In conversation with Danielle Bailey, lead instructor at Yoga House.
For many people, yoga can seem intimidating. With beautiful images of yoga postures all over social media today, it can seem daunting and can even misrepresent the true practice of yoga, the physical aspect of which is just one small part. The most common reason people say for not coming to yoga, is that they are not flexible enough, but on the contrary, there is a yoga practice for every-BODY. So we spoke to one of our lead teachers, Danielle Bailey, a Hatha practitioner of 16 years and teacher of nine, about how you can take some simple steps to make yoga a part of your life.
Learn the fundamentals: Take a class that’s designed to really break down the essence of yoga, the fundamental poses, how to link movement and the breath, teaching you the full breadth of yoga to help set you up for a long, healthy and enjoyable practice ahead of you. Our yoga basics and fundamentals class will guide you through everything from downward facing dog to lunges and planks, to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable practice and a good base to go into any other class after that. “Understanding the alignment before going into any fast paced class is really important,” says Danielle. “I think a lot of students go straight into quite a dynamic class and get a shock as they haven’t done much or any yoga before, and it puts them off. Many don’t even go back after that first experience. For beginners, one of the most important things is understanding basic alignment to keep a safe practice as safety comes first.”
Try several teachers and styles as you begin: Not every style of yoga suits every ‘body’. It’s important to find the right teacher who resonates with you, as well as the style which you enjoy the most. There are so many styles available now at Yoga House from Yin, a floor based meditative practice designed to stimulate the para-sympathetic nervous system (your relaxation response) and stretch deeply over long held poses, to dynamic vinyasa or Ashtanga and the more gently paced Hatha. Danielle says it’s important to “find what’s right for you”. “If you’ve had an injury or have back issues for example, I wouldn’t start with an Ashtanga practice. The teacher may not slow down and modify the practice for you. It’s also really important to understand your level before you approach a class. If you’re physically fit and already active in other forms of movement, it’s easier to go into something dynamic but as a beginner, I always suggest trying the softer classes like Hatha and Yin first.” Finding there right teacher(s) for you is also key. “Some people like the tougher, stricter teachers and others prefer the softer kind,” she said. “It’s really important to find those classes which leave you feeling at ease.”
Meditate: There are many forms of meditation including our sound healing meditations with Zarine. This is a wonderful way to cultivate a practice of meditation, one of the eight limbs of yoga philosophy. Danielle also teaches an introduction to meditation and breathing which is a beginners’ guide to this ancient art. “Meditation is the end result of yoga,” she says. “The asana [physical postures] are there to prepare us for meditation according to the Yoga Sutras and in today’s day and age, I think meditation is really useful. The mind is usually going at 100 miles per hour.” She says starting small and building up is a good way to begin developing a practice of meditation. “I would start with something short. In my classes I have a maximum of around 15 minutes and I have people lean against the wall or lay as it’s very hard for most people to sit for any length of time in a meditative position and it’s impossible to meditate when we are distracted by the pain or discomfort of sitting. I also use the style of guided meditation which helps ease beginners into the practice.”
Keep your practice varied: With our varied schedule, there is always plenty on offer, no matter your mood or energy levels at Yoga House. “The best way to build a regular practice is to keep it varied,” says Danielle. “Often, people will do a very intense practice which leaves them not feeling good, and they’re exhausted, so don’t come back for another week or two, but it’s better to have a consistent practice that’s sustainable so it’s better to mix things like a dynamic practice with a Yin, a Hatha, and keeping the habit there, without the strain on the physical body which could put you off and ruin the chances of creating a regular routine. You should leave your class feeling good, not totally drained.”
Set an intention: As with anything, when we understand WHY we are doing it, we are more likely to stick with it, so try and set an intention for your yoga practice. Perhaps this is to give yourself more YOU time, perhaps this is an act of kindness to yourself, perhaps it’s to dedicate time for your health, mental and physical. Perhaps you want to embrace change, trying something new, and challenging your mind and body in new ways. Only you can know and understand your why, but when you know the why, it can be a whole lot easier to move forward on your journey.