By Jennie Williford
Pranayama Yoga Studio
Though the “fad” of yoga has come and gone, many have yet to try the practice. And for those who have tried and stayed, many are still missing the link between yoga in class and yoga at home. How to begin a yoga practice and how to continue for optimum benefit are ongoing challenges for all of us.
You can start yoga with a class, a book or a video. Using a video defeats the element of self-knowledge that is a hallmark of yoga. In addition, straining your neck to see a screen may distort your pose or put you at risk of injury. Many books are available to choose from. Books by BKS Iyengar or in the tradition of Iyengar Yoga provide something for every level of student. The Heart of Yoga, by Desikachar, and/or a book about the primary series of Ashtanga Yoga also offer good instruction. Book learning gives you the advantage of reading about a pose and then having to discover that pose within yourself. It is a better start to practice, but ultimately nothing can replace working with a good teacher.
Finding a good teacher can be a tricky and personal choice. Once the fad of yoga hit the U.S., teacher trainings began to open all over the States. Almost immediately, alarming statistics appeared about the increase in injuries caused in yoga classes. Without regulation, there was no way to know what teachers were teaching, what they knew about the subject, or what their background was. Yoga poses are designed to heal and have been around for thousands of years with this purpose in mind, so teaching yoga without previous practice and knowledge can be harmful.
As a student, you want to know your teacher has an ongoing history as a strong yoga practioner. Teachers need to be able to communicate clearly, have knowledge of the dynamics and benefits of poses, and be able to offer corrections to help students learn and to avoid injury.
Ask your potential teacher about their personal education and practice, and now that The Yoga Alliance regulates many independent certification programs around the U.S., you can check in to any program the teacher has attended. Beyond credentials, you want a teacher who will bring you all that yoga has to offer. Doing some research about yoga and all its possibilities can be enlightening.
Once you find a teacher you trust and like, going to class as regularly as possible is a must. Starting with once a week is what most of our busy schedules allow. However, spending more time with the practice will bring faster results.
The yoga classroom is a time to learn, to find your body in the poses and find your breath in your movement. The teacher is there to guide and help you through, to adjust and encourage your practice.
Learning yoga provides you with a tool to apply outside of class to your daily routine. Once you are confident in certain basics, it is most beneficial to begin a practice at home.
But, how to start your home practice without the constant direction from a teacher? Yoga is, first and foremost, a practice of self-knowledge and self-discovery. A teacher can only give you the tool. You are the one ultimately in charge of your own change and development through yoga.
Practicing at home is your opportunity to question and experiment within the quiet of your own self. Start small by practicing one pose you like and one pose you hate from class. Those two poses may grow into three and four as the body remembers the rhythm of the movement. Pretty soon, your self-discovery may lead to more questions and more depth in your class experience, deepening your knowledge of yoga overall.
According to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, “Practice becomes firmly grounded when well attended to for a long time, without break, and with enthusiasm.” So, get a book, get a teacher, get to class, and get to work…practice yoga!
For more information about Pranayama Yoga Studio, visit www.yogarockford.com or call (815) 968-9642.
From the July 28-Aug 3, 2010 issue