Beginner Yoga Questions

Hello all,

I am new to yoga, purchased a DVD set to get started as I can’t afford lessons.

I just have a quick question. I have trouble doing many of the poses, and even simple things like laying flat on the floor and lifting my legs up or stretching my arms backwards (my armpit area in general) are very hard. But I can usually struggle through them(although I am not doing proper breathing, I’m huffing and puffing).

These specific poses I have questions with. Has anyone ever heard of them? Lower Body Rock, Flamingo, Dynamic Twist, Triangle Stretch, Cobra Stretch. I am kinda doing all of them, but mostly certain parts of my body aren’t where they should be.

So yeah, I’ve been struggling through these exercises and I don’t look forward to Yoga. It’s very, very difficult for me. I’m a weight trainer and very physically active, so it’s very surprising that I’m so inflexible. Is this normal, and should I try even easier poses first? What are your general recommendations for beginners? I feel like these are pretty easy, but I am just so darn inflexible.

Thank you for reading, I really appreciate any help at all!

First off, welcome to the forum, it’s wonderful to have you here. :slight_smile:

[QUOTE=ThePianoMan;55498]I’m a weight trainer and very physically active, so it’s very surprising that I’m so inflexible.[/QUOTE]
As a former professional athlete, I can say that I’m NOT surprised that you’re not flexible. As athletes we:

  1. Train some muscles and muscle groups far more than others leaving some very strong and some very weak. This leads to imbalances. For example, how many body builders can’t fully straighten their arms because their biceps are so over trained? We can try and stretch muscles all day long but if the issue is that we need to strengthen the antagonist muscles, all the stretching in the world isn’t going to help, and will probably hinder.

  2. We damage muscles, ligaments, tendons, and fascia and instead of taking the time to let them heal properly, we “work through the pain” since, “no pain, no gain” and in turn, create compensations. We think we’re inflexible because we literally don’t know how to properly use a specific area of our body because we’ve built up compensations for past injuries.

  3. Have a diet that focuses on peak performance NOW rather than long term health.

I’m seven or so years into my yoga practice and I’m still working to heal injuries from over 15 years ago. This is in part because I just didn’t get it for so long. I approached yoga as an exercise, something to conquer, something to push myself through.

I understand not being able to afford a teacher. As such, you’re going to have to be your own guru. The first thing I’d probably do is ask you to empty your mind of everything you’ve learned thus far regarding athletics. I’d suggest you approach your body with curiosity: as a scientist. “Why is it hard for me to stretch my arms backwards? Is it because I am inflexible? What muscles should be involved in this movement if I were to do it with ease? Are some muscles weak? What does this pose do for me? Why is this pose hard for me and why do I not want to do it? Why do I get so upset when I access X area of my body? How can I approach this differently than I have before, what habits do I need to break?”

Turn yourself into an explorer. An explorer of your body and self. And your best guide along this journey is your breath. If you’re huffing and puffing, you’ve made a wrong turn.

First of all, thank you so much for such a detailed response! I appreciate your help.

All of the stuff you mentioned about athletes makes complete sense. I think I fit the bill as far as all of your points are concerned. I’m going to do my best to change my mindset and think about each pose and the point of each. I’m writing down all of the questions you just wrote so that I can ask myself while I do them, haha.

I’ll keep the note about the importance of breath in mind. I generally don’t use abdominal breathing, and this results in shallow breathing that isn’t coordinated with my movements. It’s hard though, the body is twisted and turned, and I don’t seem to have a very large breath capacity compared to the instructor.

It is warming to be part of a forum thread which includes Billy Joel, the man who single-handled defeated Goliath, and the former president of the United States. I’m humbled.

First, of the many things the breath is in the practice of yoga it is also a barometer of effort. When the breath becomes choppy (not smooth) the nervous system becomes agitated and there’s a certain lack of ease. That ease, while not required for yoga, is certainly profoundly helpful for it. Keep the breath smooth and fluid and while maintaining that nature THEN explore the posture(s).

Second, to respond specifically to poses I would have to know what’s what. And unfortunately here you’ve not specified what particular video or practice you’ve unearthed. The names you mention would require guesswork on my part to fit them into my construct. Cobra (bhujangasana) and triangle (trikonasana) are the only two which are close to that construct.

David knows athletes from the inside out. I know athletes from the outside in. And I’ll echo his reply to that element. Most athletic pursuits tend to train something at the expense of something else - and this obviously is a definition of imbalance. Further, there’s no real focus on eccentric work which is the contracting of a muscle while it is lengthening. Most weight work is the contraction of muscle while it is shortening. Weight training tends to make muscles hard and while that looks nice it is not particularly functional for the complete role muscle need to fulfill in the human body.

