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Asana Practice
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Asana Practice

When I started blogging about yoga last year, I received several emails from readers asking how they could begin practicing yoga or how to incorporate yoga into daily life.  Many of you asked for recommendations on Sequencingbooks and DVDs, or questions like:  “I am ______,  can I still do yoga?”  As for that last question, I can proclaim happily and resoundingly “YES!”

While I started researching yoga in my teens, I did not begin a formal practice until college.  Since I had practiced on my own – and not with a trained teacher – I realized that I had been doing some things incorrectly.  Once I started working with some instructors who knew about alignment and how to thoroughly teach beginners, I got so much more out of my yoga practice.  Now that there are so many wonderful resources on the market, it is much easier to learn more about yoga from your home.  This can be especially comforting if you have any issues with group classes.

When I began my yoga practice, I was nearly 80 lbs overweight and extremely self-conscious about my body.  I was born with good flexibility, and even as I gained weight, my flexibility remained in tact, although I was very weak, specifically in the upper body.  I was not comfortable in my own skin, and the idea of being in a class with people half my size and doing poses that involved sticking my rear in the air was just about the last thing I wanted to do…  but I did love the way that yoga made me feel, so I practiced at home, and I slowly began attending group classes and sitting towards the back, soaking it all in and becoming familiar with the poses.

In 2006, when I decided to fully commit to a more healthy lifestyle – reaffirming my (then) vegetarian diet (now vegan) and beginning a regular exercise routine – I complemented my cardiovascular work with two sessions of yoga per week.  My gym offered classes and although the room was filled with about 40 people, I made a point of going.  I learned about an adjoining studio to the gym where classes were smaller with more teacher-student interaction and solid emphasis on foundational poses, alignment and form.  These classes were probably my first “dip” into the yoga practice that I now enjoy each day.

…and slowly… great emphasis on the slowly… I am becoming more comfortable in my body, and more confident in myself.  My muscles CAN hold me up in poses because they are much stronger now; cardio work, weight lifting, and hours of yoga have made that possible.  Yoga’s mental and emotional benefits have also Legsaffected my life – clarity of mind, fewer mood swings, and an increased awareness of myself and of others’ needs.  I set aside time for yoga each day now – some days’ practice is longer and more challenging, others are calming and relaxing.

Last weekend was my second session of Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) at my Local Yoga Studio (LYS, go figure!)  and it was another amazing weekend.  I feel an increasing bond with the other students and our teachers.   This weekend was even more teaching practice than the first week, and we broke in to small groups and led each other through sequences of poses.  We all flubbed our words a little bit, but in the accepting atmosphere of the class, it was fine, and it was educational for all of us.  The weekend is structured over three days – Friday nights, Saturday afternoons and Sunday afternoons.  Each session has a reasonable asana practice led by our teachers.  On Friday nights, we tend to do more administrative work – talking about the certification and getting our  paperwork filled out for our observations and apprenticeships.  We also do a comprehensive review of the previous session, and sometimes introduce some new material.  We end the night with a wonderfully relaxing restorative practice – blankets, and eye pillows and deep breaths.  Saturday is a true focus on asana as we “learn” a pose, and immediately turn to our neighbor and “teach” them what we just did.  We do Sanskritthis throughout the day and then come back for a lecture on  anatomy.  Last session, we learned primarily about the muscles and bones in the feet and legs.  We are quizzed on these muscles, so we definitely have to pay attention and learn the names!  Our next quiz will be on the back muscles and the shoulders – so much to learn!

Sundays open with a long meditation practice, sometimes guided by our teachers, and sometimes in silence.  It is one of my favorite times all weekend and I look forward to it.  We return to teaching practice for a few more hours and then end with discussion on our readings, specifically the philosophical subjects.  We take Sanskrit breaks through the day, reviewing the names of many of the poses that we have learned in the original language of yoga.  I have always enjoyed learning languages, so this is another favorite time for me.

This training experience is definitely affecting me in ways on and off the yoga mat.   I think that yoga has the unique ability to do that – because it is so much more than a way to stretch your hamstrings or open your shoulders.  It continues to be an amazing journey.

Because there are hundreds of books and DVDs on yoga – so many different styles and traditions! – I feel unqualified to truly recommend the *best* one out there… I haven’t seen them all, and I probably never will. Plus, my needs may be very different than yours.   If you are a brand new beginner, I would suggest DVDs so you can easily see how the instructors and models move in and out of the poses.   There are many resources available – so many free ones too! – that can introduce you to yoga.  Due to the fact that their website is so robust and filled with information, I often suggest Yoga Journal.  They have a great “Beginner” section with lots of videos of classes, as well as videos of certain poses.  Yoga Today is another website that offers free online classes.   If you feel uncomfortable practicing in front of others at this time, these videos will tell you about key alignment points and avoiding injury.  If you have the resources near you, I would definitely suggest trying a class at a yoga studio with a trained instructor.  Many studios give first-timers a free class or a discount, so it is worth trying!  I think you will like it!  :)

**For details of poses above, click on links:

1. Virabhadrasana I,  2. Adho Mukha Svanasana, 3. Urdhva Dhanurasana

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16 Responses

  1. felinemagnet

    I don’t think I’ve been first to leave a comment before! I’ve been thinking about you, Lolly, and awaiting your post about YTT after seeing the Flickr pics, and it did not disappoint. How cool that you are learning Sanskrit also. Thanks for sharing so many details of what led you to this point on your journey.

