10 Yoga Hacks to Enjoy ANY Yoga Class

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Readers, I’m excited to introduce someone who may be new to many of you, but extremely well-known to me. Meet my daughter, Saeri Star, who will share her wellness and body-related columns here on A News Cafe.com. Please join me in welcoming her to A News Cafe.com. 

sarah yoga hands

Sonoma County yoga instructor Saeri Star makes yoga look easy.

Do you feel intimidated or worried about trying a new yoga class, or even trying yoga at all? You may wonder if you will like the teacher or the style. You may wonder if you’ll be able (or willing) to do what is instructed.

Here are some hacks to making sure you enjoy yourself NO MATTER WHAT.

I’m not saying every class you ever take will be a slam dunk, but at least you can re-coup those less-than-favorite classes to get in a practice that benefits you mind body and spirit, and take responsibility for your experience.

Sarah Domke-7

#1 Commit to focusing on yourself

This is simple and not easy! However, this is crucial to enjoying yourself, even in your favorite classes.

Be clear when you come in the door why you’re there; set a personal intention. Maybe it’s to breathe deeply for 90 minutes, to heal an injury, or release some emotion from your hips or throat.

Catch yourself if your focus drifts to your neighbor’s see-through pants, your work day, the overachiever doing a headstand during savasana or the grunting person in the corner and gently recall your intention and feel YOUR body.

#2 Breathe audibly

It’s called Ujjayi Breath and it sounds like … well, Darth Vader! Or, if you prefer, the sound of ocean waves in a shell. Inhale and exhale through the nose with a slight hug in the throat like you are fogging a mirror or whispering.

There are sooooo many benefits to ujjayi that will help you enjoy yourself more. Like:

  • The sound gives your mind something to focus on, helping you stay in your own yoga bubble. It’s like a mantra.
  • When you get in a rhythm you can slip into delicious trance states.
  • You are getting more nourishment, breathing more completely.
  • Your audible breath may remind someone next to you to breathe deeply and how cool is that to help someone just by taking care of yourself?
  • Full disclosure: Ujjayi breath may trigger you and people around you. Think of it as a next-level yogi challenge and when in doubt, take a DEEPER breath … (and see Hack #6).

#3 Tell the teacher about your injuries and pain

If the teacher is not skilled at working with your pain, it will at least cue them to leave you alone and not pressure you into anything. When I go to Bikram classes, there are some poses I know from experience do not work for my body the way they are taught. Before class I let the teacher know that I will be modifying the poses so in the middle of class they don’t feel disrespected or even worried for me doing it “incorrectly”. I take responsibility for myself and give them a heads up.

If the teacher is skilled at working with injuries, this is a great opportunity to have their eyes on you and to maybe get some insights into how you can approach your pain in a new way.

#4 Don’t do something that HURTS

Does your back hurt when you’re lying on your back? Does it hurt to put your knee on the floor? Is your boob (or your nuts) squished painfully in that pose? These are unnecessary pains, not nudges toward enlightenment. Pad up your bones, move your tender bits out of the way, etc.

I also like to apply my mother’s fashion advice here: Just because it fits doesn’t mean you should wear it -OR- just because you can get into that pose doesn’t mean you should do it [that way]. I live with a permanently wonky left sacroiliac joint due to years of flinging myself into deep back bends with ABsolutely no core engaged. I really impressed people, and who frickin’ cares?

#5 Notice what feels gooooood

Sure, there are those peak moments in class when you feel like you will dissolve into the light, but in the mean time notice how a little wobble of your hips in a forward fold does it for you, or how your heart tingles when you spread your fingers brightly, or how the air feels on your sweaty skin. What does it feel like to smile at the shakiest point in a deep lunge? How about the catharsis of a good cry in pigeon pose?

Collect these sensations and treasure them. Breathe into them and watch your practice and your life lean toward orgasmic.

#6 Love your triggers

Train yourself to get really excited about your triggers. Why? Because those are your blocks coming up to be released and are your tickets to FREEDOM.

Let yourself FEEL the trigger, watch the insane story going on in your head and BREATHE. Your body may need to release by shaking, crying or, heck, you may need to roar! (Lion’s Breath: it’s a yoga thing, you can do it!) Focus on yourself and get yours.

Did you know physiologically there is no difference between fear and excitement? Maybe you are just really excited and all this time you thought it was fear! Or this it could be old fear coming up, so you can let it go.

Flip your perspective and enjoy the benefits.

