Q: I can't touch my toes, I don't have that skinny yoga bod and I am fairly inflexible - so I can't do yoga, right?
A: Not at all true! There are no prerequisites to yoga, this is not like getting into college - you don't have to fit any particular profile. It is also not like dancing either, all body types are welcome and capable - we do not strive for any singular perfect ideal posture or body. There are varied forms of every pose depending on your level and your capabilities. Many people cannot touch their toes - it is not a barrier to entry and it is not necessarily impossible to change. In fact, after regularly practicing yoga for a while you will be surprised just how much closer your fingers and toes will get, they may even meet some day. For many very fit people that workout regularly and do various high impact routines, such as running, their muscles tend to be on the tighter side. Yoga can be the perfect balance for those types of activities to help increase flexibility. It is a good rule of thumb to grab a blanket, two blocks, and a strap before class. These props can help "prop you up" for poses that are more challenging. Blankets pad the knees or lift the seat, blocks bring the floor closer to you, and straps bring you foot closer to you with out unnecessary upper body strain. Some day you may even find that you don't need the props anymore, but that is by no means a goal, in the mean time don't be shy to use them as they can be very helpful.
Q: There are no men in yoga class, right?
A: So not true! It is humorous that yoga has even gotten labeled as a female thing in the United States. Historically, in India, yoga was predominately practiced by men. Women only came on to the yoga scene much, much later. In the United States and in India today, yoga is open to both men and women alike. It is true you may come across some classes that the women out number the men, but that is on the verge of change as recognition of the value of yoga has expanded to many different people who did not previously think “it was for them.” So if you are thinking, "Hey, I am a guy, this is for chicks," dismiss that thought from your head straightaway and give yoga a fair and objective try. You just may find that it is exactly what your body needs.
Q: What are some useful tips for beginners?
A: Introduce yourself to the teacher if they have not already introduced themselves. Let them know if you have any injuries that you are working with and that you are newer to yoga. The teacher will then be able to offer variations on poses that are suitable for students working at various levels and with different physical limitations. The first step is to to take a step back, soften the body, take a breath, and set the foundation before you move forward into the pose mindfully. Downward facing dog is often viewed as a resting pose but it can be quite challenging in the beginning. If it is difficult for you take short breaks by bringing your knees to the mat and pausing on hands and knees. You can also move into a child's pose for a few breaths. Strain felt in the wrists in downward facing dog can be alleviated by spreading the fingers wide, pressing all parts of the hands and fingers into the ground, ensuring the wrist creases are parallel to the front of the mat, and checking that the hands are approximately as wide shoulders, maybe even a hair wider. If the transitions (commonly called in classes the "vinyasas") are too much or too fast for you in the beginning, take less of them and rest in downward facing dog or child's pose, as much as is needed. Always strive to move with the breath, let the breath lead the movement, and find the breath while in every pose - this approach will make your practice more comfortable and enjoyable. Lastly, remember that this is a life long journey and you don't have to do everything, every day. Respect your limits and know that there are some things that will come quickly to you and some things you will need to practice and cultivate over time. Be gentle and mindful of your body, treat it as sacred because it is sacred.
Q: What should I wear and bring with me?
A: Wear something comfortable and loose fitting that you an easily move in. Natural and breathable fibers, such as cotton and bamboo work well. Remember, you will definitely be generating heat in the body and you will likely be working up a sweat. You want something that will both allow you to move, keep you cool and potentially wick sweat. You may want to bring your own mat, a towel, and a water bottle with you to class. Personally, I find a stickier mat made of rubber, such as Jade, offers the best combination of traction and durability. Studios will almost always have mats for students to use, some are free and some are at a nominal fee. Keep in mind if you are sensitive to that fact that many others may have used the same mat, you should consider investing in one of your own.
Q: I sweat a lot in class and slip on my mat, what can I do?
A: There are a few things you can do to help with this. First of all, I know it sounds obvious but do not put hand cream on right before class. If it is only a little bit of slipping that you are experiencing, you can experiment with placing a yoga strap across the top of the mat once or twice so the palms of your hands have the cotton of the strap underneath them in downward facing dog and other poses where the hands are down at the front of the mat. You can also try bringing a towel to class to wipe sweat and/or place where your hands are most often positioned and/or slipping (usually at the top of the mat). Often slipping on the mat, regardless of how much you sweat or don't sweat, is due to the mat not being sticky enough (as mentioned above) - this is especially so if you find the feet slipping as well as the hands. I have been through many different kinds of mats over the years and have found that for me and many of my students Jade mats are the stickiest. Lastly, there is a product called Yoga Paws that you wear on your hands and/or feet with little grippers on them to prevent slipping.
