How and where to start with your yoga journey

The world of yoga can seem intimidating at first. A newbie may feel the need to be flexible and have a clear, calm mind. This is not the case! There is something for everyone in yoga! Yoga literally means ‘to yoke’. Working together with your body, mind, and soul is what it’s all about. Yoga is not just about ‘asanas’ (postures), but also about connecting to your breath and calming your mind.  The Western world calls this series of postures ‘yoga’ which is a vehicle for creating better meditation so that one day one may reach enlightenment.

What exactly is yoga? The Coles notes version is that yoga began in the fifth and sixth centuries BCE during the Vedic period in India. There are a wide variety of schools of yoga; Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. If you want to dive further into yoga philosophy I highly recommend starting by reading the ‘Yoga Sutras of Patanjali’. There are eight limbs in yoga, which are moral principles and philosophies for leading and creating a better life.

8 Pillars:

  1. Yama (Moral Discipline)
    • Ahimsa (non-violence)
    • Satya (truth)
    • Asteya (non-stealing)
    • Brahmacharya (non-indulgence)
    • Aparigraha (non-possessiveness)
    • Ksama (patience, forgiveness)
    • Dhrti (fortitude, perseverance with the aim to reach the goal)
    • Daya (compassion)
    • Arjava (non-hypocrisy, sincerity)
    • Mitahara (measured diet)
  2. Niyama (Observances)
    • Saucha (cleansing)
    • Santosha (contentment)
    • Tapas (self-discipline)
    • Swadhyaya (self-study)
    • Ishvara Pranidhana (connection with your god)
    • Astikya (faith in real Self)
    • Dana (generosity and sharing)
    • Siddhanta sravana (listening to ancient scriptures)
    • Hri (humility, remorse and acceptance of one’s past)
    • Mati (reflection to reconcile conflicting ideas)
    • Japa (reciting mantras, prayers or knowledge)
    • Huta (practicing rituals)
    • Vrata (faithfully observing religious vows)
    • Akrodha (non-anger)
    • Agapa (non-gossip)
  3. Asana (Physical Practice)
    • Pranayama (Breathwork)
    • Pratyahara (Sense Withdrawal)
    • Dharaha (Concentration)
    • Dhyana (Absorption & Meditation)
    • Samadhi (enlightenment/Bliss)

      For those of you who are aspiring yogis, whether it be purely for the benefits of asana or to reach a calmer, happier well-being I would recommend diving deeper into the 8 pillars of yoga. See how they align with your current lifestyle. I wouldn’t recommend tackling them all at once. I would recommend starting with asana followed by meditation and choosing to practice one of the yamas.

      Some helpful tips:

      Set your yoga/asana practice up for success.

      Invest in the right mat (this is a game changer! You don’t want to be sliding around or feel the floor under your knees), cork blocks (they are nice and sturdy, I recommend getting 2), a strap to help you lengthen and support the poses you are learning and last, but not least…my favorite is a bolster. Bolsters to me, make my practice feel like luxury! Being in savasana (kind of like a nap for adults) with a bolster under your knees is positively heaven! Here are my top choices of yoga products:

      BYoga is an amazing company! I have tried every mat out there and this one is by far the best. Pricy…yes. But to put it into perspective, I have had my mat for 6 years, use it every day and it’s still going strong. I would suggest the 6mm BMat Strong as it provides more cushion while still being supportive, it also comes in a long version which I just purchased and I love how much room I have!!!! BYoga 6mm Mat: https://amzn.to/3VWeJOv

      Cork Blocks! I don’t care how experienced a yogi you are…blocks are still essential and amazing! They support you so you don’t hyperextend and help support poses that you are in longer. I would also only recommend cork. I don’t find foam blocks offer enough support and deteriorate over time. Wooden blocks are really heavy and I find can be slippery. I have half-moon cork blocks (same company as BYoga). I recommend purchasing two blocks. Halfmoon Cork Blocks https://amzn.to/3W001G6

      Straps – these should not be rubber or have flex in them. You want a longer strap for leg poses and support. Yoga Rat offers an affordable one and does well in the washer and dryer. Yoga Rat Strap: https://amzn.to/3Wer9m2

      Bolsters – When looking for a bolster I recommend rectangular. They should be on the firmer side (this will help them last longer and provide better support). Also, ensure you get one that has a washable/removable cover. I recommend two companies:

      Halfmoon/Byoga https://amzn.to/3XX31FZ you will find more variety on their website.

      Love My Mat https://www.lovemymat.com/collections/traditional-yoga-bolsters This is a Mother, Daughter duo that creates beautiful bolsters out of recycled material. They also have the best-weighted eye pillows!

      Meditation

      As my teacher Tony used to tell me “fake it until you make it”! When we start meditating it can be really difficult to stay still and silence our thoughts and external distractions. Try starting with 5 minutes after your asana/yoga practice. Your yoga practice will help you calm your nervous system which will better help you with focus. Your mind will more than likely wander to a list of things that you need to do or work distractions etc. When your mind wanders, notice it and bring it back to your meditation. This will get easier and easier with time. Find an app or teacher with meditations that you like. Don’t get upset with yourself when your mind wanders…its 100% going to happen. Ensure that you set yourself up in a comfortable space. Be seated as lying down will more than likely end up in a nap. Try not to eat before meditation, your tummy will be busy processing your food instead of your meditation. You may feel the need to go to the bathroom…yep! As your body relaxes it may decide that it needs a bathroom break, this is completely normal. Take it and try coming back to your meditation.

      Choose a yama

      One of my teachers told me that she chooses a yama every New Year…kind of like a New Year’s resolution. If she felt like she had to do more work with the yama she chose she carried it through the next year. I too have adopted this approach. I am practicing and have been practicing ahimsa for the past 3 years! Yep…still more work to do. Ahimsa means non-violence…that doesn’t just mean physical violence…but also how we speak to ourselves. Being kind to ourselves. Once you choose your yama, I encourage you to really dive into it. Google it, buy a book on the pillars of yoga, etc.

      Lastly, enjoy your practice.

      This is about you and for you. Set up you time in a space that feels comfortable.

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        Namaste,

        Vanessa


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