This is also helpful to have compassion for others in class when they get triggered to let them have their experience and come back to yourself.

sarah in concentration in yoga class

#7 Permission to modify

I give you permission to modify and go at your own pace. Now give it to yourself. You may not always know what to do, but if you apply the other hacks in this post you will have some great resources to help you discover custom-made modifications.

My greatest yoga teacher is my own body, and I am sure, that can be the case for anyone willing to listen to his or her own body. In addition, you have a trained yoga teacher in your presence. Make use of that resource. If you can’t figure it out in class, do your best, and after (or before) ask the teacher for some suggestions. Even with a teacher’s suggestions, you want to first run them by your body and make sure they actually work for you.

Rather than quitting, find something similar to what’s being taught that you can do, and know that change will come!

sarah helping a yoga student

#8 Git yerself a yoga private

You can hire a professional yoga teacher, who has seen many bodies, has a wealth of information, and is potentially a Jedi at seeing you and helping you find your way.

Yoga teachers are maybe the most educated and underpaid people out there. Hence, they’re an incredible untapped resource. Most of them are tragically undercharging. Don’t let that fact fool you to think they will not rock your world. Of course, choose someone with whom you resonate and has the skill set for what you need.

Whatever you’re spinning about in your head about your yoga practice, there are sooo many professionals who, maybe in as little as an hour, could help you step into clarity.

Are you new to yoga? Get a private and learn how to modify poses for yourself. Have the teacher explain what the basic poses are and how to do them. Learn how to BREATHE.

Are you intermediate or advanced? What pose do you dream of doing? Floating into a handstand? Getting your ankle behind your head? Splits? What are your weak spots? Do you breathe deeply through the whole class or do you space out and hold your breath while doing fancy poses?

#9 Keep going

The more experience you have, the more you listen to your body, the more times you get triggered and come out the other side smiling like a fool with tears in your eyes, the sweeter and sweeter yoga gets.

Sure, there are ups and downs. This is a process, a path and it will teach you – you will teach yourself – to navigate your path in an intelligent, connected way, if you so desire.

It’s not all rainbows and unicorns AND you can learn to love the richness of the swampy, humbling, shaky-leg zones for the blessed contrast and sacred lessons they offer.

#10 Bring yoga with you into your life

Don’t segregate what you do and learn to a yoga classroom, or even to yoga poses. Apply the breath, alignment and mindset to your life.

When I find myself swirling in intense emotion or sensations for whatever reason, you will often see me sneaking off to hang and breathe in a forward fold, or I will pop into a handstand; those are my favs.  Is it a little freaky?  Yeah, and fun!  Find yours and make a habit of using them.

sarahSaeri Star is a Sonoma County artist, yoga teacher, birth doula and light-worker. In addition to her on-site yoga classes, she teaches online private yoga sessions, and online lightwork sessions (Reiki and intuitive counsel). If you are in Sonoma County, you can attend one of her yoga classes, or schedule an in-person private yoga session. You can follow her on Facebook, or learn more about Saeri’s work and services at innerglowing.com. For more information email her at hello@innerglowing.com

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17 Responses

  1. Avatar EasternCounty says:

    Well, shoot.  My husband and I were considering starting a yoga class in January, but all of your suggestions fill this 73-year-old with trepidation. Maybe we should just stay with our current cardio and weights.

    • Avatar Saeri Star says:

      If I had that thought going through my head, I would come back to why I was going to try yoga in the first place.  Was it an intuition that I may find healing/peace/excitement?  If so, is it important to me to listen to my inner guidance over external factors? Do I want to? Why did I say I was going to try yoga anyway? What is it that’s so scary about going, and is it REAL?  Am I okay with letting fear make decisions for me?  If yes, I would probably not go.

      If you want some support feeling more confidence in a yoga class, you can schedule a private session with me online or go see a local teacher in person.  And maybe yoga’s not for you, it’s really up to YOU, not an article about yoga hacks, certainly not about how old you are (in my opinion).

      btw, there was a 90 year old woman in my year-long teacher mentorship program.  You’re a young thing compared to her!  If you look, you will find many miraculous stories about people overcoming challenges great and small with and without yoga –it’s not the modality, it’s the person.  Age, injury, fear become obsolete.

    • Avatar Joanne Lobeski-Snyder says:

      Eastern County, if you want to give  Yoga a try, you can attend a class once a week at the Senior Citizen’s Hall in Redding for free.  You just show up for the class with your mat.  Great instructors  gear their classes to newbies.  Two of the great benefits of Yoga for older people are balance and flexibility.   http://www.visitredding.com/eventdetail/757/free-classes-for-seniors


      • Avatar EasternCounty says:

        This is yet another time I regret not living closer to Redding.  I would have loved to take Michel’s Tai Chi classes, but as with attending a yoga class here, it’s a 150-mile round trip which is a bit tricky on a scheduled basis.  But thanks so much for the information.

