How To Kick Off Your Yoga Practice in 2018
The hangover's starting to wear off, you've had your last big feed before the 'resolutions' start tomorrow and all of a sudden that promise to start practising yoga becomes very daunting as January hits you square in the face.
We've all been there, making and breaking resolutions quicker than you can say 'pass the celery'. Personally I don't like the idea of resolutions. They invoke the idea that we all must change, which I don't agree with. Grow, yes, but change, no...we are amazing already. Goals for a new year are a great way to set the stage for how you want to grow in the coming 12 months; they work in the same way as setting an intention at the beginning of a yoga class, providing you with a marker stick against which to measure how you are progressing throughout the year.
However, it's all very well setting an intention, but let's not kid ourselves and pretend that that's the last of it. Actually starting towards a goal can be the hardest part, let alone continuing on the path after the initial energy boost at the start of the year.
Here are my top tips for starting a yoga practice this year, and more importantly, continuing that practice long after the Christmas decorations are packed away:
Be gentle with yourself
I'll be the first to admit that exercise has been well and truly pushed down the priority list over the last few weeks of the festive season. Whether you have previously been very active, or not at all, (re)starting any form of exercise in January can be a real shock as we realise how stiff and weak our muscles may have become. Forget about what you 'used to be able to do' and honour where you are now. Acceptance is one of the key lessons of yoga and will be the first one you learn. Accept what you can and can't do now and try not to push yourself too hard because you'll just end up feeling dejected, or worse, you'll hurt yourself.
Start with a beginner level class, even if you've practised before, and instead of going hard once a week, try a gentle class 2-3 times a week. A regular practice is the goal here...over everything else.
Ignore everyone else
Walking into a public class as a first timer might well be the most scary thing you'll do this year. Try not to think about it too much! Head to the studio, grab a mat, a couple of blocks, a strap and a blanket and set yourself up wherever you feel comfortable (read here for more tips for your first class!). Most importantly, once you step on your mat there is only one thing you should be thinking about: yourself. Trying to keep up with everyone else, or worrying about whether you're 'doing it right' or not is not going to help you in any way. Let the teacher worry about your form and just focus on how it feels. Once you recognise how good you feel during and/or after practice, keeping a regular practice will be easy!
Set mini-goals and continue to evaluate them
Setting a goal at the start of the year is all well and good, but if you only evaluate that goal on NYE 12 months later you might realise too late that you've gone off track. So as well as your big goal, set yourself smaller goals to break down the months ahead. Examples could be: attend 20 classes in the first 3 months, or nail your alignment in warrior 2 by June. Write them down, and don't forget to check in with how you're getting on!
If you know that won't work for you then try it another way. Book yourself onto a retreat towards the end of the year and work towards that instead!
I'm not going to lie to you, the yoga journey is a long one. Everyone has different bodies; some are flexible, some are strong, some are neither, some are both. If you're starting your journey try not to set yourself unrealistic goals which are just going to leave you feeling like a failure. If you're not strong, don't use nailing a handstand as your metric for success, equally if you've got tight hamstrings don't set yourself up for a fail by picking the splits as a target.
It is also important to be realistic with how you go about your practice. If you have a busy schedule with long work hours, trying to commit to a studio class three times a week might not be possible; instead opt for videos on YouTube, buy an online subscription, or start private classes so you can fit your practice around your schedule.
Enjoy the journey
If the journey is long then the best thing you can do is settle in and enjoy it. Keep a journal to record how you feel before and after each class you take and look back on it at the end of each week to remind yourself how good yoga has made you feel! It is also important to recognise what life-lessons yoga is teaching you. Have you learnt acceptance, or how to deal with stress, or how to face your fears? Whatever you have learnt, keep a record; yoga is so much more than just moving your body.
If you have any more questions about how to start a practice, or would like to know more about private classes or retreats feel free to contact me on the details below!