Make it a point to read books and articles about yoga philosophy. It will exponentially expedite your progress.

10)  Take it easy and have fun. We take ourselves way to serious, way too much of the time. Enjoy yourself in class and that will be the main ingredient in the recipe for continuing to come back and establishing yourself for the long haul.

HawaH is an artist, author, educator, yoga teacher and community organizer. In the year 2000, he co-founded One Common Unity, a non-profit organization that inspires a culture of non-violence through arts, media and music. He has released four books, two musical CDs and produced three documentary films. His fourth book, The Poetry Of Yoga, is a two volume anthology set featuring the writing of 300+ yogi poets from 19 different countries and contains special forewords from Shiva Rea and Sharon Gannon. Join him on his 2014 international yoga retreat and Buddhist pilgrimage to Nepal by visiting


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