• Dom Catto

Are you an absolute beginner? This story is for you:

Updated: Jan 10, 2020

It’s the beginning of a new year and new years resolutions are flying around our brains. Lose weight, get fit, plan your life, make a million bucks, change everything about yourself! Aaaah!! At this time of year, I often feel super overwhelmed with all this “I need to change myself” talk. I spend the majority of the year looking at myself, testing my boundaries and changing what no longer works for me. I do this consciously and mindfully. I am able to do this because of the lesson I have learnt by practising Yoga, on and off the mat.

When I say the word “Yoga”, what’s the first thing you think of? A gorgeous, bendy lady twisting herself into an unimaginable pose? A super-strong guy balancing absurdly on one arm, seemingly defying gravity? Someone so unbelievably flexible, your own hamstrings start to tingle in objection? Yoga is embodied by all these humans but there is SO much more to it. Yoga can also be an over-stressed mom, sitting with her eyes closed and breathing deeply for 2 minutes so as not to explode at her kids. It can be a retired grandmother, attentively watering her garden. It can be a Cape Town surfer, spending 4 hours on the water, not thinking of anything else but the ocean and her waves. It can simply be, pausing for a moment, taking a deep breath in and out and acknowledging the present moment.

Yoga is not something you get on a mat to do, Yoga is an every day, every moment, every thought lifestyle. It is powerful beyond measure, as it’s changed so many human’s lives but it’s also subtle and gentle and comforting. It’s the bigness of the entire ocean and the smallness of that one drop. It works from the universe, through our bodies, our thoughts and our emotions and goes all the way down to each and every cell.

As an absolute beginner, this might sound a bit fluffy but hear me out…

Yes, Yoga is known mostly for its physical practices, the poses (or asana) and yes, that is a very significant part of the practice. But did you know that Yoga also teaches mindfulness and being conscious in the present moment? It teaches about compassion, non-violence, respectfulness, self-love and learning how to live beautifully so you can die happily.

In Sanskrit, the language of Yoga, Yoga comes from the root word “Yuj”, which means “to yolk together”. The philosophy of Yoga is that these practices help you become one with the divine. “Whoa!” I hear you thinking. “That sounds like a lot of hard work that I’m not sure I’m ready for!” That's okay. What I have learned in my practice and my relationship with Yoga is that the teachings remind us of our greatness, they remind us of our potential and they help us remember that we are spiritual beings having a physical experience. These teachings re-introduce us to our true selves, which, underneath all our human crap, is pure energy, consciousness and unconditional love. That which is divine. This is not something you need to understand right away, it comes with practice.

A question I get quite a lot is why is Yoga so popular and why is it continually gaining popularity? Why are so many humans dedicating so much time to this one activity?

The simple answer is because it makes you feel good. Physically, emotionally, mentally, it makes you feel good. The many, many reasons it makes you feel good is where we start to delve deeper into what Yoga actually is and how transformative it can be.

Physically, Yoga lessens chronic pain, such as lower back pain as well as arthritis pain and headaches. It helps to increase flexibility, muscle strength and tone, making sure you correct your posture. It protects your spine, boosts immunity and lowers your blood pressure. It works on your entire endocrine system including regulation of the adrenals which helps manage stress as well as working on your thyroid gland to stabilise your metabolism which leads to weight loss. It also lowers your blood sugar and helps you maintain the nervous system. A huge benefit of Yoga is it helps you sleep better and reduces insomnia by relaxing tension from your muscles. Yoga actively strengthens your lungs because we are so focused on the breath. It strengthens your heart by increasing your heart rate and blood flow. So by doing these things your body's respiration improves and your life is filled with more energy and increased vitality. Because you are focusing on consciously, actively engaging our muscles, the physical practices of Yoga help to protect your body from injury. Yoga does all this and so much more! The really great thing about the physical practice is it supports all other activities in your life. It makes you stronger and more flexible and helps to improve the other activities you participate in your everyday life.

Emotionally and mentally Yoga can be very effective in developing coping skills and reaching a more positive outlook on life. All the different practices of Yoga, including the physical practice, helps to decrease stress (which is the biggest killer of the 21st century). Stress-related diseases are diseases of our hectic, crazy lifestyles, Yoga helps to counter that stress, helps you release mental and emotional stress and helps to bring calmness and stillness to your life. It helps you focus and creates mental clarity and calmness, it relieves chronic stress patterns, relaxes the mind and centres attention. With meditation, your concentration is sharpened and your ability to connect with the present moment is developed.

Yoga is a system of practices that supports you as a human being, mentally, emotionally, physically, in everything that you need.

It is very common as an absolute beginner having some fears around starting Yoga, e.g. going to a studio and feeling foolish, not knowing what to do, when to chant Om or how to breathe in Ujjayi breath. A big fear is being judged by others and not wanting to look like a newbie, as well as that self-judgement that creeps up like a cold shiver. Coming to the Yoga mat you may bring pre-existing injuries with you or be afraid of hurting yourself. Potential anxieties such as fear of failure, fear of dying, fear of going deeper, fear of things we don’t like about ourselves, things we’ve hidden, fear of success, getting to know your body, fear of commitment, fear of changing your body and fear of changing life.

All these fears and whatever you are nervous of in starting Yoga are fantastic teachers on this journey. They all make us stop and take a look at ourselves. Remember your thoughts are not necessarily the truth so these fears give you the opportunity to check out what you’re telling yourself and reevaluate your thinking processes. Injuries and anxieties are fantastic teachers, they present amazing lessons to you in a very upfront way, and Yoga teaches you how to acknowledge these lessons and gives you the tools to work through them and learn the lessons life is offering you. Our online Yoga for Beginners membership platform also gives you a reprieve from going to a studio and feeling judged or not knowing what to do. It gives you all the information and teachings you need to develop a safe and confident foundation in Yoga, allowing you to walk into any studio and feel happy and not left behind.

You’ll need a few things before you get started, such as:

. A good quality Yoga mat.

. Props that help to support your practice and meet you where you’re at, such as blocks and straps.

. Bolster or pillows

. A solid wall.

. A blanket.

Make sure you wear super comfortable clothes that you are able to move in. Try a more form-fitting, stretchy tops and Yoga pants. Make sure you are hydrated throughout the day and don’t eat 2-3 hours before a practice. In the session have water handy but it can become a crutch as a distraction or escape. It's tempting when you get uncomfortable to leave the pose to get water. Rather drink lots of water before and after the practice than have it with you as a potential escape. Have a sweat towel handy as well, trust me, you’re going to need it.

When it comes to injuries, make sure you talk about them with your teacher, they will give you variations. Please respect those injuries of yours. In any class, if something hurts, don’t do it! And when I say hurts I mean a SHARP PAIN (stretching pain is good!). Make sure you are always protecting your body by engaging your muscles, sucking your belly button and lower rib cage in, engaging your core muscles. We respect joints above all else - if a joint is talking to you at all, don’t do that pose. There will be a variation.

This practice is all about YOU!

This practice is not about competing with anyone else, it’s not about judging yourself, and it’s not about being hard on yourself. It’s about learning yourself, about learning radical self-acceptance and moving into a deeper understanding of who you truly are. You are the most important human on this planet, without you, this reality wouldn’t exist. It doesn’t benefit anyone for you to play small. We need your bigness, we need your bright shining light, we need your heart. Take this amazing opportunity and this incredible practice to let go of all your human stuff and start living the life you dream of....totally consciously connected to the amazing source energy that you are.

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