For beginners I suggest a beginning practice and until I find others or produce one I suggest Patricia Walden’s DVD. What is most critical in the developmental stage of a beginner’s practice is safety and foundational elements. These last for the life of one’s practice AND help me to not have to unteach you when you come to my class.

Finally the approach of the student has to align with the practice. One cannot storm into a yoga shop the same way a bull storms into a china shop. The approach has to respect the powerful tool that is yoga and honor the current nature of your body, mind, mood, et al in the doing.

gordon

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with backing off a pose if it’s got you huffing and puffing. If you are really struggling through your practice, you will not reap the greatest benefits that yoga has to offer. One of those is body awareness – like David stated above, turn yourself into an explorer of your body.

Of the poses you listed, I believe only Triangle and Cobra are traditional names, and the others may be something the person in the DVD has renamed – or maybe I’ve just never heard of them. Triangle can be intense for a beginner, and if you’re having a lot of difficulty to begin with, you might back off that one for a while. With a pose like Cobra (Bhujangasana) or Both Legs Raised (Uttanpadasana), you should be able to achieve these poses with a little instruction. One of the most important aspects, in my view, is moving with the breath or “riding the breath”, which can greatly help you move into and out of a pose, as well as to find equanimity in the pose.

In Uttanpadasana, practice raising the legs slowly on a slow, deep inhale, hold the pose and breath in the same manner for a few breaths, and lower the legs with control on a slow exhale. You can always build up to a longer hold. Isolate the abdominal muscles that are necessary to achieve the pose. Be aware that you’re not clenching muscles in your upper body as you are raising and lowering your legs. Observe what muscles tense up unnecessarily, such as the jaw and shoulders, and relax them.

Think of Patanjali’s saying: Sthira (steady) Sukham (comfortable) Asanam (pose). Do only what you can do with steadiness and relative ease. Doing a few poses correctly and with awareness will benefit you much more than struggling incorrectly through a lot of poses. It will also help you build appreciation for the practice instead of causing you to dread it.

“Practice and all is coming.” :smiley:

[QUOTE=jimcarter;55877]I am sharing this with you may be it would help in doing some of the yoga poses :

  1. Sit/Easy Position - Sukhasana

A starting position that helps focus awareness on breathing and the body; helps strengthen lower back and open the groin and hips.
Sit cross-legged with hands on knees. Focus on your breath. Keep your spine straight and push the sit bones down into the floor. Allow the knees to gently lower. If the knees rise above your hips, sit on a cushion or block. This will help support your back and hips. Take 5-10 slow, deep breaths. On the next inhale, raise your arms over your head. Exhale and bring your arms down slowly. Repeat 5-7 times.

  1. Dog and Cat –
    Increases flexibility of spine
    This is really two poses, one flowing into the other. Begin on your hands and knees. Keep your hands just in front of your shoulders, your legs about hip width apart. As you inhale, tilt the tailbone and pelvis up, and let the spine curve downward, dropping the stomach low, and lift your head up. Stretch gently. As you exhale, move into cat by reversing the spinal bend, tilting the pelvis down, drawing the spine up and pulling the chest and stomach in. Repeat several times, flowing smoothly from dog into cat, and cat back into dog.

  2. Mountain - Tadasana
    Improves posture, balance and self-awareness.
    A deceptive pose in that it appears so simple that some students may ask - “why bother?” But just as there’s more to breathing than meets the eye, there is more to standing, too.
    Stand with feet together, hands at your sides, eyes looking forward. Raise your toes, fan them open, then place them back down on the floor. Feel your heel, outside of your foot, toes and ball of your foot all in contact with the floor. Tilt your pubic bone slightly forward. Raise your chest up and out, but within reason - this isn’t the army and you’re not standing at attention. Raise your head up and lengthen the neck by lifting the base of your skull toward the ceiling. Stretch the pinky on each hand downward, then balance that movement by stretching your index fingers. Push into the floor with your feet and raise your legs, first the calves and then the thighs.
    Breathe. Hold the posture, but try not to tense up. Breathe. As you inhale, imagine the breath coming up through the floor, rising through your legs and torso and up into your head. Reverse the process on the exhale and watch your breath as it passes down from your head, through your chest and stomach, legs and feet.
    Hold for 5 to 10 breaths, relax and repeat.
    On your next inhale, raise your arms over head (Urdhava Hastasana) and hold for several breaths. Lower your arms on an exhale.
    As a warm up, try synchronizing the raising and lowering of your arms with your breath - raise, inhale; lower, exhale. Repeat 5 times.

