Yoga for Back to School: Refreshing Your Basics

4 min read

September always feels like the New Year when it comes to yoga. The studios are filled again after a brief drop in attendance during the summer months.

Students eager to learn this practice flock to areas with a large number of colleges. This is a great time to teach new students, but for those who have been practicing for a while, it can be helpful to review the basics. We can’t grow if we don’t open our minds to learn.

Many experienced students have learned independently, without any one-on-one instruction, workshops, or training. Here are some basic yoga basics to refresh your memory for back-to-school.

What’s on the floor can make a big difference.

Whatever is on the floor must be stable. Whether the pose is done on the feet or the back, the foundation must be stable. If your feet slip out from under you, you will injure yourself even in poses that are meant to stretch you (think of straddle leg folding).

Fix your gaze on every pose.

When we try to control the mind, it will wander. Meditation and yoga both present this challenge. There’s also a lot to see in class. All of these temptations are in the mind: the students, the teacher, and the people outside if you can see. All of these distractions will only take us away from our task to focus and breathe.

Bring your attention to the breath.

Let’s not discuss the different breathing styles in yoga in detail, but say that the focus on the mat should be the breath. It is best to avoid belly breathing and instead breathe through the nose and mouth with closed lips.

While we can close the back of the throat as we exhale, we should refrain from over-emphasizing it so that it becomes a distraction for our fellow practitioners. (This used to be a common occurrence back in the old days). I’ve just described¬†the ujjayi breathing,¬†and as a beginner, I know it is important to focus on the breath first before moving on to other techniques.

Please do not push your muscles beyond their maximum range.

If you push your muscles beyond their limits, you are likely to suffer injury and less comfort and flexibility in the pose. Both new and experienced students can experience this phenomenon, but for different reasons.

The new student wants to be flexible, so they push themselves in each pose to reach the maximum range of their muscles. More experienced students can lose their focus because they know what to expect. As a result, they may “sit” on their joints. This can happen when we increase our flexibility.

The fullest extension of a muscle can cause small tears or tendonitis in the muscle.

Open your mind.

As a beginner, one of the most important lessons I learned was to unlearn what I thought I already knew to discover what I didn’t know. It might sound not very clear, but I was a beginner with a good understanding of anatomy.

It was important to me to be open-minded so that I could learn and be present. This required me to let go of a little of my ego, but it also freed up the space for me to be open and learn. In fact, I have learned a lot over the years and continue to learn!

I learn something new in each class I teach and attend. As you gain experience, you may want to try more difficult courses or poses, but you should never underestimate the value of a basic class. We often gain the deepest insight through the simplest instruction.

Practice in a manner that you feel is true to yourself, which inspires and fills you with joy.

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