Why it helps to understand yoga basics as we establish our practice
If there is one pearl of wisdom I can share, I will say Yoga is harder than it looks and it takes a long time to learn. The deeper I dig, I understand that there are so many aspects of yoga that I DON'T know. This experience humbles me greatly. Yoga is like opening a treasure chest. There are lots hidden gems that I've yet to discover and the journey of self enquiry will be a life long experience.
I began to flirt with yoga fifteen years ago when I was in my mid twenties, during my hedonistic years of booze, drugs and raves. I burned the candle at both ends and really had no clue on how to manage my stress. My mental health wasn't great and my anxiety levels were through the roof. I joined a posh gym to feel better and it was here that I accidentally stumbled upon yoga.
It was a beginners yoga class and I learned the foundations of yoga with simple postures and breathing techniques. Learning how to breathe properly took time but I was amazed at how calm it made me feel and how it helped me to hold the poses. In those days, I was interested in a short term fix and I fell away from my practice.
Fast forward a couple of years later. Two of my Grandparents died and I experienced the break up of a relationship in a short period of time. It was these difficult life experiences that brought me back to the mat. Yoga is more than just pulling shapes, it cultivates awareness and teaches you lessons about life. Realising that yoga is no short term fix was a real moment of clarity for me. It taught me about commitment and in order to get the maximum benefit, I had to maintain a regular practice.
Of course, this is my experience of being a yoga newbie and it feels important to me that I highlight, you will have your own unique experience of this wonderful practice. What I can do, is give an overview of WHY it is important to have a understanding of the basics and then let you find out whether or not this resonates.
If you are reading this and you are completely new to yoga, I suggest that you start off at a complete beginners yoga class. Laura and I run 6 week beginners courses at the studio. The yoga course teaches you about basic breathing techniques that help to relax the body and mind as they stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system. As discussed earlier, correct use of breath can help you to move through and hold each of the poses for longer. Off the mat, learning to use the breath may help you get through that nerve wracking job interview or keep calm when the kids behaviour is challenging your tolerance levels to the limit!
Over the 6 weeks, we explore the basic principles of sun salutes, standing poses, balances, twists and backbends. Tree pose (vrskasana) is an example of a basic balancing pose. It may help to improve focus and clarity both in and out of the class. I found that it helped me to learn how to breathe while standing on one foot and prepared me for trickier balances such as half moon (ardha chandarasana) and one of my all time favourites, dancer (natarajasana)
As a follow on, we have introduced a Yoga Basic's Workshop, which is really just an extension of the course. It is a bridge to help our students transition from beginners to vinyasa flow and yin/ yang classes. These classes can be pretty dynamic and if you don't have bodily awareness and an understanding of basic asana it's a recipe for injury. We care about our fellow yogi's and we don't want you to get hurt!
If you are like me back in my "hey day" and have had a long break, the Yoga Basics Workshop is ideal to use as a quick refresher. We consolidate beginners poses into flowing sequences, develop breathing and meditation techniques, learn some new movements and workshop transitions that are commonly used in a flow class.
If you were building a house from scratch, you would make sure that the foundations were solid and carefully add layers from there, to ensure that the building would stand the test of time. If we try to rush onto the next thing unmindfully, the foundation will be sloppy, the building will collapse and damage will occur.
I like to think of this analogy when it comes to the physical (and of course, not the most important) part of yoga. Plank is a good example. If we spend time breaking it down and learning to do it correctly, with the right modification for our body, we learn how to balance on our hands while using the body to support us. If we are unable to understand how to use our bodies in this pose, then how can we expect to get the basic foundations for more challenging arm balances? Of course, there are other factors that we need to look at and develop if we choose to go down that road!
If there was one golden nugget I could offer you from my treasure chest, it would be to be patient with your practice. Take your time, layer it up and get a solid understanding of the basic foundations.
Complete Beginners: We have two NEW 6 week beginners courses commencing Wednesday 18th April 6.30pm-7.45pm and Monday 23rd April from 8.00pm-9.00pm. Can't make these dates? We run the courses on a rolling basis, due to their popularity.
We hope to see you at the studio soon!
Michelle and the Studio 70 Team x
Michelle Lang is co founder of Studio 70 and teaches Vinyasa Flow and Yin at the studio. She has practiced yoga for fifteen years and is in her 5th year of teaching yoga in the Southside of Glasgow. Michelle has a previous background of working in social care and is passionate about empowering others and making yoga accessible to everyone. In her spare time, Michelle likes chilling at home with her cats and partner Mick, who is also a yoga teacher!