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It's almost resolution time again! For many of us, the start of a new year means tweaking, upping, even (*gasp*) starting a workout routine. I cannot recommend enough that you consider making yoga a part of your life in 2012 – physical fitness is just one of its many benefits. Like any new exercise, however, it's best if you approach yoga safely and with appropriate expectations. Here are some things to keep in mind as you explore yoga in the new year:
1) Have an open mind.
There are lots of styles of yoga out there, and chances are at least one of them is perfect for you. Some, like vinyasa or power yoga, are more physically challenging. Others, like Kundalini, emphasize the spiritual aspect of yoga. Some styles practice in a heated room (which some practitioners love, but others may not care for). Do a little research before you choose a class to try, or ask yogi friends for suggestions. Feel free to call a studio and ask questions. Whichever classes you end up taking, keep an open mind and give yourself full permission to experience them to the fullest!
2) Respect your body's limits.
No one knows what's going on in your body better than you. If you are brand new to yoga, chances are you'll be using muscles that are used to staying dormant. Pace yourself and pay attention to any signs that you might be doing too much too soon. While we encourage effort, pain is never on the table, and it's always ok to take a rest when you need to. Choosing an appropriate starter class is also important - just as you don't go from inactivity to running a 5k, you also shouldn't feel pressured to live up to high expectations when you begin practicing yoga. Choose a class that is designated for beginners. "All levels" or community classes, while tons of fun, may not be appropriate for someone who has never done yoga before.
3) Know your yoga etiquette.
Be sure to arrive at class on time. Take a moment to introduce yourself to the instructor. This is a great opportunity to tell them that you're new to the practice and inform them of any injuries you may have. Plan to stay for the entire class - savasana is not optional! Silence your phone to avoid embarrassing interruptions. Refrain from stepping on mats that aren't your own. Believe it or not, some people prefer not to have strangers' bare feet on their property!
When you make your New Years resolutions this winter, consider trying out a yoga class or two. With a little research and an open mind, you're sure to have a great experience. Side effects may include increased strength, flexibility, and pleasant moods!