5 Tips For Beginner Power Yogis

crouching yvr copyAhlia Hoffman suggests these tips and tools for those new to power yoga who want to develop a strong, balanced, healthy practice.  Ahlia is committed to enjoying health and wellness and believes in cultivating a balance between what makes you feel amazing and what you love to enjoy.

1. Start with an appropriate level class.
2. Be kind to yourself, start gently.
3. Study yourself and how you feel as you practice regularly.
4. Savasana is so important!  Stay for it, and longer if possible.
5. Practice yoga off of the mat.balance yvr copy

  1. Start with appropriate level classes. You may already be in great shape, have amazing body awareness and excellent posture, but unless you know what trikonasana means and how to safely get in and out of that posture (and other basic poses), it’s important that you start in classes that teach the foundations of yoga: breath, postural alignment and engagement versus disengagement of muscles. Once you feel comfortable with the language, pacing, and structure of class – it’s then time to find classes that go beyond the basic fundamentals of the practice and into something that will meet your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs. Starting a yoga practice is like learning a new language, at first everything seems foreign; from the sensations in your body to the way the instructor tells you to breathe. Eventually, with practice, you become more accustomed to slower paced movement, exploring and experiencing sensations in your body, proper alignment, and knowing when to contract or relax an area in your body.
  2. Be kind and gentle, go easy on yourself, especially once you start to feel like you’re getting the hang of it. There’s a fine balance in yoga between finding and exploring your edge and easing up to make more space. It can be easy to push yourself, especially with yoga practitioners around you who may have a more “advanced” practice. Often times it’s the exact thing you’re working to move beyond that’s holding you back – your ego. By pushing yourself to the extreme you risk other aspects of your practice being compromised, such as breath and proper alignment, which in turn can lead to injury. The purpose of your practice is to find balance, to drop into your physical body, and to practice being fully present in the moment. The purpose of your practice is not about impressing the people around you or compromising alignment in order to find the full expression of a posture. When you’re first starting out, be kind and acknowledge yourself for showing up, for having the courage to commit yourself to this practice as a part of your life.   Give yourself credit for doing the work, and also work hard to build the proper strength and alignment needed to progress in a healthy mindful way. When you’re a more seasoned practitioner, go easy on yourself as well. Give yourself permission to modify and take breaks. Take time off from your practice and let that be ok. Be kind inside your mind when you fall out of a posture, instead of beating yourself up over it. “Yoga is not about touching your toes, it’s about what you learn about yourself on your way down.”
  3. Start some kind of practice for self-study. Start to monitor how you feel throughout the day, highs and lows to your energy, how you feel around certain people and how you feel when you’re alone. Notice the types of thoughts that you predominantly think, observe the fluctuations in your mind and how this correlates with your level of productivity. Also notice how the types of things you consume make you feel. Do you eat lunch and then feel heavy, sleepy, and unproductive? Do you eat breakfast and feel great all day, but when you skip breakfast you get impatient easier in the afternoon? Can you notice if what you eat/drink relates in any way to how you feel in yoga class? Drinking water and staying hydrated is so important, and consuming dehydrating products can make you feel unwell during yoga. For example, having coffee and not enough water before class could contribute to feeling dizzy or faint. To that effect, we are mindful at Yoga/Vino Retreats so that you stay properly hydrated, especially with the amazing wines you’ll get to enjoy with dinner. Starting your day with warm water and a squeeze of lemon is a great way to kick start your hydration for the day, and swapping out water for juice or coffee later on in the day will lend to a stronger and healthier yoga practice. Notice how you feel when you drink more water, eat mindfully, and think positively, you will more than likely have a profoundly positive shift in your life and your practice both on and off of your yoga mat.
  4. Stay for savasana. Stay longer even, if time and space allows. Savasana truly is the most important posture in your practice. Everything you do before savasana, leads you to the time you spend there. Savasana, the final resting posture, is the time for you to fully integrate and absorb the benefits of your practice. Benefits of yoga go beyond the physical level. I often say in class that yes the practice is a work-out, but it’s also a work-IN. Whether you are aware of this or not, by slowing down your breath, turning inwards, and becoming present on your mat, you are also helping to balance the systems in your body, release tension, stress, and even unnecessary gripping in the body (ie: grudges, old wounds, self-doubt, etc). You are increasing your energy and vibration by dropping into your body and finding some stillness or silence in your mind. This amazing benefit of yoga practice happens with or without your knowledge or permission, it’s a bi-product of becoming present in the moment. Savasana is the epitomy of this, and is an opportunity to meditate and stay in the stillness and silence of the space you’ve created. Take advantage of this time, enjoy the opportunity, and stay fully present inside yourself.
  5. Practice yoga off of the mat. Ever notice that you have a sense of bliss after your practice? You feel lighter, happier, freer, and somehow have more clarity and direction. Yoga helps you rediscover things inside yourself like how being alive is a reason to be grateful, or how each moment is a blessing and meant to be fully experienced. Yoga is more than a physical practice, in fact the asanas (postures) are just one part of an 8-part lifestyle practice.  As you practice letting go of things that no longer serve you on the mat, you also learn how to set intentions or dedicate your energy to something outside of yourself to create and perpetuate positivity. You will inevitably get opportunities to practice this off of the mat as well, perhaps in traffic when you can dedicate some energy to the health and safety of the people around you instead of projecting negativity to other drivers. You can practice yoga off the mat by smiling at people, doing something to make someone else’s day without expecting anything in return, treating yourself and others kindly and with compassion as an example of what you wish to attract into your life, or being patient and taking a few deep steady breaths instead of reacting to a conflict or challenging situation. Taking yoga off of the mat and into your life is such an important aspect of the practice, and truly one of the great purposes and points of yoga. By being mindful, practicing peacefulness, and staying present in the moment during class time, you are training and conditioning yourself in order to do the same when you leave the yoga studio. No matter how long you have been practicing, it’s also important to remember tip #2. No one is perfect, we all face challenging times, and staying light hearted and easy on yourself will prove to help you accept when you make mistakes, integrate and put into action any lessons you can take away from the circumstance, then release it into the past and move on. Practicing yoga off the mat gives you the space to be unapologetically authentic, stay true to you, and move in the direction of your heart.

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