Updated: Oct 28, 2020
By: Corrada Spatola
Yoga is a spiritual discipline that includes breath control, simple meditation and the adoption of specific bodily postures, and is widely practiced for health and relaxation. Though ideally, you’d be able to practice in a local studio, there are many virtual classes you can take while stuck at home for now. No matter where you practice, experts say the benefits are extensive.
According to Michael Cirisano, a chiropractor in Franklin Square, our bodies must be stretched regularly, whether through yoga or any type of body training is always a good idea.
“In the aggregate you will see the people who regularly perform the yoga class tend to be in better physical condition than people who sit around and don’t do much,” he said. “Their weight is usually better; their muscle tone is usually better; their flexibility is usually better. That’s a contingent upon them doing it for a very long period of time.”
But he doesn’t recommend that you go once in a while; rather he said that to reap yoga’s many benefits, you should consider making it a lifestyle.
Yoga helps increase your flexibility, increase your balance and trains your body to do the challenging moves that can lead to countless benefits. And though these benefits would be great for anyone at any age, many are intimidated by starting yoga classes due to the fact that they are not flexible, that their balance isn’t the best, and that they never tried it before, so they worry they can’t keep ups.
Cristina Diaz, a yoga instructor in Hewlett, said the benefits outweigh any insecurities you may feel, so don’t let that stop you.
“Not knowing what their style is and if you will like the class makes me anxious, but part of the practice is to just do it anyway. Feeling uncomfortable is something we avoid so much in life, but it is such a necessary evil to make peace with. Like Nike says, just do it. Once you do, it gets easier each time,” she said.
How to Start
When people invest their time and money into something routinely, they want to be positive that the exercise is right for them.
“Whenever possible practice on your own, what you’ve been doing in the class. It can improve your performance in the class,” said Nilda Festa, owner of L I Tae Kwon Do, a yoga studio in Franklin Square. “When you start feeling better you want to continue to feel better, and you want to hold on to that feeling. Of course, you want to keep doing it.”
Festa suggested that students first visit a class to get a feel for it. “Participate in what’s going on. Instinctively you will know if this is right for you, if this is the right teacher because of the level of comfort ability that you have in the class.”
Some experts also suggest allowing yourself to get a feel for yoga before stepping into a yoga studio. The app Daily Yoga provides class plans, step-by-step instructions to guide you through every movement, and teaches you how to safely master challenging poses once you get more comfortable. It includes more than 50 workout plans to help you get fit with yoga, and a global community to stay motivated.
Diaz said beginning yoga can be as simple as laying on the ground with palms facing up and focusing on your breathing. There are mobile applications that target specifically beginners of yoga and their needs.
“Closing your eyes helps to stay on the breath, but eventually the mind will wander no matter how you cut it. Instead of trying to ‘get rid’ of the thought, I advise a person allows it to happen, and once it has passed refocus on the breath,” she said.
A great way to become more confident at your yoga classes is to adjust and modify the positions to your body and what you can handle.
Diaz said that confidence is something you must learn with time and practice. This is due to everyone being different and not all teachers are knowledgeable enough to know all modifications you may need. Most teachers will be respectful of this boundary. She suggested holding your ground but try not to confuse this with teachers adjusting you so that you can benefit from the pose.
“Body awareness can only go so far and if someone tells you to pull out a bit, it is likely because your alignment is off and it will defeat the purpose of the pose energetically and physically,” said Diaz. “Your alignment allows safe practice, your body to open in new ways, and to reduce the risk of injury.”
Work Up to Regular Attendance
To reap the benefits of yoga you must make it a lifestyle choice and practice routinely, said Cirisano. “Repetition will build skill and strengthen stamina and endurance.”
Diaz said the first step in becoming consistent with the practice is simply showing up.
“Some people use the adage that you will never regret going to a class. But getting yourself to go is the part that shouldn't be regretted because that is where the discipline comes from which makes way for the mental and physical advancement,” said Diaz.
Festa said that with any other physical challenge, practice makes perfect. “Obviously the more often that you practice something, the greater the benefits will be and the sooner that they will come to you,” she said. “The improvement curve improves dramatically when your practicing at more than two times a week, but you can still gain benefits from practicing two days a week.”
Making yoga a lifestyle choice can benefit anyone mentally and physically in countless ways. To reap all benefits possible Diaz suggested keeping an open mind and your ego in check. “Yoga is a delicate dance between listening to the instructor, respecting your personal boundaries, or maybe even realizing what those boundaries are,” she said. “Even if you don't ‘love’ the class, it does not mean it is a waste of time. Just practicing for the sake of practicing is a lesson unto itself.”