The most important part of practising yoga is not to be able to do a handstand. Sure enough, it might be a good motivator and something to work towards, but yoga is so much more than just crazy inversions, arm balances and splits (although looking at Instagram, you might get exactly that idea). It is also so much more than sitting still and chanting complex mantras and “ooommm”.
Yoga works as either a restorative and balancing practise to support other sports or a busy lifestyle, or it can be vigorous and demanding both physically and mentally. Explore different styles and teachers to find what suits your needs the best.
Yoga means different things to different people, some more others less spiritual, but there are some key components in yoga that are most important, no matter what your personal “goals” or aspirations in doing yoga are. Without these key pillars, you’re not doing yoga, you’re doing something else.
Everything starts from breathing, it gives us life. Sometimes we forget to breathe, often our breath is shallow; it is the most fundamental pillar of practising yoga. Without breathing properly, you won’t be able to get the same effects, such as going further in your poses or slowing down your heart rate. Breathing deeply and fully has a calming effect, and it spreads its’ positive effects to other aspects of life, too. Focusing on your breath is very meditative and helps with other sports, not just pilates but for example surfing, too.
Force and ease.
Don’t force your poses. Find your edge and stay there. You can move a bit to explore the different sensations you feel, but never deal with “bad pain”. The "sweet pain" sensations of stretching your body or strengthening it are a part of developing your practice (or in the case of other sports, building strength and stamina). Don’t push yourself too much, trust that one day you will get there. Don’t use force, use your breath to ease into the poses.
Just like muscles aren’t built overnight, it takes time and practice to increase your flexibility. Just like in weight training, if you are starting from the bottom, so to speak, you see progression quite quickly. Don’t be intimidated by more advanced yogis, we were all once beginners, and yoga is not about competing. Focus on being you and doing your practice, and trust that no one cares if you can’t get your palms under your feet. Just keep showing up and doing what you can, and that is good enough.
The need for perfection often blocks our bodies from being able to get to amazing results, as we are too much in our heads to let go and be able to get into the flow. Your body learns new postures in a beautiful way: you keep practising and practising, and then one day your body is ready to understand the alignment and everything falls into place, like neatly stacked building blocks. The feeling of nailing a challenging pose for the first time, whether it be a crow, headstand, forearm balance or handstand, is like being a kid again. Of course, this can just be one reason to do yoga, and for some practitioners, it is not even something to be approached.
Yoga is so much more than just the asanas; it is a principle of how to live your life, which is embodied through the asana practice. Go try some classes, see how you feel, what you like and don’t like doing, and start building your practice!