  3. Forward Bend or Extension - Uttanasana II
    Stretches the legs and spine, rests the heart and neck, relaxes mind and body
    Begin standing straight in Mountain pose or Tadasana. Inhale and raise the arms overhead. Exhale, bend at the hips, bring the arms forward and down until you touch the floor. It’s okay to bend your knees, especially if you’re feeling stiff. Either grasp your ankles or just leave your hands on the floor and breathe several times. Repeat 3-5 times. On your last bend, hold the position for 5 or 10 breaths. To come out of the pose, curl upward as if pulling yourself up one vertebrae at a time, stacking one on top of another, and leaving the head hanging down until last.
    Variations

  1. Follow the instructions for the basic pose described above, but instead of holding the pose for several breaths, come up on the inhale. Extend your arms forward as your rise until you are standing straight and your arms are overhead. Exhale and bend forward. Repeat the process 5 times.
  2. Go into the pose and take 3 deep breaths. Inhale and raise your head, but keep your hands on the floor. Hook each index finger around each big toe, exhale and come down. Hold for several breaths
  3. Inhale and raise your head, again keeping your hands on the floor. This time, slide your hands under your feet so that the tips of your toes are touching heel of your hands. Hold for several breaths.
  4. After bending forward, fold your arms and hang for as long as is comfortable. A very relaxing pose.
  5. To come out of the pose, curl upward as if pulling yourself up one vertebrae at a time, stacking one on top of another, and leaving the head hanging down until last.[/QUOTE]

Thanks for sharing these wonderful poses with. I want to include one thing in it for all who try these asana at home. Doing asana this is necessity to keep your concentration into your body and always do asana without any stress.

Good that you have found yoga to bring a more balanced state of health to your being, athletics and weight training are wonderful, yet they need to be balanced with other aspects of holistic health, which yoga certainly is. A shame yea that yoga is unavailable to so many because people charge so much for it…

I would recommend for one that you search YouTube and the internet for instructional guidance, there is a lot available there from informed teachers. Perhaps some of what you find will be illuminating and help you find better understanding and enjoyment in your new yoga practice.

I will also suggest finding ways to support your body in the poses you are doing. Props can be wonderful to those who struggle with inflexibility. When you lie on your back and put your legs up, rest them on a wall (even if you butt is a few feet from the wall), that way the muscles can relax, and so can you and your breath. As you get comfortable and more flexible, slide your butt/body closer to the wall intensifying the pose. Same with taking your arms overhead, put pillows there to rest your arms on, at whatever range of motion is comfortable to you. The body recognizes support and relaxes into it. Don’t push too hard or expect too much right away, let go and accept what you are capable of, accept your limitations and know that you are growing in that place.

[QUOTE=eddiespaghetti;55908] A shame yea that yoga is unavailable to so many because people charge so much for it.[/QUOTE]

Sorry to derail the thread, but I must say, yoga teachers earn a rather modest income. I don’t think yoga is overpriced if you go once a week and develop a home practice based on what you learn in class. Many studios try to make yoga available to people of all incomes. Some studios offer work exchange, free community yoga class, sliding scale pricing, donation based classes, or discounted classes for like $7. Even if you pay up to $15 for a drop-in, that’s only $60 a month to learn a transformational practice. Many people are willing to spend that on coffees, pastries, magazines, etc. I go to a donation based Ashtanga club once a week where the instructor, with over 20 years’ experience, graciously accepts around $10 a person. That’s $40 a month – less than my cell phone bill.

Just my little defense of the cost of transformation :wink:

Carry on.

trinley,

all you said is true, few attain riches from offering to teach yoga. yet the fact remains, it is unavailable to many because of cost, because some have taken a spiritual, trans-formative, healing art and decided to turn it into a business; a business they profit [I]financially[/I] from…look how many studios and teachers are now shifting to, or offering ‘teacher trainings’, why, because the world needs a billion more yoga teachers? no, i have to believe it’s because the profit margin is higher there…

there are many who remain humble and altruistic, yet they are the minority in my experience… I hope that balance shifts…

just because you find it affordable does not mean it [I]is[/I] affordable…i have heard too many times in my life, “i want to practice yoga, it’s just so expensive.” that is an unfortunate reality in our capitalistic society. not saying it’s right or wrong, just saying it is…

[QUOTE=eddiespaghetti;55960]trinley,

all you said is true, few attain riches from offering to teach yoga. yet the fact remains, it is unavailable to many because of cost, because some have taken a spiritual, trans-formative, healing art and decided to turn it into a business; a business they profit [I]financially[/I] from…look how many studios and teachers are now shifting to, or offering ‘teacher trainings’, why, because the world needs a billion more yoga teachers? no, i have to believe it’s because the profit margin is higher there…

there are many who remain humble and altruistic, yet they are the minority in my experience… I hope that balance shifts…

just because you find it affordable does not mean it [I]is[/I] affordable…i have heard too many times in my life, “i want to practice yoga, it’s just so expensive.” that is an unfortunate reality in our capitalistic society. not saying it’s right or wrong, just saying it is…[/QUOTE]

Where did I declare yoga to be universally affordable? I did say that [I]I[/I] find it affordable to go once a week for $10. The main point of that post was to list some [B]options that are out there for people who can’t afford the average drop-in rate[/B]. I listed two options for free yoga and two options for yoga at around $7. If someone is made aware of these options and continues to say that $0-$7 is just so expensive, well, that’s sad and confusing!

