I vividly remember being a beginner.
My first ever yoga class was at a local gymnasium, in a tiny, corporate-carpeted room, with an instructor called Graham. He was great. Such a good teacher for beginners.
Graham focussed a lot on the breath, and the more I teach students of all levels, the more value I give to this important cue. Really, the only cue that spans all levels of yogi. Inhale. Exhale.
I remember when he said to stretch out my arms for a reclined twist, and then to take a deep breath in, and stretch them out even more on the exhale. It’s amazing what subtle movements we’re able to do when we focus solely on the power of the breath. I had discovered something.
I don’t remember too much about how good (or bad) I was, I mostly just remember how I would feel during and after class. It’s funny how you can embrace the fact that you’re a total newbie, and you kind of accept that you’re not going to nail these poses, and that’s totally ok. It takes the pressure off.
I remember being excited about sharing what I had learnt with my cousin who had been doing yoga for a while longer than me.
Recently, I’ve started teaching my mom yoga. She’s a total beginner. Like I was. Like we all were, once.
Being at the beginning is such an incredible place to be. For anything. Everything is new, some things are difficult, sometimes you surprise yourself, and always, you learn.
In a famous quotation from Zen Buddhism, “In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”
It’s scary to be a beginner. But it’s also so exciting. And without sounding too cheesy, it’s a gift.
There are things you’re going to respond to straight away, and there are things that are going to take a little more time.
Sharing what I’ve learnt with my mum has been a challenge for myself. I am beginning again. I’d never taught a class specifically for beginners, and I’ve certainly never done that on camera. (Mum lives on the opposite side of the world to me).
One of the things I love about yoga is that I’m still learning. So much. There are times I still feel like a total beginner, and now I relish that feeling. The place of newness, and exploration, of childlike curiosity about what’s happening. What comes next.
Yoga can be intimidating if you’re new. The spacious, shiny studios. The ballerina instructors with perfect skin and those damn yoga pants. I get it. It’s new, and new can be scary. Know that you’re not alone in those feelings. But also, (I love a good cliché), you’ll never know unless you try. Right?
And if you’re not quite ready to get into a studio, you can share my mom’s practice, in the living room, in your pyjamas, if you like. Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsXOiV3I3uhsp2hiLvIheTw
Enjoy. Don’t judge yourself. Inhale. Exhale. Oh, the possibilities!