Lessons from the mat

photo courtesy of Lululemon

When I introduce the idea of attending yoga sessions to many, some are open to the idea of practice and attend with me. Others who are not frequent attendees of the practice often show a reaction of hesitation or reluctance.   I’ve attended yoga sessions for several years now, and within this past year have attended one local studio on a consistent basis. It’s become one of my favorite “rituals”.  At this studio we gather every Saturday morning for a free one hour practice, to take time away from our week and our upcoming weekend. Aside from the practice, there are always a few great lessons to be learned straight from the mat.

Arrive on time

Times for yoga sessions can vary depending on the studio and type of yoga taught there. Typically, yoga classes are one hour sessions, and the instructor usually has a set routine.  I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to arrive on time at the session. It gives you time as the student to set up your area for a successful and great session. It shows that you respect your time, as well as the instructors’ and classmates’ time. Yoga studios often lock the doors once the session begins, so being on time means you won’t miss out on attending, and you can get the most out of the session!

Maintain your space

Depending on the studio size and how many people attend, the class I attend gets crowded (with twenty five
or more yogis attending almost every session!). In those times it’s easy to be packed tightly into the room, and it is helpful adjust to the space so there’s less chance of bumping into your neighbor during the different yoga poses.

Dress appropriately

Yoga is a practice that is popular for men and women both.  The classes I’ve attended have a good mix of both, and with that said, it’s important to dress appropriately to these sessions.  Affordable yoga clothing is available at most stores, and it’s important to wear clothing you can be flexible in, that fits and covers you comfortably.

Keep the noise down

Students attend yoga for different reasons. Some do it to gain physical flexibility, others do it to gain a sense of peace and serenity, and others do it to stay in shape. No matter what your reason is, remember that everyone is there for a reason.  Now that doesn’t mean you have to practice in absolute silence. Some studios play peaceful music during the session which helps with movement through the yoga poses.  As for personal noise, it’s important to keep the noise level to a minimum to respect the space you share with your fellow yogis. Turn off your pagers and cell phones for the session. Take a moment to remember you can take an hour away from those things.

 Respect the teachers’ lesson.

At this particular studio, there’s a different teacher every week. Sometimes that means they offer a different style of teaching.  Some teach flow yoga, others teach a fun mix of yoga and aerobics. Some are experienced instructors while others are still in yoga teacher training and are leading their first class ever! Sometimes these teachers are providing their skills for low to no cost.  Remember to respect the teachers’ lesson. Their styles may be different and not one that you enjoy the most. Regardless, take as much as you can out of the lesson. Thank the teacher at the end for their time and efforts spent with the class.

photo courtesy of Lululemon

 Be comfortable with your own ability.

One of the most emphasized aspects in yoga classes is to listen to your own body.  If you can’t complete a pose in the same way someone else can, it’s okay. Every student has a different level of skill and ability depending on their years of practice. In order to complete a successful session, don’t compare yourself to others. One side of your body might be more flexible than the other side. You may or may not be able to do all the poses. Do what you can, and listen to your body.

 Bring some water with you

Yoga movements are often quick and repetitive and it’s easy to work up a good sweat. Remember to stay hydrated during your session, especially if it involves hot yoga, where the normal room temperature is raised.

 Remember to breathe

Throughout the session and with each pose, make sure you aren’t holding your breath. Many sessions start with breathing exercises. Take full advantage of these because your body and muscle will need those fresh breathes of air throughout the session. Many teachers lead the session with each pause in movement being an inhale or an exhale. Follow through on this pattern so you can maintain your energy level during practice.

Have Fun

Yoga sessions don’t need to be serious all the time.  Yoga is a great stress reliever and allows the body to release endorphins that lead to a better mood.  One yoga instructor reminded us that it takes more muscles and energy to keep a serious face than it does to smile during the session. Remember your own intention of being there and allow yourself to smile during the practice.  After all you are spending the time to do something beneficial for yourself!

P.S. Yoga lovers everywhere– Join in on a national salute to yoga  at a location near you—Salutation Nation — on September 10, 2011 ( Yes,  that’s 9/10/11)  from 9 am to 10 am your local timing!!

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