It can be bloody depressing when you first take up yoga. There's a terrible sense of realization that over the years, while you were busy getting on with your life, your body has become a stranger. It puffs, it judders and, at times, you're sure you can hear it swearing.
That body, your body, has become the old man with a wet cough that you edge away from on public transport.
Yes, very bloody depressing. Let's all take a moment as a mark of respect. *removes hat*
You've bought the mat, a pair of leggings with a matching head band, and a Trudie Styler yoga DVD with bonus dance disc that you've attempted precisely 1.5 times - the .5 due to disbelief that it couldn't be as bad as the first time.
You feel a failure. You're cross with your body for letting you down knowing that you're actually cross with yourself for letting your body down. You tried really, really hard, and yet your best efforts did nothing but point out that you're as supple as a brick, and as graceful.
But, lo! I am the bearer of good news! What no-one will ever tell you is that yoga is all about doing as little as you can get away with – as little as you can get away with. Suddenly things are looking brighter.
Yoga is about using the body efficiently, using its inherent strength to support the poses, rather than inflicting the poses on the body. It's the balance of Sthira and Sukha – basically stability/strength without rigidity, and flexibility/comfort without dullness.
So together let's start small, learn how to do as little as possible and become yogi masters at it.
DOING VERY LITTLE but DOING it WELL
1. Start in Samasthiti (think a wider Tadasana, or Mountain Pose, with heels under sit bones instead of big toes together). Stop. Give yourself a round of applause! You've just made standing up easier!
By taking your feet slightly wider, the leg bones are more logically aligned with each other allowing for a better connection through your feet into the earth. This is especially true for women with our saloon-door pelvises.
2. Close your eyes and focus your attention in your feet. Bring the weight forward into your fore-foot then back into your heels. Repeat a few times. Then place your body weight just under your right little toe before taking it across to the ball of your foot underneath your right big toe. Repeat a few times before swapping over to your left foot and doing it again.
Congratulations, you've just passed Advanced Swaying for Drunks! You're so far on fire you should consider a drop and roll.
3. Now see if you can share your weight equally between your feet, making sure that you have even contact through both heels and under your big and little toes.
Unclench those toes, you don't need that tension, who told you to clench those toes? We're making things easy, remember? Jeez.
4. Check your knees. They should feel lifted but not locked. If a knee niggles see if you can get things comfier by shifting the contact your foot has with the floor. When your knees complain, they're asking you to check your feet; feet act as shock-absorbers for the rest of the body. Makes sense, huh?
5. With the help of your pelvic floor, engage your lower abdominals just enough to feel your lower back lengthen and the top of your pelvis gently tip back. Not so far. Lay-zee yoga is what we're after.
But not so much lay-zee you've forgotten to breathe. Breathing is your friend, not only to prevent you from turning blue and attracting flies but also to let your sympathetic nervous system know that there is nothing to see here, move along.
6. Bring focus back to your feet. See if you feel more connected to the floor.
7. Softly draw in your navel, lifting your ribs out of your pelvis. The chest should feel lifted and spacious but not like you're wearing a life jacket.
8. How's that foot/floor connection getting on? You may feel taller and lighter now. Your knees are impressed.
9. Relax your shoulders. It will help if you turn your palms to face forwards, nothing too strenuous.
10. Feel lifted through the crown of your head. If it's not too exhausting, slightly draw your chin back.
11. Breathe, feeling the energy coming down through your legs and feet, grounding you to the earth. At the same time, notice the lifted feeling you have from the soles of your feet to the crown of your head.
You just gone and done yoga. *high five*
Now go and have a cup of tea.