Sure, yoga teachers offer teacher training to boost their income. This point doesn’t seem to have any relation to the topic of the affordability of an asana class.

Trinley,
no need to be defensive or angry (posting in bolds), this is a forum, thus people present ideas, perspectives. hopefully the original poster can benefit from your original advise…

you “derailed” the course of the conversation, i followed it on a path in that direction for a moment. my point with that was that in my mind yoga teachers display selfish greed too, in pricing classes, in saturating the world with yoga teacher trainings… and not for the means of transforming the world though this wonderful art, but in putting money in their pockets. This sadly has repercussions on many who just want a simple space to practice yoga. i teach yoga, and have had a free class taken away when a studio changed ownership, nothing filled that time slot, she was simply one of those greedy studio owners who only saw dollar signs. It’s just a shame that something so wonderful as yoga has to endure this…

[QUOTE=trinley;55962]Where did I declare yoga to be universally affordable? I did say that [I]I[/I] find it affordable to go once a week for $10. The main point of that post was to list some [B]options that are out there for people who can’t afford the average drop-in rate[/B]. I listed two options for free yoga and two options for yoga at around $7. If someone is made aware of these options and continues to say that $0-$7 is just so expensive, well, that’s sad and confusing!

Sure, yoga teachers offer teacher training to boost their income. This point doesn’t seem to have any relation to the topic of the affordability of an asana class.[/QUOTE]

I hope you can understand that you’re only assuming I’m angry. I posted in bold so that the main point of my post would be clear. Previously you seemed to think that I was saying yoga is affordable to me and thus to all, and I attempted to draw your attention to my correction of your misunderstanding.

I think forum discussions work best when we don’t read emotions into what people write and respond based on assumptions. I would be happy to continue the discussion with you without the assumptions. It just prevents us from actually discussing the topic at hand.

To get back to the actual discussion, I responded reiterating my point (the accessibility of yoga to people of all incomes) because it seemed to me that you didn’t get the point of my post. You stated that yoga is overpriced, so I replied with a list of affordable options. Your next reply ignored the point of my post (the affordable options) and repeated that many people find yoga to be expensive. I felt that you were not actually “following” the discussion, but merely repeating your stance without regard to the information that I attempted to impart.

As for the greediness of yoga teachers, that is an interesting discussion as well, but maybe it would be best to start a new thread on it. Again, I would be happy to discuss our opinions if we can leave our assumptions at the door, or the log in, shall we say.

I didn’t find Trinley’s post to be either defensive or angry, for whatever that is worth.

On the hijacked topic there are two natures, there’s the nature of the interested party blocking their own evolutionary process and there’s the nature of lack of financial means. Neither of these is hard coded into DNA. While neither of them is particularly “easy” to overcome both ARE surmountable.

Many times a person uses their perceived lack as a barrier to their own freedom, change, transformation. Not only are there extrinsic options, which Trinley has listed. There are also intrinsic options. How can I begin to manifest the wealth necessary for my dharma, for my purpose, for the very reason my soul has inhabited this body.

We cannot use a broad brush to say that all yoga offerings are overpriced ripoff put-ons by a capitalist trying to get rich any more than we can broadbrush that yoga is unavailable to those who want it. It may not be served up on a silver platter but I can assure you when properly taught it is not served on that platter to the well off. It is still a challenge, just of a different sort.

We, as those on the path of yoga, need to be vigilant about what we empower in others with our thoughts, words, and deeds.

Thank you for saying that, InnerAthlete.

Regarding those who state that yoga is universally “just so expensive”, I find this to be a case of, as IA wrote, “the interested party blocking their own evolutionary process”. Anyone who does a bit of research into their local yoga studios will find a wealth of options, like the ones I listed. With all of these options out there, I tend to think that some people complain about price as a pretense for not taking action.

I also find it quite admirable and generous of yoga teachers all around that most are trying to extend the learning opportunity those those of all incomes. Few instructors of other practices do this. I’ve never benefited from free or donation-based piano lessons, for example.

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