Starting Before You Start

Photo by Feteme Fuentes on Unsplash

You decided to attend a Yoga class today.  You get in your car or on your bike, arrive at the location and walk through the doors into the space.  This is what we call showing up and saying YES is said to be half the battle or the most important part of your practice (how to navigate what you resist by Baron Baptiste is a short read on Yoga Journal’s website), next to Shavasana.  Picture it, after you arrive you locate the spot within the room among the other Yogis that best suites you, of course this is the place within the room you feel most comfortable.  Be that up front where you can see the instructor, at the back where you can focus or where no one can see you, or in the middle close to friends or so you can meet new ones. 

Finally, you can roll out your mat and because you’ve been to at least a class or two you prep your area (clothing adjustments, water, hair etc.), start to stretch to warm yourself up or gently close your eyes to meditate or breathe.  Alternatively, and certainly acceptable, you are busy introducing yourself to your neighbor (do this if you are not already, I promise all Yogis and Yoginis really are friendly and not intimidating, if they are, you being nice is the ultimate Yogic approach…wink for sarcasm) or start chatting up your friends who are also there. 

By the time class starts you may not have even realized but you had already started.  That preemptive beginning and effort have primed you for the best experience possible, one where your mental exercise is running on all cylinders.  Although your instructor will lead you into the practice and assist you in preparing your mind and body this part is for everyone, and here you just sat down with YOU first.  That is the real deal and Yoga hard at work.  After all, without even realizing, you had chosen a space that felt safe and you began to prep your mind and body for the unknown and whatever might lie ahead.    

One may argue when you go to the gym you put thought into which machine to start on or what your workout goal is and you stretch before you start or when you run you choose the path or select your music and then stretch therefore the same amount of thought goes into any workout.  I assure you for most of us it is special and deeper for Yoga, I can attest to the mental focus as it can be seen physically ( I watch it in every class I teach) and it seems to happen effortlessly, every darn time for most.  I often think this happens in a Yoga class because of the implied culture or the energy in the room whether you are initiating these efforts on your own or falling into the rhythm based on witnessing others.  It appears to be contagious and incredibly beneficial to the rest of the practice as the mindset is locked in and once it is it is hard to be deterred. 

Photo by Antoinette Anast

The take away here is don’t stop doing this start before you start, pre-practice practice or ritual thing because it makes your experience that much more personal to you and where you need to be at that very moment both mentally and physically.  If you do not have a path as you find your way to your mat, I invite you to explore one, please please please, give it a go and see if it changes, enhances or impacts your practice.  Make sure you do what works for you, using some of the ideas mentioned above.  If it does help you “reign it in” I know I would love to hear all about it and if you can share specifics of what works for you (a mantra you say, stretches that ease you into any movements, etc.) we can all explore some of those elements before our next class.  If you are brand new to Yoga aren’t you lucky you found this before you got started, let this guide you into your first experience knowing there is no right way to go about it and that you can try something new each time and if you want to know the basics of what to expect and bring here is a helpful guide.

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