Posts tagged ‘practice’

So, You’ve Decided to Do Yoga: 12 Tips for Newbies

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“Girl Doing Yoga” courtesy of digitalart / 

I don’t think people can truly appreciate yoga until they come back for class after a long holiday break.  I feel amazing after today.  And yoga is pretty amazing.  It’s helped me feel better, and I have friends who have really felt the difference, too.  I hope to keep doing it for the rest of my life.

Well, today was the first day back and also the first class of a new session, so, at the first class, there were some new folks.  Inevitably there are some things that they don’t know yet, and some get scared off and never come back.   Below are some tips I’ve learned from yoga over time.

1. Know Your Body. Make sure you tell the yoga instructor if you have any medical issues that may make some of the moves difficult; i.e. major surgeries or injuries.  Just like in any other physical activity, you can hurt yourself in yoga if you don’t take care of your body.  Your yoga instructor should have suggested modifications ready for you for moves that involve those sensitive body parts.  And if the instructor offers you any kind of modification, and you think you might need it, take it!  The first time I took yoga, the instructor offered a neck modification for one of the poses, and I didn’t take it because I didn’t want to be different from everyone else (see #4 below).  The next day my neck was messed up, and I blamed it on yoga.  It took me years to come back.

2. Figure out the difference between discomfort and pain. You’re going to feel uncomfortable during yoga — it means you’re working hard!  (A particularly uncomfortable sitting pose comes to mind — it stretches back the feet and the toes and is the more uncomfortable than getting caught snooping through someone’s medicine cabinet.)  But nothing you do should be hurting you.   Yoga should feel more like a good workout and less like a rhino sat back on you and crushed all your bones.  Ok, I’m exaggerating.  But, the point is, listen to your body.  You’ll figure out what’s good “hurt” and what’s pain.  And if you’re not sure, don’t risk it.  And on the other hand, once you’re pretty comfortable, feel free to push it if you know you can.  Not too fast — but gradually push it.  The more you can safely stretch and push your body, the better for you.

3. Don’t forget to breathe. This is particularly important during balancing moves or very difficult poses.  Don’t concentrate so hard that you start to turn blue, and anyway, breathing during yoga is just as important as keeping that oxygen flowing during any type of exercise.   Truly, breathing is the most important part of yoga.  Our instructor likes to remind the class that nothing is as important during that class as breathing.  If we just breathed the whole time, we would still benefit.

4. Try to focus.  Be in the moment.  Focus on the pose.  Better yet, focus on the breathing: deep breath in, deep breath out.  But if you can’t, don’t sweat it.  Just like in other types of meditation, if you catch yourself drifting, bring yourself back.  If you’re completely distracted, try again next time.  My mind was all over the place today, but I wasn’t too worried about it because I know I’ve had better days, and I will have better days again.

5. Recognize that everyone’s body is different and everyone’s experience level is different. This is a particularly hard one for me and can be a particularly hard one for newbies.  Someone like me might get frustrated easily because I’m still considered fairly young, and I’ve been doing yoga on-and-off for about 3 years now.  So, I sometimes think that I should be able to do any of the poses.  This is clearly not the case.  Even though I have a particularly flexible torso, arms, shoulders, and hips; I’m equally inflexible in my legs, lower back, and feet.  I also have fairly awful balance.  And unless I continue practicing balancing poses and leg stretches,  I’m probably not going to see any dramatic results any time soon.  That’s where I am right now.  And that’s ok.  Remember #3: Breathe.  Also, some yoga days are better for you than others.  You might find you can’t stretch as far or hold your balance as long as you did the weak before.  Don’t panic; that’s perfectly normal.  One session you might feel fantastic, and the next week you might feel like you can’t do anything.  Any number of factors from sleep to diet to stress level to weather changes, etc may have changed your body, and your body will change again. Again, remember #3.  Breathe.

"Silhouette Girl Doing Yoga" courtesy of ponsuwan /

“Silhouette Girl Doing Yoga” courtesy of ponsuwan / FreeDigitalPhotos.netDon’t worry. This is NOT a pose we do in the beginner yoga class. . .

6. Bring a mat.  Brian and I have missed yoga once or twice because we realized we had forgotten our mat, so we turned around and went back home.  People have attempted the class without the mat, but I wouldn’t recommend it.  It’s uncomfortable doing some of that stuff on the floor.  Also, you might want to bring a towel or block to go under your bum or your knees  — your bum for some of the exercises if your lower back/legs/hips are tight, and your knees if you’ve got bad knees.  I bring a towel because I have super tight legs and lower back, and it gives me a lift during the leg stretches so that gravity can help me get past my block.  You also might want to bring a yoga strap (to help with various stretches, especially shoulders or legs).

