Practical Tips for First Timer Yoga Class

Yoga is something that I have truly fallen in love with over the past couple of years.  I think that it has so many benefits – mental, physical, social- that if you have any interest in trying it, I absolutely urge you to go for it!  Below are some practical guidelines so when you take your first class, you feel prepared and stress free.

Hair Choice

I find having a pony tail can be uncomfortable when lying down, so my favorite things to do are a variety of braids.  French braids, pigtail braids, halo braids.  These all evenly distribute the hair so nothing is pulling and when you are on the matt, you dont have a pony tail poking you in the back of your head.  I see some people pracicing with their hair down which I have only been able to manage when my hair was super short with a soft headband.

Here is a great tutorial that I first used for a halo braid which is now my go to hairstyle for yoga and running.

Halo Braid

Clothing Choice

Make sure its something you are comfortable in.  Very often I have worn an outfit that looked very “yoga chic” but then in the middle of class realized it was not going well. Either it was too low cut and I felt exposed, the leggings didn’t stretch right or sat too low or my top was too loose and exposed my stomach during downward dog or inversions.  Whatever you decide to wear, play around at home first. Bend over, twist, stretch. Make sure its something that you are comfortable with so that way you dont have any wardropte malfunctions to distract you. Generally leggings and a fitted tank are my go to choices. Don’t feel pressure to buy expensive brands, anything you have that fits well will do the trick.

Get there Early

Generally, its polite to arrive at a class about 15 minutes early.  If you are brand new, it may be extra helpful to get there ahead of time.  This way you can check in and get settled, which can make the whole experience more relaxing.  Additionally, you can meet the instructor and disclose that you are new and if you have any injuries or concerns.  In my experience, teachers are very welcoming and they can make really helpful suggestions prior to and during class to accomodate your skill level and needs.

Avoid the Competitive Spirit

For some, including myself, the urge to compete with others during a class can be very strong. You may look around at other students nailing a pose or taking it to a full, gravity defying, super flexible expression.  That is their practice. Focus on your own, and you will be better for it.  This is something that I have worked on continously.  By scoping out others, it takes you out of alignement,  your focus is split and you are not paying attention to your body. This can cause you to lose balance, not get the most out of the pose or potentially hurt yourself.

Angry yoga

Something to keep in mind is you dont know everyone elses story. Even in a beginners class, you may have people who have been practicing for years. There may be other teachers observing this instructor.  This could be someone who just wants to brush up on the basics or someone new to yoga but did dance for 15 years.  Everyone is going to be a different level and that isn’t a bad thing. Each student starts somewhere.

Listen to the Instructor

I mean, duh. But really listen.  There are often a lot of funny sounding metaphors that really work  like”knit your ribs”.  Do you best to visualize what they saying and apply it as best you can.  Also be open to their modifiations.  During class you may be working on a pose that has 3 modifications – to make it easier or harder.  Your instructor will likely emphasize which is intended for whom and encourage you to do what feels right for you. Going back to the competative nauture, dont feel pressured to pick the hardest option.  Do what feels right which may be a gentle stretch or bit of a challenge, but should not feel overwhelming.  This way you can start to understand the foundation of a pose, which will make it easier to advance later on, once you master the basics.

Pick the Right Class

If you are going to a studio, a community class or a session at your gym, try and find out what the style is.  There are beginner classes, power classes, heated classes and more.  If your nervous, try a beginner or foundations class to ease into it.  You can usually chat with the instructor or another employee about what to expect and which class would be the right fit for you.  Studios also may have descriptions on their website. Below is a sample from the studio I attend:

Just Go For It!

Yoga is great and I love it! It has enriched so many peoples lives, whether they were looking for a good work out, a way to connect with their body, or wanted to get involved with a vibrant social scene of wonderful people.  I know it can be daunting.  Sometimes beautiful photos of yogis in amazing poses can come off as intimidating rather than inspirational.  But don’t let that stop you!  You owe it to yourself to give it a try and I hope the above tips help you feel more confident venturing into your first class.

 

What was your first yoga class experience?

Holy Snow Batman!

If you live in New England, you were probably just hit by a giant bucket of snow.  As a kid, your first thought was “SNOOOWWW DAAAAAY!!!!! I’m gonna go sledding, and have a snow ball fight and….who wants to build a snow maaaaaan???”

As an adult and home owner, my first thought was “SNOOWWWW DAAAAAYYY!!! Oh wait, I have to move all of this.  This is MY responsibility.”  Adulthood.  It happens to the best of us.  So I thought about it and realized that this was still a good opportunity.  The husband and I got out there, him manning the snow blower (a necessity in Connecticut) and I with my shovel and broom.  Together we spent the morning clearing out the driveway, porch, deck and made a path through the back yard to get access to our well and garage. It actually wasn’t too bad and as a bonus, we got our physical activity in!  It can be hard work moving snow.  This storm was about a foot:

IMG_0848 IMG_0849 IMG_0835 IMG_0837 IMG_0838 IMG_0845 IMG_0843Now in general, the bitter cold and snow can be a MAJOR exercise deterrent.  Running or even just taking the dog for a walk now has mountains of new obstacles.  Getting out to the gym or a class can also seem daunting.  What is important to remember is that even if your normal activities are no longer weather appropriate, you can still stay fit and have fun.  Shift your thinking and focus on seasonal activities.  Now I know that snow removal although seasonal, is not fun.  Instead think about all those things you enjoyed as a kid.  Get together with friends and have a massive snow ball fight.  You will be puffing by the end with a giant smile on your face.  Sledding is another classic.  You wont even mind running up the hills!

