Do you practice yoga? Have you ever thought about it? Have you stayed away because you’re not an om-chanting size zero vegan with hairy armpits?! (Sorry… thought I would get the stereotypes out of the way first thing!) Well avoid no more. I’m here to tell you that yoga is for everyone. It’s a practice that can be what YOU need it to be. It can be sweaty and strenuous – athletic, even. It can be peaceful and calm, restorative.
But how do you start? When I talk to people about yoga, I always recommend starting with an experienced instructor. I’ve practiced with many instructors in my hometown of Columbus, OH. An experienced instructor will provide instruction that you can carry with you throughout a lifetime of practice. They can answer questions and help adjust you when you don’t quite understand a pose. The feedback provided by a good instructor can also keep you from getting injured.
My own practice has evolved to include one practice each week with an instructor, and another session on my own (or with friends) doing a video. When it comes to videos, I am a complete SNOB. I usually check out videos from the library. There have been many, many videos that I only ever did once and promptly returned to the library. Along the way, I have discovered four videos that I think are worth owning to practice over and over again. They are all produced by Element Yoga, including (in order of intensity):
Brower, Elena. Yoga for Beginners. New York: Starz Home Entertainment, 2007. I love the pace of this video. The problem with a lot of yoga videos is that they try to be fast or include a lot of poses, sacrificing the benefits of holding each pose for 3-5 breaths. She also offers tips and instruction that are valuable to yoga newbies.
Turner, Ashley. Element: Yoga for Stress Relief & Flexibility. Beverly Hills, CA: Anchor Bay Entertainment, 2010. This video has two 30 minute practices. The stress relief practice is also great for beginners. Being a short practice, it’s just enough to squeeze some zen into a busy stressful day to keep yourself focused. And the flexibility practice is just a bit more advanced, but still only 30 minutes long. And if you find you have more time… you can easily combine the two practices.
Ambandos, Andrea, and Tamal Dodge. Hatha & Flow Yoga for Beginners. Mount Waverley, Vic.: Anchor Bay Entertainment Australia, 2011. This video also has two 30 minute segments. The Hatha practice makes use of a strap throughout the practice. Using the strap adds depth to the stretches and your understanding of what you should feel in each of the poses. The Flow segment is a good introduction to vinyasa practice. You’ll sweat a bit more in this one!
Turner, Ashley, and Andrea Ambandos. Element: Power Yoga. Beverly Hills, CA: Distributed by Anchor Bay Entertainment, 2010. This is the video to try when you want to sweat. I admit that I’m often pressed for time, and just plain tuckered out about 40 minutes through this 1 hour session! Ms. Turner has you doing a vinyasa (transitioning with breath and movement) between each pose. Along with the intense ab sequence in the middle, you’ll be sweating by the time you finish this.
When I practice yin yoga, I turn to Yin Yoga by Paul Grilley. Yin is my favorite style of yoga. In this practice, you may only do a handful of postures. But each pose is held for several minutes. The result is deeper opening and a very meditative, calming practice. I think some videos have been produced for this practice, but I prefer to select a few poses and set them to music. Props such a couple blocks or pillows come in handy with this practice.
Grilley, Paul. Yin Yoga: Outline of a Quiet Practice. Ashland, Or: White Cloud Press, 2002.
Do you have a yoga practice? How did you start? What is your routine?