You might get emotional
Pictures of blissed-out beach babes sitting in the lotus position is what most yoga virgins envisage, but Zen is not the only feeling that might stir in your practice. Hip-opening poses, such as Half Pigeon, and shoulder openers such as Eagle (Garudasana), can unleash feelings of anger, frustration or sadness. “We store a lot in our hips and shoulders, and yoga works on releasing this tension,” explains Jodi Boyd, owner of Bala Yoga (bala.com.au). “Some students cry after a good hip-opening class, which is a good thing.Back bending classes do the opposite – they can exhilarate and excite by opening the heart region.”
A diet high in sugar and cruciferous vegetables or lacking in water can cause gas… and red faces. “The twisting and folding in yoga postures will move it through the body,”
Boyd says. But bottom burps aren’t the only body music. “Fanny farts” are also common in new students when they go into inversions or Boat Pose. “I have had lots of students almost discontinue because of this experience – but it’s completely normal,” explains Boyd. “When you use your hip flexors to bring the legs forward, you can forget about the pelvic floor.” With time, you learn to activate mula bandha – by drawing the pelvic floor
up towards the naval – which stops your uterus sucking in air and releasing it.
You don’t need to be flexible
Regular practice brings flexibility, but you don’t need to be able to pull off Mermaid Pose in your first class. “A lot of people say, ‘I can’t come to yoga because I’m not flexible’, but that’s the reason you should come!” says James Byron, master teacher at Knoff Yoga (knoffyoga.com). In fact, Byron says stiffness can be a blessing. “When you come up against resistance, it’s easier to pay attention,” he says. “The original intention of yoga is a body-mind connection. The more consciousness you have, the more value you get out of coming to yoga.”
Yoga is not for the fainthearted
Whether you do a strong class or a restorative practice, you quickly learn that yoga is not for lazy people. “Power, vinyasa flow and Ashtanga styles build strength and get your heart rate going just like a regular workout would,” explains Sasha Hawley, founder of Yoga By
The Sea (yogabythesea.com.au). If you’re particularly tight or stressed, Yin and restorative classes can be just as confronting. “The postures yoga has to offer can really challenge you, and holding them for a long time can be harder than you think,” Boyd points out.
You won’t be a winner
Watching the advanced practitioners bend into intricate pretzel shapes can be intimidating, and Boyd says one of the hardest lessons for new yogis to learn is to stop making comparisons. “You didn’t come to class to compare yourself to someone else or be filled with ego – you came to do yoga,” she says. “These other emotions don’t serve us, so let them go – that’s when the magic happens.”
Savasana is not for a snooze
Corpse pose might seem like the time for a power nap, but Byron says it’s not the intention. “A lot of people either fall asleep or start doing their shopping list,” he says. In fact, the key is having relaxed awareness of how your body feels, so that your brain waves slow down. “It is conducive for learning and stress reduction, plus helps the right and left hemispheres of the brain communicate better,” Byron explains.
Zen is not automatic
Simply committing to a weekly yoga class does not guarantee eternal bliss or the patience of a saint. “Yoga helps us become more relaxed, but you are a human being and you are still going to get angry – yoga just tends to make it a quicker process,” Byron says. “So instead of stewing over an insult for a week and twisting yourself in knots, you might be able to process it in a couple of hours.”
You might want to quit
If you don’t find a style that matches where you’re at in life, you might be disheartened. “If you’re athletic and find it hard to slow down, a Hatha or restorative class will frustrate you
and your journey may end,” Boyd says. “If you’re not very fit, recovering from injury or need slower-paced instructions, then your needs are going to be different to what is offered in a Bikram or power class.” If your first experience isn’t great, that doesn’t mean yoga is not for you. “Shop around, try a few classes,” Hawley says. “When you find a style and teacher that you love, it can be the start of a lifelong relationship.