7. Make sure you are comfortable. Try to wear flexible clothing that is loose enough to move with you, but not so loose that your T-shirt collar has slipped over your face and is suffocating you during downward dog or so loose that your pants have fallen down or tripped you up and caused you to topple into your neighbor while you’re moving into warrior pose.   Also, figure out what to do with your hair.  If it’s short or super long, you’re golden.  If it’s somewhere in the middle — as mine has been while growing out — it gets a little trickier.  You may want to put it back in a headband if it’s fairly short and put it in a low ponytail if it’s fairly long.  You’ll want to have it out of your face for the poses where your head is hanging down, but you’ll want the ponytail low or high enough so that it doesn’t bother you in the poses where you’re lying down.  Finally, some people like to have a sweatshirt or blanket in the winter months for Savasana, the stationary meditative final pose in yoga.

8. Be prepared to get cozy.  If it’s a packed class with your mats staggered to conserve space, you may end up with someone’s head near your feet, and your hand near someone’s leg, so just be ready for it.  Going along with #6, you may want to make sure your legs are shaved and your toes are painted because your neighbor might be getting a bird’s eye view or accidental feel.  (If you are perfectly comfortable with yourself and care nothing about the opinion of others, bless you; I’m jealous and hope to someday aspire to your greatness.  If you care nothing about your toenails and leg hair because you are male, that doesn’t count.)

9.  Try not to eat too near class time.  And if you must eat, choose carefully.  (Refer to #7 again and think this through.)  I have a particularly rambunctious stomach, so this is a tricky one for me.  And at the same time, if you let one slip, don’t freak out about it.  It happens to the best of us, and people will forget (unless it happens every class, and you notice that people are starting to leave you and your mat a lot of extra space.)  I’ve done it; Brian’s done it; I’ve heard other people do it.  Life goes on. And besides all that talk about gas, other unpleasant side effects of yoga on a full stomach can be just as unpleasant:indigestion and nausea.  Something to think about.  Also, do not drink alcohol before yoga.  It relates to #9 below, but especially do not get tipsy or drunk before yoga.  It’s bad enough trying to do balancing poses when you’re tipsy, but trying to do any standing yoga poses or stomach poses are particularly awful when your head is spinning and your stomach is a little unsteady.

10. Drink lots of water.  All throughout the day.  Yes, it can make you have to go to the bathroom, but it will also make the poses easier for you, and it’s healthy for you anyway.  Dehydration leads to charlie horses, and nobody likes those.   Also, to avoid dehydration; avoid alcohol and  particularly salty or sugary food.

11. Do NOT vigorously exercise on the same day as yoga.  This includes weight-lifting, long-distance exercises, and very intense shorter exercises.  You will be dying during downward dog if you decided to weight-lift that same day, and you will be crying during the warrior poses if you just came back from a long bike ride.  Believe me, I’ve tried it.  Yoga is exercise.  Even I forget that.  Do you think my somewhat tight stomach and legs are from the elliptical or walking the dog?  Guess again.  It’s yoga.  You may not be moving too much, but you are working the whole time with every pose you hold, some of which you might hold for a long time (which is what some people are not prepared for and why they don’t come back).  Don’t underestimate it.  If you are really set on getting some extra exercise in, go for a walk or try some other low intensity activity.

12. Bring it home with you. You’ll get a lot more out of yoga if you do some every day.  Can’t hold that balancing pose?  You will after you practice!  The more you practice, the stronger and more flexible your body will become.  Can’t stretch down and touch those toes?  I can’t either!  And that’s why I’ve started stretching my legs every day.  I also practice posture poses in the car and when I’m walking around, in hopes that my back is more straight as an arrow and less curved as a rainbow when I get to be 106.

Happy yoga-ing!

"Woman Doing Exercise" courtesy of Ambro /

“Woman Doing Exercise” courtesy of Ambro /


Some day I will be able to do this!!



So, my clarinet case got bigger and my clarinet cloned itself. Well, not really. It’s taking a friend home for the weekend . . . Uh. . . I’ll explain in a bit.

Today was my first ever experience in orchestra, and it was awesome. First of all, the campus of St. Francis was even neat. It had a welcoming, open feeling, with decent facilities. I felt right at home. The white brick on the back of the stage was a bit odd, but still cool. Kinda castle-like. . .