Q: What kind of yoga do you teach? Can you tell me more about the different kinds of yoga?
A: I have been certified in both Vinyasa and ISHTA yoga based training programs. These were drawn from several different teachings, including what was formerly known as Anusara, Ashtanga, Iyengar, and Hatha. I have also completed the Anusara Immersion program. My classes are a moderately-paced vinyasa flow, with the incorporation of a lot of alignment cues, and ISHTA techniques. My style could be best described as an alignment-based flow catered to the individuals that show up to class that day. I am also a certified restorative yoga teacher and has been known to incorporate a restorative pose or two at the end of a regular class.
Q: Do you have any tips for developing a practice outside of class?
A: This is not an easy task but it can become a very fulfilling and worthwhile one. Being able to practice at home, at work, in the great outdoors, or while you are traveling will help you integrate yoga into your every day lifestyle. I used to never travels without a mat in tow before airlines became so restrictive on weight, now a fancy hotel towel will do in a pinch. If you are traveling, be sure to pack a few items that are essential for a peaceful practice, maybe its your mat or favorite yoga pants. Before you begin your practice, find someplace quiet where you not be distracted or disturbed, turn off your cell phone and other connections to the outside world of chaos, and set the mood - dim the lights, light a candle, or playing some peaceful yoga tunes. If you have access to a television or the internet, you might consider practicing along with a videoed class - so many platforms have these available today (even on YouTube!).
Q: How often should I practice?
A: Personally I feel like I am at my personal best when she practices everyday, in fact that is one of my dreams. In reality life gets in the way and setting up unattainable goals only sets us up for disappointment. The other side of that coin is that if you do 5-10 minutes on a given day you are still reaping the benefits of yoga - it is does not always need to be a whole formal class in a studio. In the beginning stages of developing a practice start yourself out slow, maybe shoot for a couple of classes a week. Over time your body will tell you how many classes a week feel good and what balance of different styles or instructors work for you. The deeper you get in your practice the more you will crave it. Do keep in mind that yoga is meant to reduce stress. Don't get yourself in a tizzy if you cannot get to class everyday. Consider the recommendations mentioned above in developing a practice outside of class to supplement your participation in group classes. Figure out what works best for your lifestyle and how to reasonably incorporate yoga into your schedule. You want to be truly present when you show up to class or to practice, not dwelling on other responsibilities you left unresolved to get to class.
Q: Can I eat before class?
A: It is best not to eat directly before class and to practice on an empty stomach. Try not to eat for at least a couple of hours before practice if the meal is light and four if it is on the heavier side. You will feel uncomfortable, possibly nauseous, and have difficulty practicing if you are fighting the body's desire to focus on digestion. If you truly need to grab something to eat close to your practice time, opt for lighter and easier to digest choices like fruit, celery, carrots, or a handful of nuts or seeds.
Q: What is proper group yoga class etiquette?
A: Arrive early for class so you have time to get yourself signed in, settled, and centered. It will be harder to calm down and focus if you get to class late in a frenzied state, rushing around. Pick a spot in the room that feels right to you that day and be mindful of the distance between you and your fellow yogis. Many classes in NYC can be jam-packed with students mat-to-mat. Be considerate with your body and arm span in those cozy situations, trying at all times to keep yourself on your own mat. Taking your arms up and down through center can be great choice, rather than swan diving with the arms out wide - I have been smacked in the face many a time by wide-sweeping hands that are too close by! Place your jackets, bags, and other belongings that are not essential during practice in the storage cubes or closet. It is a distraction to you and others to have those things next to your mat and it will make it more difficult to feel balanced in your practice when the space is cluttered. This is much like it is difficult to focus when your mind is cluttered is with thoughts. Be sure to turn of all cell phones before class begins. If you are newer to yoga or are working with injuries be sure to let the teacher know. Lastly, respect your limits and where you are in your practice by choosing a class that is a suitable level for you.
Did you have a question that was not answered here? Feel better to be in touch and I am happy to help!