“Yoga is transformative,” says Ilana Dean, a Raja Yoga Trained Instructor, “and I am living proof.”
Dean tried Yoga 20 years ago and walked away from the class nonplussed: “I was a high impact exercise devotee and didn’t get the point of Yoga. It felt like a waste of time, it was too mellow and slow and didn’t resonate with me at all.” Then, six years ago Dean went through a stressful period in which she suffered muscle pain and a bunch of other stress related health issues. She continues, “I was in despair. I didn’t know what to do and people kept telling me to try Yoga. I was skeptical, but figured I had nothing to lose; I stumbled upon a free class at our swim club, and I gave it a shot. It was one of the best gifts I ever gave myself.”
With regular practice, Dean’s ailments vanished. Her health returned, and she continued with daily classes. “It was serendipity that the first few classes I tried were Hatha and Vinyasa style, which was an ideal combination for me.” Hatha Yoga focuses on breathing, meditation, and stretching, while Vinyasa offers a flow of motion in which practitioners move from one pose to another in a fluid, active sequence.
Dean became so inspired by the improvement in her health and wellbeing that she enrolled in intensive Yoga workshops and eventually a teacher- training program.
Dean offers the following advice for anyone starting to practice Yoga:
- Be open to it. Like therapy, if you are closed minded and unwilling to welcome the experience, it won’t do you any good.
- Be sure your first classes are for beginners.
- Look for an instructor who always asks at the start of class if anyone has injuries or health issues—there are some poses that people should avoid or modify if they are pregnant, have high/low blood pressure, or various bone or muscle injuries.
- Instructors should have a massive focus on the students’ alignment. If you do not find the proper alignment, the class doesn’t accomplish much—and worst case, you can risk serious injury.
- Choose a style of Yoga that meets your goals. If you are seeking muscle work, look for Vinyasa or Ashtanga. Alignment? Seek an Iyengar class. Meditation and Stretching? Go for Hatha. Still not sure? Have a look at this; Cheat Sheet.
The value of Yoga extends far beyond the physical and mental benefits achieved on the mat for the 60 or 90 minute practice. Dean explains: “As you progress and improve in Yoga, achieving deeper, more advanced expressions of various postures, you take this experience with you. You apply this perseverance and success to other aspects of your life and you approach challenges with readiness and confidence. The empowerment that Yoga gives is unique, valuable, and life-changing.“
To get started with Yoga, visit this site that offers listing of Yoga classes, events, and retreats worldwide.