  2. Gudrun

    You are really inspiring me to bring yoga back into my life more fully again…thank you for reminding me why I sought it out in the first place. You look so incredibly effortless in your poses…..I’m sure you’ll make a great teacher too!

  3. mramichael

    What gorgeous photos! Urdhva dhanurasana is looking fabulous. Wasn’t it only a couple of months ago that you were talking about wrist weakness and not knowing if you could do wheel? Keep the yoga posts coming – I’m enjoying them immensely!

  4. preita

    I think you have convinced me to try and find a yoga instructor. I really need to get my joints in working order again, and though I have never ever been remotely flexable I at the very least want to trust my knee, hip and ankle joints (which I don’t fully now). Balance is something I’d love to improve too. So thank you for the inspiration :)

  5. Carole

    I think it’s so awesome that you have made these changes in your life, Lolly!

  6. Anna

    I’m really enjoying reading your accounts of your training, and comparing it with the training I am doing on this side of the pond. Yours sounds more time-intensive than mine – you’ll probably be qualified in a much shorter time!

    One of the things that I’m loving about my course is how it is prompting me to read and think a lot more about the philosophical underpinnings of yoga. I’m finding that this, along with my increasing meditation practice, is starting to have a profound affect on the way I go about my life.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences.

  7. amisha

    i love reading about your yoga practice, lolly. i fell out of going at the end of last semester during finals time (probably the time i needed to go the most!) and can’t wait to get back into it. i appreciate your sharing the online resources, too, because classes-while i adore them- are super expensive in NY and while it always felt “worth it,” it can be a strain.
    have a wonderful weekend!

  8. debbie

    you’ve inspired me to give yoga another go – i’ve discontinued after an episode (brought on by repetitive movement at work) with my shoulder and was told i had “frozen shoulder” or calcium deposits. it hurt like the dickens to stretch and any positions using my arms hurt real bad….but i think i need to start slowly and maybe go back and try the ‘gentle yoga’ class for people with limitations that has just opened up for saturday afternoons at my lys….

  9. Leslie

    good for you!!! thanks for sharing your journey. it’s really interesting!

  10. Emma

    Yoga Today is a site that I tell everyone about! I am a twice-weekly yogini as well, and have a background in dance. Yoga Today has definitely helped me to continue my journey with yoga without breaking the bank. Congratulations on your journey as well! I’ve been reading your blog for some time and am always impressed with your perseverance and strength. Kudos to you!

  11. Josiane

    It’s really interesting to read what you have to say about yoga. Once again, thank you for sharing, Lolly! Thanks also for the website suggestions; when approaching something new, it’s sometimes hard to tell what on the web is good stuff and what is junk, so your recommendations are appreciated!

  12. prunila

    Hi Lolly, Wow! really interesting that you share your experience with us. Thank you very much!!! I’m taking two classes a week now, instead of only one; yengar is very hard for me but I feel I need yoga more and more… I’m planning to start at home too. Plus I’m taking classes of meditation with a monk, this is really good for me! keep posting please :) xxx
    ps. About internet I also found good videos at Youtube.

  13. aafan

    What a wonderful post! I once met an 84 year old woman who had been doing yoga for her entire adult life. She studied in India and then taught yoga here. Well, at 84 years old, she was as strong and supple and as limber as a young woman, and she could still do amazing poses! (All the ladies in her retirement home were sooooo jealous!)

  14. whitney

    Thanks for sharing your experience with the yoga training with us! You are such an inspiration to me. I’m trying to get back to doing yoga, but am having a hard time with it. I just don’t know what my body can and can’t do anymore, after all of the illness and injuries of the past few years, and am not used to being “differently abled”. I tried going to a class, but didn’t feel like I could ask the sorts of questions I needed to ask, and was very self-conscious every time I had to sit something out because my screwy spine wouldn’t let me do it, and felt like the instructor didn’t really know how to handle someone who couldn’t just keep up with the rest of the group (this was a beginner class). Maybe I should give classes another try, but for now I think I will focus on my yoga books and check out the resources you linked to.

  15. Michelle

    I just started doing yoga about a year ago and it has done so much for me! I am a much calmer person. I love it. I am lucky to have an awesome instructor. (I have ehard so many stories) She comes to my place of work and a small group of us only 2-4 people and it is awesome! She is able to help all of us with our poses is very serious about honoring what your body can do! I’m still trying to get good a downward dog..it’s the hardest pose for me!! I really enjoy reading your posts about your yoga journey!

  16. Stephanie

    Thanks for the wonderful information about your yoga journey. I am still new to yoga, but have already noticed a profound difference in my life. I’m getting stronger and more flexible, but I’m much better mentally and emotionally as well. And one of these days I’m going to be able to do wheel pose!

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