I’m an advocate for following the happy — choosing to do things that bring you joy.
I’ve yet to meet a yogi who doesn’t enjoy yoga. Or a runner who doesn’t enjoy running, boxer who doesn’t enjoy boxing or Zumba-er who doesn’t enjoy Zumba-ing.
But the yogi didn’t always call himself a yogi. The runner didn’t start out racing marathons, the boxer wasn’t born with gloves on her hands and at some point, the Zumba-er took her first class.
Until we transition from “newb” to “reg” and identify ourselves as yogis, runners, boxers and Zumba-ers (what do they call themselves?), rookie mistakes can prevent us from fully enjoying our experience.
If you’re new to yoga, are interested in trying yoga or tried a DVD you bought at a garage sale once but didn’t really dig it, here are some rookie mistakes that could prevent you from having a happy experience.
Compare yourself to others
Is that girl on the mat in front of you effortlessly mastering every pose? Good for her! She’s probably been practicing a very long time.
It’s not fair to compare yourself to others and it’s not productive. There will almost always be someone who is better at you in everything — accept that or live in misery.
When practicing yoga, keep your gaze on your internal self, not the people around you.
Try too hard
Maybe you’re feeling competitive. You’re going to prove to yourself, the teacher, the class and the world that you too can get in the final variation of birds of paradise pose like Girl on Mat in Front of You.
One of my favorite yoga teachers says, “When you listen to and honor your body, that’s the real yoga.”
Even the best yogis don’t master every pose, every time. Every body is different, and every body changes. Your body is different from my body is different from my body tomorrow.
Does the pose hurt your body? Stop! Does it feel good? Keep doing it! Listen to your body and focus on how it feels — not how it looks.
Wear the wrong clothes
This sounds superficial, but I’m not talking about brand snobbery here (Lululemon or GTFO!).
The comfort and functionality of clothes are important. If you’re uncomfortable or unable to move freely in your apparel, it will distract you (and others) from your practice.
Don’t wear things you have to constantly adjust or stiff clothing that constricts your movement. I usually wear stretchy yoga crops that stay up and tank tops with built-in sports bras.
Word to the ladies: Make sure your pants aren’t see-through. Thank you and you’re welcome.
Hold your breath
When faced with physical challenges, some people have a tendency to hold their breath. Don’t.
Breath — prana — is THE MOST IMPORTANT ASPECT OF YOGA. You’ll get more benefits out of your practice by sitting and breathing mindfully for 90 minutes than you will from holding your breath through a 90-minute vinyasa flow class.
Inhale. Exhale. Repeat.
Every so often a couple of skeptical newbs meander into a yoga class. (Interesting to note that these skeptical people are always in groups of two or more.) Sure, they’re physically in the class, but they’re mind and heart are not in it. They sit in the back, giggling and whispering to each other, mocking the rest of us.
Once my teacher asked two girls to leave because they were "clearly not here for yoga" and were disrupting the class.
Don't be those girls.
Sometimes, ish gets weird in yoga. I relish in the weird. Give it a sincere go — Don't knock it 'til you try it.
Yoga is a discipline; a practice. It isn't something you do for a short period of time to achieve a specific outcome and complete. Practicing inconsistently will not build your physical, spiritual or mental strength.
Skip final savasana (corpse pose)
You're busy. I get it. But rushing out of final savasana — the most important posture in yoga — is a detriment to your practice.
In final savasana, your body absorbs all the good things you just did for it. It teaches you to still your body, quiet your mind and relax. Skipping it is like skipping the rinse cycle on your washing machine. Sure, the detergent cleaned your clothes — but now it's stuck to them in a sudsy mess. Not cool.
Maybe yoga won’t be your thing. But maybe it will. Maybe it will even transform your life. I do know this — If you do the things listed above, you will hate your yoga practice.
I'm guessing you're here because you don't want to hate it. If that's the case, don't follow them. Follow your teacher and your intuition. Follow your happy.