I believe a lot of people who are new on their journey into yoga must have thought of this question quietly to themselves more than a handful of times, while they huff and puff their way through new and sometimes unnatural positions in a yoga class.
My natural inclination as a yoga instructor is to teach a small number of students in one session. This usually means at most, 4 people. But of course, doing this on a full time basis now, teaching a bigger class a few times a week makes more economic sense. That is not to say I do not love teaching larger classes, in fact I love sharing my knowledge of yoga with anyone who would have the time to listen. full stop. It only means taking a different approach when it comes to a class with more than a handful of students.
As a student as well, it makes perfect sense for a person who may not be sure if yoga is really their ‘thing’ to refrain from investing in a smaller private classes that usually costs double or more of group class fee. Some people I have spoken to use the aid of a mirror to help them realign and self-adjust so that their final asanas resemble something that of the instructor standing in front of the class. This can be helpful sometimes, but for most of the time, it can prove to be detrimental to the person especially if it means ignoring the alarm bells that their body is telling them at the same time.
So as a person who is trying to figure out if yoga could be the answer to your prayers, what are some of the signs to know that you are holding a pose correctly?
- It feels goooood – yes, this IS actually quite a possible feeling to experience even in your first yoga class. If a pose helps to alleviate an existing discomfort, or brings on the sensation of tension releasing from your muscles, you are doing the right thing
- There are no sharp pain – some fellow yogis might defer in this point of view, but in my own practice and when I lead a class, I will always make sure to place emphasis on this point. The uncomfortable feeling of a tight muscle being stretched is acceptable, but a sharp pain that shoots right through your nervous system and makes you want to cry out loud is not. Back off. Come out of the pose. Either reposition and begin again, or put up your hand and ask your teacher for extra guidance
- Trust your inner voice – this inner voice must not be confused as your ego talking to you. How do you tell the difference?
Ego will sound something like this: “Look at that person in front of you, if she can get into it so can you, don’t be a wuss, stretch more and ignore the pain!”
While your inner voice will sound more like this: “Breathe, you can focus on reaching your ankles today, this is where you are today, accept it and know that everything changes, and with practice this will change too”
Check in with yourself as you move in and out of different poses. Let the instruction from your teacher guide you into the pose, but ultimately always listen to what your body is telling you while you in it. This is the beginning of forming a mutual trust with your own body and towards building your own personal practice over time.