Saturday, September 24, 2005

Yoga Beginner - Getting It Right

When it comes to promoting relaxation and reducing stress, nothing beats yoga. Unfortunately this isn't the case for everyone. Most people who quit yoga think they fail because they are unable to get the positions and technique right. In fact, the reason they fail is that they put too much importance on getting the positions and technique right.

I do not profess to be a master of yoga. In fact, I am a beginner, with very little skill. However I have taught drumming for many years, and the pitfalls are similar. Here is my advice for yoga beginners.

Week 1 - Enjoy the activity:

Grab a beginner yoga video and set up your mat in a place that you can be comfortable and alone (there’s no room for self-consciousness in this step). Go through the exercises, but act as though you are a six year old having fun, rather than an adult worrying about technique. Try all of the positions, don’t worry if there are some you can’t perform right away, modify as necessary.

Week 2 - Examine the sensations:

By this time your body has probably memorized the routine (if you have been having fun and not obsessing about technique, your body will have learnt the movements quickly). Try to concentrate on your breathing. Be aware of how oxygen and energy are flowing to, from, and through the various body parts. Feel the release of tension and sensations in your muscles.

Week 3 and beyond - Observe the instructor

Most likely you have been improving your technique throughout, without even trying. You have probably figured out which yoga exercises are the easiest for you, and which are more difficult. Concentrate on the position you are most comfortable with. You are most likely so at ease with this position that you don’t even have to think about it anymore. The breathing and motions should be second nature by now, so you can begin to observe and emulate details in the instructor’s technique. Continue this step for each exercise.

Many people will try to learn yoga, and other activities, by only using the method I explained in week three. Many instructors are guilty of teaching this way. Unfortunately, beginners who start by obsessing about their technique may never enjoy what is described in week 1 or week 2.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well put. How do you think we learned to walk, or to talk. We certainly didn't get it right the first time. I think it's important to try something you may enjoy. If you don't like it after some time try something else. Don't give up on being active - remember it's often a journey of trial and error!

9:04 PM  
Blogger flashaltman said...

Thanks Smitty,

It's been my experience, through teaching drums, that putting too much emphasis on "doing everything well" causes our natural abilities to freeze up. The tension and cluttered thought process hinder our progress. There is a place for improving technique, but the goal should be a relaxed, enjoyable experience (this goes for drumming and for yoga).

8:40 PM  

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