Briohny Smith is the most beautiful woman in the world. Grace and strength flows through every muscle.
Emphasized by her interesting yoga attire.
Until recently, I hated yoga. I told people I hated yoga. I went to yoga anyway, but I hated it. It was too hot. I got a headache. My face went so purple, my roommate expressed genuine concern for my well being. I persevered. And I’m thrilled I did. I switched from a Bikram to a Vinyasa class, where the heat is less intense. I switched to morning classes and I learnt to listen to my body and take a break when I needed it. Yoga is never a competition. There is no need to keep up. There is no need to compare yourself to anyone else.
Even when you are the biggest person in the room. Which I have been. More than once. I really want to emphasize this. You do not need to be fit or skinny or active to start yoga. Absolutely anyone can and should start yoga. Do not be intimidated or put off, no one in that class will give you a second thought. You are concentrating too hard on your breath and your movement to be concerned with what anyone else is doing. The only time you will attract the attention of the class is when you’re really flipping brilliant or when you’re attempting your first handstand and you topple into the girl next to you, causing a domino effect. Only one of these things has happened to me and I’m not telling which.
Watch this first and then read on, because you’re probably going to want to start yoga.
W H E R E T O G O
Yoga is an intimate activity and you need to be comfortable with your surroundings and especially with your instructor. Most studios will offer some kind of introductory offer and you should take advantage of all of these. I started at a studio and didn’t even get through my unlimited two weeks. The instructors taught the class like an aerobics session and I felt pressurized to keep up, even when they were moving so fast that I wasn’t sure which pose we were in. Luckily, I found another studio with instructors which suited me much better and an even more convenient schedule.
Your insturctors should never be impatient or patronising. They should move through the class and correct your pose where necessary, push you (physically) a little further if they think you haven’t reached your full stretch and they should never, ever shout at you or embarrass you in class.
Yuh. I’ve seen it happen.
I attend three morning classes a week at Yoga Zone on Strand Street. On a Thursday evening at 19:30, they have a free beginners Vinyasa class.
Yoga Zone City Centre Studio
10th floor Picbel Parkade,
58 Strand Street
+27 (0)21 421 8136
W H I C H T O C H O O S E
There are different types of yoga to choose from and to newbies this can be confusing. The two most common types you find in South Africa are Bikram and Vinyasa (sometimes called Flow). When I first started, the yoga studio recommended I begin with Bikram because it moves slower and follows a set structure, so you know what to expect next.
Bikram nearly made me give up yoga completely.
Created by Bikram Choudry, this style of yoga is always heated and usually at about 41 degrees celcius. It’s hot. The style comprises of a set of 26 postures and takes 90 minutes, although many studios offer a 60 minute quick version. A Bikram class always follows the same order of poses so, technically, wherever you are in the world the class will have the same flow. For me, the heat was overwhelming and the poses not as fun. But each to their own.
As a side note, Bikram himself is not a very nice man. As recently as last year he was charged with rape, false imprisonment, discrimation and harrasment. He’s been accused of running a cult and forcing yoga teachers-in-training to work as slaves and sex-slaves. He’s also attempted to copyright Bikram yoga and stop yoga studios from teaching his sequence, unless they pay him.
Vinyasa can be practiced in either a heated or non-heated environment. I actually really enjoy a non-heated class, but they’re surprisingly difficult to find in Cape Town. The heated classes don’t get as hot as a Bikram class and usually the temperature is set between 34 and 36 degrees celcius. It can be overwhelming at first but you get used to it quickly. The class is a lot more active and the teachers have much more freedom to choose the poses. Vinyasa focuses on the alignment of breath and movement and your breathing is very important.
Your secret weapon here is Shavasana. Also known as corpse pose. This is, quite literally, lying flat on your back and you are encouraged (!) to return to this pose whenever your breath becomes detached from your movement. So basically, lie down when you get tired. I’m very, very good at Shavasana.
W H A T Y O U N E E D
Bottle of water
Yoga mats can cost a thousand rand. This is not necessary. This is a marketing thing. My yoga instructor told me so. It is nice, I’m sure, to have a fancy mat and I am lusting after one of those quick-dry towels with the little grips on the bottom (four hundred bucks). Yoga is an expensive sport and a trendy one and, as a result, the market for fancy yoga equipment has grown hugely.
Yoga was first introduced to the Western world in the early 20th century and let me assure you, no one was using a bright pink ecomat back then.
Dischem sells mats for R99 in a variety of colours. These are 6mm, which is a normal starting mat. Grab an old towel from home and throw this over your mat to help you grip and stop you from slipping in your own sweat.
Oh yes. You are going to SWEAT.
Do not use a kikoi. I made this mistake once and ended up spending most of the class in Shavasana because the kikoi was so slippery I just about faceplanted my mat during downward dog.
If you don’t want to buy anything yet, studios rent out mats and towels for a nominal fee.
W H A T Y O U S H O U L D W E A R
Briohny Smith is damn sexy in her lacy underwear. But since this is not really appropriate in a public class, leggings and a vest work too.
There will be people wearing only a sportsbra and small shorts. The men will invariably be bare-chested. It’s hot in there, no one is judging if you want to strip down to the bare minimums. Don’t wear anything too loose as you want to be able to see your body. Also, baggy clothes just make you feel hotter because the warm air gets trapped. And shoes aren’t allowed.
W H A T T O E X P E C T
I can’t stress this enough. You are going to sweat. Pools of sweat. Your clothes will be soaked through. Nothing will not be sweating.
Don’t stress about what’s coming your way. Unless you are specifically going to an advanced class, your teacher will be expecting beginners. They will explain every movement as you go and how to position yourself. If you’re not sure, take a second to look at what everyone else is doing and then copy them. You’ll catch on quick.
Don’t push yourself too hard. Yoga is not supposed to hurt. Stretch, yes. Don’t injure.
Sometimes your instructor will ask you to breathe audibly, so your throat vibrates. Just try it out. No one is listening to you. And it’s a surprisingly liberating feeling.
Same with ‘omm’.
Class always ends in Shavasana (or a variation, like the foetal position). The class is over when the instructor tells you ‘Namaste’. Usually they will encourage you to stay in pose for a while longer, it is incredibly relaxing and allows your body to absorb what has just happened.
I really encourage you to give it a try. It took me a while to really start enjoying myself and now I cannot imagine life without it. I even go on a Sunday morning and the class is packed. It’s like church for the heathens. My posture has improved. My figure has improved. My strength and self-confidence has improved.