I noticed in the very first hatha yoga class that I took, I was able to focus more easily. I also noticed a remarkable release of energy. I was lucky that, at the time, yoga was not as popular as it is now. I didn’t know what to expect, so this created a more open-minded experience for me.
I struggled, at times, to make hatha yoga practice a regular part of my life. With continued practice over a long period of time, I eventually developed an easier relationship with the positions and how they help to create a healthier connection to my body.
As a yoga teacher, I learned that the new students who benefit most from their hatha yoga classes seem to have certain similar qualities: persistence, willingness to respond to suggestions, openness to the idea that the postures/asanas are explorations of the body/mind/breath systems, not rigid structures to be imposed. Such students also seem to get the importance of the relaxation aspect of the positions.
So I recommend these tips when a student first comes to a yoga class:
- Do not try to “keep up”
- Stay as relaxed as possible
- Understand that the practice takes time to master
- Do not impose rigid expectations on yourself
- Notice the negative impact of frustration and impatience
- Above all, do not overwork the body or be influenced by what other people are doing
- Do not strive beyond capacity
- Err on the side of caution, and you will make rapid progress
Then, yoga classes will become a lovely foundation for home practice that does not feel like a struggle or a burden. A sense of ambition and competition in yoga is more of an obstacle than an aid.
(By the way, I studied yoga with Sri Satchidananda who founded the Integral Yoga Institute. This is a gentle, breath-focused and meditative yoga. Not all hatha classes have this orientation.)