At this very moment in time there will be loads of people thinking of attending a yoga class and for a 101 reasons. Their doctor might have told them to find some healthy activity that's not too taxing; they may have read about how yoga can make them feel more toned and flexible; they may be ready to try something new; they may have a health condition they believe yoga can help with or they may simply feel stressed out or full of anxiety from over work or family pressures and crave some "me time".
Obstacles to Attending a Yoga Class
Some pluck up the courage to book a class and throw themselves into the experience but some hold back not knowing what to expect or cry out "I'm not flexible enough to do yoga!" Well here's news for the latter, you dont have to flexible to start yoga and that can be a reason for taking up classes. In fact very few who start yoga are flexible and , even if you never feel that flexible which you probably will, it doesn't matter because there are many bye products on the yoga journey that can often be more beneficial than mere flexibility.
What to expect at your first class
For those who don't know what to expect here's a suggestion: ring up the studio, ask to speak to the teacher and ask him/her exactly what to expect if you attend one of their classes. What you want to hear apart from time, place, cost and what to wear etc is what happens at the start of the class, throughout the class and at the end. How much effort will you be expected to put in. You may want to know if the teacher delivers a style that could run you ragged or just gently challenge you. If they give you information using unpronouncable words ask them what they mean! Will you get the chance to stretch yourself even if only a little and will you have the chance to cultivate your powers of relaxation. Are there beginners classes and how are they different? What other yoga styles are available? In fact ask what ever you want so you get a good idea of what your experience is likely to be well before you attend.
Yoga and Exercise
It's important to remember that while yoga can tone, flex and strengthen you it is not like other exercise. In fact one of the chief benefits of yoga is in its subtle elements of cultivating a sense of physical and mental awareness, greater awareness and uses of the breath and calming of the mind. One of the great things about yoga is that it is not really about personal development atall such as learning a foreign language or landscape painting. I'm not saying that these are not useful ways of improving your life. It's just that yoga is not really about this kind of improvement. Yoga is more of a journey of self discovery. Becoming more physically, emotionally and mentally aware with a view to balancing and harmonizing the quality of those three things to bring you a greater sense of well being often without you noticing it until it just actually happens.
Do I need to meditate
This is a common question of beginner yogis and the answer is probably no.Even though the great sage Patanjali who wrote the Yoga Sutras around 2,500 years ago, providing us with a great framework upon which to base our practice, and claimed the aim of yoga was to calm the disturbing patterns of the human mind ultimately using meditation, practitioners can achieve a whole lot of calmness and awareness without even getting to the meditation stage. They can do it by simply practising asana (postures), breathing and calming techniques and they will achieve a lot through the "back door of yoga".
So in conclusion give yoga a try. Not if it's just your latest fad at getting fit and personally developing. Something that might see you through the summer. But do it if you want to take up an amazing journey of self enquiry that will transform the way you feel, the way you think and the way you understand your body. Do it if you want to be more open and peaceful. You may discover that yoga is not just for a season but can be a way of life. Finally, let me finish this with a brief anecdote: a middle aged NHS matron from a large training hospital once told me she took up yoga because for years working on hospital wings she came to notice that people who practiced yoga on a regular basis coped better with illness and recovered more quickly. That realisation inspired her to take up yoga as a way of life and inspired me to continue with my practice.
Barry Todd (HathaYogaMan)