Don’t waste your time doing yoga the way I did.
I started doing yoga using a DVD, because I was curious and I wanted to add variety to my exercise routine. I followed along as best I could, and noticed that over time I could do more. Then I started trying group yoga classes. Some I liked, some I didn’t. But I always learned something new from each instructor–a cue that helped me “be” in a posture more comfortably or feel a deeper release. Sometimes that cue meant that oh, I wasn’t doing the posture fully, and now it’s damn hard!
Many years later, after my rotator cuff had been beat up from too many Chaturangas, I finally learned how to safely come down without strain on my shoulder, all because a teacher stopped class and demonstrated it. Then I did a private yoga session, and learned how my alignment in many postures was NOT at all what I thought it was. I also learned that there were more options for the poses than I could have ever discovered in class–options that were best for me during that specific stage in my life.
Why am I telling you this? Because I don’t want you to waste your time doing yoga.
How I wish I knew some of those details earlier, especially before hurting my shoulder! How I wish I knew I hadn’t been doing Triangle pose correctly, cheating myself out of strengthening a side of my body that was weak! If I learned more specifically about proper breathing technique and/or yogic sleep, I could have used it to manage issues like stress and insomnia years ago. If someone had helped me shape a short home practice that I could do every day without feeling like it was a chore, I could have been healthier, stronger, and more flexible, both on my mat and in my life.
First, I’m not trying to discourage anyone from taking a group yoga class. You will certainly learn something new about yoga in any group class you take. I always offer specific cues about alignment and breathing when I teach. But I ask you:
- Are you truly aware of where your weak spots are, where you’re starting from? What about your strengths? (We often dismiss those and/or don’t use them to our advantage.)
- Do you really know whether what the instructor said is appropriate for YOUR body? (A general rule doesn’t mean it absolutely applies to you.)
- Can you translate the words the instructor said into that particular physical alignment? Can you be sure you’re in the alignment you think you are, when you can’t see your entire body? And if so, can you feel that alignment when you’re not looking in a mirror or yourself in the video window?
- Are you still able to breathe and keep a softness in your jaw and face? If not, do you know what to change?
- Do you know whether the sensations you feel are appropriate and not actually injurious?
- Have you ever been surprised to learn that you didn’t know what you thought you did?
How many group classes will you have to attend to figure out YOUR unique yoga practice on your own, gathering little bits of info along the way like I did? Probably a lot. That’s a lot of time, often a lot of money, and a lot of trial and correction. Either way, can you really afford that? Don’t waste your time doing yoga!
Ideally I want you to learn good form right from the beginning–and I don’t mean the form that makes the pose look like any yoga photo you’ve ever seen (unless it’s a photo I take of you!). If you’ve been doing yoga for awhile and aren’t seeing improvement in your flexibility, strength, balance, sleep, stress levels, etc., I want to work with you to help you make real progress.
How much is it worth to learn:
- Poses that work for YOU on day one because they honor your body’s unique anatomy?
- …poses you’d feel confident choosing to do in a group class because you know your body better and are taking control of your health?
- A yoga practice that targets your specific physical and mental/emotional health conditions, yet is reasonable enough to do daily to see real improvements in your overall well-being?
- Ways of being that make you feel even better than you do after a general yoga class?
Taking a private with a yoga instructor might cost a little more, but what you get are maximum benefits from a personalized yoga practice that over time, costs you LESS in time, effort, & potential injury. You will learn body awareness. You will have the space to feel into the postures and nurture stretches longer, increasing their ability to heal your body. If you’re in pain, you’ll work with your instructor to find a position of comfort and release. If you aren’t able to do particular postures right at that moment, you’ll learn what to do instead and feel empowered about your choice to use appropriate modifications in group classes. Your practice will evolve from one week or month to the next, as you work one-on-one with your teacher.
Your teacher might also help you examine the choices you make in your daily life–the negative stressors that might be contributing to aches and pains you’re currently experiencing. For example:
- I encouraged one of my students who complained of back pain to pay more attention to how she interacted with her child. She noticed she was frequently bending over improperly, and when she became more mindful about her movements outside of yoga, her back pain ceased.
- Another student presented with neck/shoulder tension. I noticed that every time she inhaled, she pulled her shoulders up to her ears. Re-learning proper breathing techniques helped her find relief.
I’ve always been a busy person, so I know that time is valuable. I also know that progress is encouraging, refreshing sleep is priceless, and pain relief is heavenly.
My advice? Don’t waste your time doing yoga in a group setting until you know how to do it alone. If you need help, you can schedule a private session with me here.