10 Tips for Those Who Want to Start Practicing Yoga But Don't Know How to Begin
In recent years Yoga has got a lot of attention from all the corners of the society. There are dozens of books, DVDs and even TV channels spreading this ancient technique of God-realization. Although the ultimate aim of Yoga is liberation that's not the only reason people practice Yoga. A large number of people get attracted to Yoga due to its positive impact on health and well-being of human personality. And indeed a healthy body and mind is the abode of God. In fact Natha siddhas such as Gorakshanath gave emphasis on Hatha Yoga because it first makes your body fit for spiritual awakening.
Many times people want to take to the path of Yoga but don't know exactly where and how to begin. Sometimes they join some Yoga studio or institute without taking pain to figure out their personal requirements and end up in a boring or even frustrating encounter with Yogic art and science. Here are some tips that will guide you
if you are new on this path.
Define your needs
Before you start yoga practice it is necessary to define your needs as precisely as possible. Why do you want to do yoga? Is it for health benefits? Or are there any spiritual reasons? Or you just want to do it because ten others are talking about you? This clarity is necessary because based on your needs you need to select a few practices from a dozens of different practices. For example, if you want to pursue yoga for health and fitness then you need to decide a set of practice based on a specific disease (arthritis, for example) or condition (obesity, for example). You may not be in a position to select practices yourself and may need help from an expert but unless you know your requirements even an expert won't be able to guide precisely.
Decide on the style of Yoga
Ancient scriptures on yoga classify all the yogic practices in four broad types viz. Mantra Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Laya Yoga and Raja Yoga. Additionally, these days every other yoga guru and teacher seems to
"invent" his own style. Whether you follow some classic style or modern style you need to first arrive at a specific choice or a combination of choices. For example, Hatha Yoga has lot to offer to people taking this path for health and fitness. On the same lines Namasmarana and Mantra Yoga would be more appealing to devotional people. A common mistake aspirants do is they leave this decision to the yoga institute they are joining. Remember that every yoga instate will tell you that whatever they teach is the best approach and is good for you. But that would be far from reality in many cases. If your body is weak and stiff you may not enjoy strenuous Hatha practices even if some famous teacher is visiting the institute. So, you should do some research about the kind of practices you can do and enjoy.
Educate yourself through books and internet
These days a lot of information is available in books and internet. Use that information to educate yourself and increase your awareness about yoga in general. Remember to refer only authentic sources that give information in clear and understandable manner. Beware of extraordinary claims made by these sources of information and don't fall prey to such tall promises. This knowledge will help you decide on a specific style. If not it will definitely help you ask right questions to your yoga teacher or guru.
Decide on the mode of learning
Once you build general awareness about yoga the next step is to decide the mode of learning. Joining some yoga studio or institute is a preferred approach for many. However, there are some pitfalls of this approach. If you join a highly specialized / luxurious studio or institute you may end up paying a hefty fees. On the other hand if you join some crowded yoga institute your specific concerns may not be address at all. Many times these yoga institutes have standard
"fit for all" kind of programs and individual concerns may get overlooked by the teacher. You should also see who is conducting these classes. While yoga postures and pranayama can be taught by any average yoga instructor, spiritual practices such as mudras, kriyas and meditation would be beyond his reach. They should be received from a spiritual teacher well-versed in those practices and living a pure yoga life. If you can't join a yoga institute or are unable to hire a yoga teacher you can start on your own with the help of books and DVDs. This mode is, no doubt, difficult than the former mode but what is more important is that you start your practice. Do not waste time just because you can't get an instructor. Start with preliminary practices that won't cause any damage or injuries and then slowly build your practice. Always listen to your body. Don't try for perfection from day one. It takes months and years to master some of the practices. So, don't be in a hurry but at the same time don't be lazy!
Find out the right time window for your practice
While aspirants are learning yoga by joining some classes they adjust their time schedule for a month or two. But when the course is over they again get carried away by their work schedules and other activities of life. Hence, it is important to decide upon a time window in your daily schedule that you can allot for yoga. The time window can be small but you should be free daily during that time. Nothing else should distract you during that period. Although morning slots are generally good that's not necessary.
Use Yoga accessories to your benefit
World over teaching yoga is quickly becoming a profession and business. Companies selling yoga books, DVDs and accessories such as yoga mats and props are part of this overall business ecosystem. While there are many negative side effects of this commercialization there are a few benefits too. As a beginner you need something that will motivate you, that will build your enthusiasm. To that end you may use these accessories to keep your interest in the practice. Yoga doesn't need any fancy yoga mat, essence sticks or soothing background music as such but if using one helps boost your interest go ahead and use it! Same can be said about books, DVDs and such learning material. Reading books or watching DVDs won't make you a yoga practitioner but if you find them uplifting and if you can afford, go ahead and use them to your advantage.
Do not hesitate to seek help and guidance
You might be practicing on your own for a few years or might have acquired reasonable knowledge about yoga through various sources but still you may need a helping hand or guidance from time to time. When such need arises it is important to acknowledge and accept that you need external help. Never cultivate the egoistic feeling that you know everything or have sufficient knowledge. If your practice is not giving you expected results do not hesitate to contact some expert and seek his advice. If you ever suffer from any injuries or are dealing with special conditions such as pregnancy it is best to do yoga practice under some expert guidance. Do not take any risk under such situations.
Make your practice interesting and enjoyable
Many aspirants begin their yoga practice with a lot of energy but over a period of time that enthusiasm fades away. They are possessed by inertia and laziness. Don't let this happen to you! Be creative and find out your own ways to keep your practice fresh and enjoyable. Always revise as to why you are doing yoga and what benefits you are going to receive in the end. Don't let your practice become monotonous. Induce some change and flexibility. It can be as simple as changing the time of practice or some more such as adding practices from some other style to your existing set of practices. The bottom line is
- make your practice enjoyable. Unless you do that you won't be regular and one
day inertia and boredom will take over.
Set and track short term and long term goals
You are doing yoga practice for some reason. Don't keep these reasons in some corner of your mind. Convert them into goals. Chalk out some short term and long term goals. Maintain a yoga diary to track these goals. Periodically review the set goals and adjust them as required. When you chase some goals you tend to build more interest and energy for the sake of achieving them. This also tells you if your practice is becoming saturated or monotonous. Corrective action can then be taken in case you find this happening.
Learn to live Yoga
Yoga is not something to be practiced for an hour or two in day. It is a lifestyle in itself. Try to understand yoga lifestyle and learn to live yoga with every breath. If you follow this advice you will find that the benefits of yoga start reflecting in your professional life too. The whole life becomes much more enjoyable and meaningful. New dimensions of consciousness open up and the same apparently mundane events of life start becoming interesting. Your practice then becomes an inseparable part of your life and becomes your constant companion throughout the journey.