Like doing most things for the very first time, starting your Yoga journey and taking your first yoga classes can give rise to lots of uncertainties. But it doesn’t always have to be this intimidating. Today, we tell you what to expect and which tools are truly useful when you begin your Yoga journey with Skill Yoga!
Why begin your Yoga journey?
Yoga can be so much more than a well-marketed lifestyle. Research shows that Yoga not only helps in stress management(1), easing depression and anxiety (2), but also acts as a well-balanced training system that can improve strength, flexibility, mental control and promotes injury prevention (3).
No wonder coaches from all sports are silent advocates of Yoga, urging and advising their teams to do Yoga. One of the most famous teams might be the Seattle Seahawks where the whole team reportedly practices yoga. (5) Once, after trying a 20-minute meditation session, the whole team enjoyed it so much that they began to incorporate full sessions into regular training. (3)
What is a Yoga class all about?
Some people are solely practicing the physical aspect of Yoga, while others stay with meditation, breathing exercises, prayers or a combination of everything. It´s all Yoga. You can follow multiple paths too. That is what traditional Yoga philosophy says. Most of the modern styles are based on a philosophic text, compiled at least 1600 years ago, called the Yoga Sutras. The Yoga Sutra dictates and describes the primary goal of Yoga to be control of the mind. This is not as spiritual as most people might presume. Yoga and modern science believe that through physical activity we can change our way of thinking. (4)
A typical Yoga class can build up like a wave. Starting slowly with some warm-up moves, getting more intense in the middle part and finishing by laying on your back.
The warm-up can include circular movements of the joints or simpler poses, like tabletop, that direct your awareness toward certain body parts. Skill Yoga classes can build up progressively particular skills. You are working towards smaller goals within one class, while all classes within one program guide you towards an overarching goal, like strength for instance. This could imply, that during an upper-body strength class you would warm-up, in particular, your chest and shoulders, and bring awareness and primal activation to your core.
During the middle part, the classes build up in speed and intensity with different poses connected to a flow. A sun salutation is a popular and challenging flow many styles integrate to allow their students to move without thinking. One function of this “set and simple” flow is to bring you into a so-called flow-state. A state where you are performing while being fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus. A state that is perfect for learning new skills. After the intense middle part, which can include some High-Intensity training, at least in a Skill Yoga class, you will finish in a pose that is named Savasana
What is Savasana?
Some call it the most advanced pose… because it’s super hard to just lie there and do nothing. In our fast-track-society resting might be a foreign word for most. One purpose of resting at the end is to balance your nervous system. Stress and activity switches on the fight or flight mode, we are ready for action, for holding a discussion or squeezing ourselves into the train. But the constant overtaking of the action mode can lead to an overproduction of stress hormones leading to muscular tension and insomnia. On the other hand, by calming down, our parasympathetic nervous system gets a shot of anti-venom, this one supports internal processes like digestion, the reduction of stress hormones and boosts our immune system.
This short recap of what Yoga is made for and the scientific explanation of its effects might give you more theoretical knowledge than most yoga students have. Still, the main thing is to experience it all yourself and form your own opinion while on your yoga journey.
But, we don’t want to leave with empty hands and some lukewarm promises:
Here a practical list for a smooth start to your Yoga journey:
- 1. Video set up
If you train with Skill Yoga, place the phone, laptop or tablet on the right front side of your mat. You can lean your device against an object to make sure that you retain sight of the screen even when you are standing at the end of your mat.
2. During the video
When starting, it is normal to get confused about directions or sides. Luckily, your brain can adapt fast and suddenly you have a super-fast “movement-copier” installed. By observing a flow from the outside, mirror neurons in your brain activate areas that are engaged while you are in action. You are learning by observing, by doing and by experience. Here, the voice can help you better understand the moves. From experience, I can tell, that I needed 2-4 workouts to get into the flow.
No magic here. Most important: Just wear something you like to move in. But if you know that you are sweating a lot, it can be helpful to wear a breathable long sleeve or long pants to prevent sliding in arm balances. Long pants are also beneficial when it comes to stretching. They keep your muscles warm and cozy and make it easier for you to actively relax.
The mat can actually make a difference regarding your training experience. If you are annoyed because you slip, it’s useful to consider a stickier mat (2). Or as a cheaper variation, cover the mat with a regular towel or get a mat-shaped Yoga towel.
It’s ok to not to worry too much in the beginning, everything takes a bit of time. To be fair, you might have just started your yoga journey. Theoretically, in Yoga, you mostly breathe through the nose. It is easier to control the airflow that way. Breath is seen as the link between mind and body. Because keeping your breathing smooth and even, requires focus and concentration. By learning to control your breathing you simultaneously learn to control your mind. Try the following exercise to feel the difference between daily breathing and yogic breathing.
- Place one hand on your belly, the other on your chest
- Breath in deeply through your nose and notice how the belly lifts first
- Breath out long and evenly, again through your nose
6. Food ingestion
Most people feel better when they do not eat before Yoga, as there are some moves in which you compress your upper body to stimulate blood supply of the inner organs or moves that require maximum core control, that is definitely not ideal after a pizza has made you heavy and all blown up.
In general, nutrition is a main factor, maybe the major factor, when it comes to health, performance and life quality. The subject range is too wide to go into detail. Some cornerstones are: plant based diet, organic meat, fish and dairy and a reasonable amount of everything (carbs x proteins x fats) as you can´t store protein for instance.
It is not common to drink during a Yoga class. Drinking will not kill you though. But it can kick you out of the flow. If you are in a really hot environment, or feel the need, of course, it is good and important to drink water. Never go for smoothies, or other sugary beverages while doing Yoga, as they are really not needed and just make your blood sugar level increase and drop rapidly.
8. No time
No excuses here. A home workout is the most time-efficient thing to do. The workouts don’t take more than 30mins of your time. Establishing a new habit successfully helps to set fixed days and times. Connect yoga to an already existing routine like doing it always after brushing your teeth in the morning. Most importantly though, give yourself and your body some time to get used to it. Commit to at least finishing 3 workouts to experience the benefits and form your own view.
- Yoga is designed to teach control over body and mind. In athletics, both are required, especially when it comes to stressful situations such as facing a competition
- The health benefits of Yoga are far-reaching but its much better to experience them compared to just reading about them. But if reading helps, go here.
- Appreciate the little steps you are taking. Because Yoga wasn’t made to be easy, there is no reason to be hard on yourself. Postures and breathing come one by one. The journey, – not a straight-legged down dog – will make you grow, improve your body condition and athletic performance.
- You don’t need more than a mat (or towel) and your phone to follow your Yoga Training routine.
- And last but not least, you are not alone. Share your progress and motivation and stay connected with our Skill-Yoga community here.