This past weekend, we embraced the cold weather.  Growing up, my husband and his family would play pond hockey together.  We planned it out and had everyone all set.  And then it snowed the day before. 😦 Did that stop us? Please.  We are New Englanders!  The ice was thick enough so we went out onto the pond the day before with the snow blower (I’m telling you, its amazing!) and shovel and we cleared a rink for the boys to play hockey and then an outer circle for the less talented skaters (ahem, me and the children).  The next day the ice was ready for us.

IMG_2408We kicked off the day bright and early around 10, skated all morning and then had a nice batch of home made crock pot chili (recipe coming soon!).  Everyone playing hockey was playing all out.  Some of them had been avid hockey players when they were younger and some were just beginners.  It was really fun to watch because even the newbies were having a good time.  My friend Meagan and I skated around the outer loop chatting and watching, getting our bearings.  We also each grabbed an extra stick to use for balance.  I would highly recommend this strategy for individuals who are not confident on skates.  It gives you such a sense of security and if you actually do start to fall, you can absolutely catch yourself.  By taking the stress out, you can enjoy yourself longer.

The day was a blast and didn’t really feel like exercise.  That night and the next day, however, we all felt it.  2+ hours of continuous skating engages so many muscles and really makes your body work.  It felt a lot like post skiing (another activity to embrace), that really satisfying wiped feeling.  I didn’t get too many photos but we had a beautiful day.

What winter activities do you look forward to?

Fitness In the Office

So its the new year and you want to jump start your fitness routine.  Maybe you want to join a gym or a studio, or start training for a race or event.  All of those are excellent goals! Sometimes though, our resolutions fizzle and we realize we don’t have actually have the time, money or motivation to dedicate to those kinds of large scale interventions.  If you need alternatives to these big commitments, I have you covered.

Don’t worry that you aren’t doing something big enough.  With the new year everyone wants to go all out.  Just remember, if you can do the small thing all year but can only go gangbusters for a month, slow and steady may win this race.  Here are a bunch of small tricks that can add up to help you get moving in 2015

Look at your commute.

See if you have any places you can make adjustments.  Check out how I built 60 minutes of activity into my daily routine.

Train CollageBe inefficient. 

What? Someone of German decent advocating being wasteful?  The way most of our life is structured is to do the fastest thing.  Drive. Send an email.  Have a video conference instead of a meeting.  We are all about doing the least amount to get the most time/benefit.  This leads us to sit. All. Day. Long.  Analyze your work environment and see where you can make some adjustments.  Try walking over to a colleges office to discuss an issue rather than sending an email.  Offer to walk across the street to get the morning coffee. Round everyone up for a meeting by physically going to each office.This actually makes you more personable as well so 2 birds, one stone.

Plan fitness breaks.

This is actually good for productivity and morale.  Make a schedule, something like every hour get up from your chair and stretch or take a lap for as long as you can.  Obviously office culture dictates whether you can take off for 15 minutes or if more than 3 will get you in trouble.  Even if you take 1 minute every hour is better than nothing and it may be enough to loosen you up.  And think about it; do your coworkers get to leave for a smoke break? If so, think about taking advantage of that time do something positive for your health.  And don’t forget, you can always dance! Play a song or two on your computer or iPod and boogie.  Its fun and you may get an office mate to join in with you.

Dancing 2
Me and some old co-workers during lunch, inspired by the Olympics.
Dancing
And who says you need a partner?

Embrace lunch time.

There is so much that you can do at lunch.  If you have the space, bring a yoga mat or some small weights and stash them in your office.   Then commit 10 or 15 minutes to a light work out.  Basic Pilates, yoga or weight training are all possible at the office.  You can try and listen to a yoga podcast to guide or you go free-form.  You can also try some of these moves:

  • Calf raises – While standing, rise up onto  your tippy toes. Hold for a second or 2 and then come back down to flat feet.
  • Bicep Curls – Use weights or a full water bottle
  • Triceps Extensions
  • Squats – Safety tip: never let your knees go in front of your toes.  Focus on sitting back, not necessarily sitting down.
  • Push ups – Feel free to start on your knees for an easier modification
  • Sit ups
  • Lunges
  • Planks – Hold it as long as you can and gradually work your way up to 30 seconds or a minute
  • Leg extensions – While sitting in your chair, slowly  bring one or both legs up so they are parallel to the floor, then bring down with control

A good flow is to do an exercise 10-15 times in a row, rest and then repeat the series 2 more times.

If you don’t have the space to really spread out, consider doing a couple flights of stairs while you wait for your lunch to microwave or coffee to brew.  You can also walk to a local restaurant to pick up lunch rather than driving.

Own It

Have confidence and just go for it.  You may feel silly at first. Don’t let it limit you.  If you want to make fitness a priority, your attitude can take you a long way.  Sticking out at the office may not be your favorite thing to do, but if you think about it, you would be sticking out for a very positive reason.  It may also encourage your co-workers to follow suit.  I walk to work, take stretching and fitness breaks and talk about my fitness tracker all day long.  Now 2 of my coworkers (30% of the office) have followed suit.  One keeps sneakers in her office to walk during lunch and another just purchased her first FitBit.  If you own your health you wont be silly and you may become a trendsetter.

own it
You can do it!

Use these suggestions as a guide and analyze your work environment to see how you can make healthy changes.

How do you work fitness into your work day?