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Advice For Yoga Beginners

It came to the west and caught like a cold. There's something about yoga that arouses people's curiosity. It might be the spiritual aspect or the promise of a challenging workout; perhaps it's the touted health benefits that have people landing on the mat and twisting themselves into funny poses. Whatever lights that fire, curiosity is quickly extinguished by doubt.

Yoga beginners commonly feel like outsiders looking in or imposters imposing on other people's space. That's classic monkey mind behavior. Give that monkey a banana and tell it to chill because we've got you covered. 

Don't Compare Yourself to Others

If there's a universal hindrance to progress in any field, it's measuring yourself against the abilities of others. All that energy you waste being jealous or thinking of how long the road ahead is will be better spent making this moment the best it can be. 

When the mind starts straying into feelings of doubt, it hands the reins over to uncontrollable forces of nature. We don't have any power over other people's capacities to twist into pretzels, make a room erupt with laughter, or solve a rubics cube in under five seconds. 

Trying to control such things is an exercise in futility.

The last of the good Roman emperors, Marcus Aurelius, famously wrote, "You have power over your mind—not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength."

Listen to Your Body

You mustered up the courage and made it to a yoga class. Congrats! 

Perhaps the class you hopped into was more intense than you were ready for. Maybe you fell over, couldn't touch your toes, or discovered pain you either hadn't felt before or had been neglecting. 

And then your eyes began darting around the room, noticing that everyone else's "warrior three" looked solid and steady.

The good news is that no matter how hard you cry when you get home, your body will be capable of about the same level of output tomorrow as it was today. That might sound depressing, but in fact, it's a freedom that yoga beginners can take solace in. 

Extricating unrealistic expectations from your mind and accepting where you are has a slowing effect. 

If the instructor moves too fast or the poses are too difficult, then congratulations, you've found your practice. Breathe into the space your body is capable of creating. 

The beauty of yoga is that it's not result-oriented; it's now-oriented. 

Enjoy Being a Yoga Beginner

In the words of Avani Gilbert, "Nobody is looking at you." 

No one is looking at your rounded "downward dog" and thinking, "Who let in the rabble?" 

In reality, people are so focused on themselves that they probably don't even know you're there.

The part of you that's viscerally aware of everything going on around you, for better or worse, is part of the beginner's mind.

The irony of yoga, and really any activity, is that as yogis gain experience in their practice, they lose touch with their inner beginner. That is to say, they lose touch with their wide-eyed enthusiasm.

What is a yoga beginner? Or, more specifically, what are the characteristics of a yoga beginner?

Think about what your first few classes felt like. Everything was new and strange – scary, even. The sounds and smells, the anxiety coursing through your veins, and the instructor's gentle smile all come crashing through your sensory doors. It's exciting. It's new.

It's that newness that we lose. 

Have you ever moved to a new town or taken a new route to work? The mind is on high alert at the outset, taking in the unique experience with a fresh perspective. 

Strive to befriend your beginner's mind, and cultivate its curious perspective.

Yoga is For Everybody

Are you concerned about your weight? Your level of flexibility? Your access to trendy sportswear?

Good. Do yoga.

Contrary to prevalent messaging in the west, yoga is more than just a workout. It's a way to embody your mind. That monkey mind loves swinging off on its own from one thin branch to another. 

Yoga brings it home. 

Cultivating your capacity for presence is the single most effective tool for dissolving negative thought patterns. 

So when you try to convince yourself that yoga isn't for you, or you're having trouble finding the courage to step into the studio, remind yourself that those disconcerting thoughts you're having are precisely why you should go.

Yoga is medicine. The only instruction for use is to show up.

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