After I posted the story and photos of my radical journey to health with the help of yoga, I received many e-mails from my beloved readers. Many were inspired to get a grip on their body and start a healthy practice of nurturing and physical fitness immediately – but where to begin?
Find a studio … My first and strongest recommendation is always find a wonderful studio close to home you can connect with – the community and support you will gain from this circle of trusted fellow practitioners cannot be underestimated! Also it is rare, but I am more and more frequently seeing studios that offer childcare for one or all classes.
What if the studio can’t happen? For a military parent far from family babysitters, or somebody on a restricted budget with enough funds to visit the studio maybe once a week or once a month, or for some of my intrepid readers who live in fairly remote areas and have no studios within reasonable driving distance – what then? Just between us: If you are shy about practicing around other people or self-conscious about your weight and that is the only thing keeping you home, please do make an effort to go visit a studio anyway! Bring a friend who feels as inept as you, if that helps! We all start clumsy, awkward and confused, and we all “get it” when somebody walks in feeling the same way, and we’re all there to support you as you blossom into a confident practitioner. And there are a lot of fit people in yoga, yes, but that is going to be you, next – you can’t begin this healthy lifestyle for long without seeing some physical changes!
Backbend Progress: It doesn’t happen overnight, but it happens. The first picture is how my back-bend looked about 1.5 years in to practice in April 2011 – foolishly, I was too embarrassed to take progress pictures earlier, or you could have seen me standing straight up, staring at the ceiling!
Backbend February 2012: There are periods of practice where change seems to leap forward exponentially! One year later, my back bend had advanced dramatically. This took continuous practice, not wishful thinking or natural flexibility. (For what it’s worth, I had also lost some extra pounds during this year. In the second photo, I am 20 weeks pregnant!)
Crow Pose Progress: In March 2011, this was where my Crow Pose was. A few months later, I had wobbled on to my head without knees on elbows.
Crow Progress April 2014, waiting at the pier for my husband’s Navy carrier to dock (OpLove photo by Sami Roy Photography). I now find it very easy to slide gracefully up into a steady headstand, and easily come back down in to crow or, from headstand, shoot my legs back into chaturanga.
Bird of Paradise, 2011: This is about how far I could get in Bird of Paradise, a gorgeous pose that I couldn’t believe the people around me were actually doing. Sometimes I could hop my one foot up off the floor a little! I kept working at it.
Bird of Paradise, August 2014: To work on my fluidity and sequencing as a teacher, I started recording my own practice on the cellphone camera. I had been practicing without a mirror for so long I had no idea what my Bird of Paradise looked like, and I was shocked when I saw what had happened to the pose over the years of work! Years of work, not days of magical potions – it took a lot of effort for me to get this far, and I still have so far to go.
Upward Facing Bow Progress, Spring 2011: I loved this pose, sometimes called Wheel (it’s not really Wheel – in wheel, you actually roll! Yeah, that’s cray, too.).
May 2012: My upward facing bow had undergone some serious work by the time professional Matt Palalay took this photo in my 38th week of pregnancy. In the winter of 2013 it reached a new level when I achieved smooth and unassisted drop-backs and recovery (entering the pose from a standing position, and returning to standing immediately). I had a really cool video of that on my cellphone, but the phone was stolen and I cannot share it with you now!
All of my poses have worlds of expansion and improvement yet to go, but I hope you are encouraged by seeing how I started out – clueless, inflexible and as unsteady as a drunken sailor on leave!
Start your practice today with the home practice!
I practice daily at home, and supplement that practice by taking group classes at my local studio. At home, I sometimes practice my own routines, testing out new playlists, new sequences, trying on new poses. And sometimes – and this seems to be more true during pregnancy – I just want to follow the words of an experienced teacher and not have to think! That is when yoga classes online come in handy.
Online yoga classes – where to find them? To start your home practice immediately, there are a number of options! You can find some of my favorite DVDs (see the list at the end of the post), or subscribe to YogaGlo or another online yoga studio for a minimal cost. I love YogaGlo for their simple layout, the way you can track and save your favorite classes or set a weekly practice goal, and all the master yoga teachers they have on their roster – Tiffany Cruikshank, Dice Iida-Klein, AmyIppoliti and many other names that are well-known in the yoga, sports, therapy and Instagram worlds.
Or, you can find some favorite videos on YouTube! There are a lot of yoga classes available on YouTube, and some of them are insanely annoying while others are delightful treasures. Here are a few of my favorites.
You don’t have to be pregnant to practice prenatal yoga, and in fact, if you are just a beginner, they are perfect for you: the poses are fluid and languid, and the pace will be even and usually more slow than a normal class. I find it very pleasant at the end that she doesn’t take you out of savasana – you can stay as long as you like as the movie fades out! Lara Dutta is an Indian actress and supermodel, and the Miss Universe of 2000. She and her teacher Tonia Clark put together this sequence for prenatal practice, which they made into a DVD for all pregnancy practitioners at home. Here, they wear very elegant designer clothes and have glasses of berry-infused water close at hand, as they discuss the advantages and reasons for practicing during prenatal yoga. If you are pregnant, I strongly recommend watching the video before embarking in a prenatal practice, especially if you don’t currently practice yoga.
This is a non-prenatal routine! You’ll notice that I prefer dubbed classes, where the teacher is not narrating the class while doing the classes. Sometimes the mic rubbing on t-shirt or hair, wind breezing by, panting and gasping all get a little annoying. I also get bothered by fuzzy audio and garbled music in the background – when you watch a video over and over and over (and I recommend doing the same favorite class over and over again as it will grow natural for you, and you’ll improve, just like with a dance), you really start to notice every annoying quirk!
This class is led by a man, and also dubbed with a crisp, clean audio. There’s no extraneous chatter, and I like that he uses the blocks. Achievable and challenging, this is a a great class, and at one hour it is the longest on my playlist.
If you have your own routine or you’re following one from a book or magazine, this two-and-a-half-hour set of background music is a nice set to have streaming while you go through poses. It’s geared towards more of a relaxing, soothing class.
Best of luck on your yoga journey, and if you know of any great yoga videos or have one of your own, please share it in the comments so we can all benefit!
Yoga DVDs as promised
You can find so many great DVDs on Amazon or at the bookstore, and I usually check them out from the library first or watch the teacher on YouTube to see if I enjoy their style. These are my favorites!
Candlelight Yoga: Excellent for beginners, and I enjoy doing this class in the morning to wake up. There’s a reason Sarah Ivanhoe has gone on to become a master yoga teacher, and well-known in the community.
Prenatal Yoga with Lara Dutta: You are now familiar with Lara, and this is her DVD.
Journey into Power: Power Vinyasa Yoga, Level 1: Appropriate for beginners and advanced students; there is a Level 2 DVD as well, but to be honest, you could spend a lifetime on this one and still have years to go.