It seems like we have less music in the orchestra. This is awesome. Though I get some good experience trying out a bunch of new pieces in band, we usually don’t have a final list of what we’re playing until we get close to the concert. This is problematic for me because . . . well. . . I don’t like to practice. I lost the desire some time in high school. In middle school I was this super enthusiastic little kid who thought playing an instrument was amazing, was determined to be first chair, and spent over a thousand dollars of my own savings to buy a nice clarinet. In high school I had first chair wrapped up, the clarinet was a little too comfy and normal, and I had other things I was doing (mostly school work, but also other things!) So, less music = less to practice (when I actually practice) AND more times practicing the same pieces in rehearsal.

And based on this first rehearsal, I think I’m going to like orchestra even better than band. It could be the newness feeling. It could be that this will wear off. But I like the director, and the instrumentalists around me are all about my age, but also young-like. Don’t get me wrong. I like older people. I will hang out with much people older than me most any day, compared to those who are much younger. But these people seem to be different. It could be our music bond. We’re all band dorks. Again, I could just be on a brand-new-activity high. . .

The craziest part of all is that one of the clarinetists gave me his A clarinet to borrow. Just let me take it home. A complete stranger! I don’t know if I seem that trustworthy or if he is that awesome, but I am now the borrower of a huge clarinet case that houses my Bb clarinet and his A, like two little. . . clarinets in a pod.

I already got a compliment from a flautist and the director, and he told me he hopes to see me at next rehearsal, so I am looking forward to next week. And this was only sectionals. . . I can’t wait to get the experience of being in the midst of a full orchestra!

Image: Salvatore Vuono /

Countdown to ISAT

These last two weeks are all about ISAT prep and finishing up Winter MAP goals. We finished up Winter MAP goals today, and we’ve got 3 more days before the reading ISAT and 8 more days before the Math ISAT. We’ve just finished up geometry in math and are thankfully moving on to measurement for the next two weeks, just in time.

It has been very stressful trying to make sure the students are prepared for all possible math, and I worry as I see the gaps coming out during math goals and any math review. I’m glad we will have gotten through a lot of the text by the time they see material on the test, though. The hardest is trying to get extra time for problem-solving in. I know that is a critical component of the test, and I wish we’d had more time to practice it. Last year we spent a month or two during writing time practicing math extended response. I didn’t want to do that this year. I wanted the students to enjoy writing and get some authentic writing in. So, that means it’s countdown to ISAT, and I’m trying to expose the students to problems as much as possible these last days. The students did fairly well on the problem-solving part today. The T-chart is going to be a bit of a challenge. . .

Reading is going ok. The students are working very hard on the ISAT review packets, and working in partners seems to be going very well. Their extended responses are a bit weak. Most of them are giving “2” answers, and they need to give a little more explanation or a little more text support. Tomorrow I’m going to show them some more on-line samples so they have an idea of how much detail they need in their responses. I worry whether the students will remember terms like “synonym” and “antonym”, different genres, and different prefixes and suffixes. I know that time is almost up. . . Since the goals are done, I’d like to walk around and work with the partners as they find answers to the practice tests. Maybe I could focus on helping them with the extended response as I move from group to group. We’re almost done with Mr. Popper’s Penguins. I hope my pull-out reading group can get a chance to listen to the book on CD or to read it. Then, we’ll go back to Bridge to Terabithia. That is a beautiful book, but very difficult for them. I hope they can understand most of it when I read it to them.

I told the students that they would have the principal in the room with them during ISATs. I told them that I was going to be a little nervous, since she is my boss, but that this is going to be great because if they have any questions about the test, she is an expert and can help with any questions or concerns they might have. (And for me personally, it will be great to have an extra set of eyes in the room to make sure the students are doing ok and are focused on their own tests.)

I think the students are a bit nervous, but I think they’ll be ready. They are a hard-working group, and I know they’ll do their best. I have been very impressed with their efforts in class so far. (I wish they gave the same effort on their homework!) I have one or two who tend to rush through every assessment, so I am concerned about them, but I can only remind them to take their time and hope for the best. Even my newcomers and students who receive services have made incredible progress this year, so even though the test will be difficult for them, they will be able find the answers if they keep at it, and they will have all the time that they need. Everything this year has been leading up to this point (besides the new MAP tests that we will have again in the Spring). I’m looking forward to getting these next weeks done.

Image: criminalatt /

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