    • Avatar Dee says:

      I started yoga 2 years ago at age 60. It changed my life and wellbeing so much, I am now a teacher.  Some of my new students are in their 70’s and 80’s. It’s never too late!

      • Avatar EasternCounty says:

        I just learned that a yoga class will be starting up here later in the month.  So we have mats, will travel — to paraphrase Paladin.

  2. Valerie Ing Valerie Ing says:

    I love your crazy handstand balance photo! Only in my dreams could I ever do something like that. However, earlier this month I made a commitment to start doing yoga to start my healthier journey, mainly because my body was aching and tight, and I couldn’t even imagine touching my toes. I’m a big gal, always will be, but in the past month my body is hurting less, and with each passing yoga session I find that I’m able to come closer and closer to the poses the instructor is showing, getting more limber with each stretch and each breath.  Thank you for saying that we need to give ourselves permission to modify, because that’s exactly what I’ve done, and that’s exactly what works for me! Who knows….maybe in a year, I’ll be mastering that handstand (or not)!

    • Avatar Saeri Star says:

      Valerie!  So good to… see your words?  haha. Thank you for reading my first article here!

      Ya know, my mom did a handstand with me spotting her.  You might be surprised what you can do, it sounds like from your message that you have a sense of that!  Be patient with yourself and build up your strength.  I’m teaching classes online soon and will do some about poses to work up to handstands.  Downward facing dog for starters.

      Take care, lovely lady!

      • Avatar Saeri Star says:

        Oh, I realize you meant that arm balance photo… my mom did not do that, though maybe she could one day, and you too!  She stood on her hands.

        • First an unassisted handstand, next an assisted arm balance. I’m adding that to my 2016 goal listl! 🙂

        • Valerie Ing Valerie Ing says:

          You think so? Well, we’ll see! Right now I’m just thrilled to be able to put my hands almost flat on the floor without bending my knees! I’ve got quite a bit of tummy and boobs to work around, so that in itself is quite a feat!

  3. Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

    I’ve been making up excuses to avoid yoga as a tool for addressing my flexibility issues for years.  This article makes me want to give it a try.  Believe me, if I do it, I won’t be going public until I can do the basic positions without weeping.

    Earlier, I showed my wife the impressive picture of the first pose and told her, “That’s Doni’s kid.”  A minute ago I looked at the caption and told her, “Wait, I was wrong.  Her daughter wrote the article, but that’s someone else.”  Then I re-read some of the article and the bio and said, “I take it back.  That is her daughter.”  My brain is feeling the trigger.

    • Avatar Saeri Star says:

      Steve, I feel honored to read your post, to witness you noticing your trigger and telling yourself the truth.  That is an advanced yoga move.  And with humor too.  Good job!

      I’m in the process of changing my name to Saeri Star, so my identity is a little mercurial at the moment… I imagine you picked up on some of that energy!

      Thank you for reading and commenting, and best to you on your yoga journey.  Shout out if you want some support from me or a local teacher.

      In January I’ll be offering group classes online too, you can cry in the privacy of your own home to muster the courage to do it in public 😉  For access to the free test classes in January (as I move through some of my tech triggers!), go to my website and enter your email. But, hey! if your spirit is calling you to yoga, why not start something today?  Try hanging in a forward fold with your knees bent, feet hip-width, head heavy, holding your elbows for three deep breaths.  Come up slowly with breath. Natural high!

      Cheers! Saeri

      • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

        I figured it for a recently adopted professional name, but it sounds like a fuller commitment.  I spent a summer in Japan, and I recognize the name Saeri.  (My first girlfriend was Sari, but that was Finnish.  I always loved that name.  I threw it out there as a possible candidate for one of our daughters, but my wife nixed it for Hanna.)  We older folks also occasionally take on all-new names and identities, too, but we call it “incorporation.”  My corporate handle is Quercus.

        I’m going to go try that deep-breathing exercise while I wait for my wife to get dressed.  I’ll probably have time for several sets.

  4. Avatar Canda Williams says:

    Welcome to anewscafe!  I enjoyed your article, and look forward to more words of wisdom from you.  Happy New Year, dear one! xoxo

  5. Avatar Joanne Lobeski-Snyder says:

    Excellent article Saeri.   I look forward to the next one.