It's all about the yoga pose, right?! Social media is full of people perfecting their best dancer, tree or crow pose. Whilst I can admit I feel energised when I've nailed a challenging pose (like the first time I did a dolphin without bashing my nose on the floor), it can feel intimidating seeing bod after bod showing me the most acrobatic wheel I've ever seen. But what is it like going back to basics with your yoga practice? Spoiler alert...everybody will benefit from time spent in a basics yoga class.
Why? Well it's not about touching your ass, it's about getting your head out of it! I headed to my absolute fave yoga studio in Barcelona to get back to yoga basics with the super lovely Lucy from @lucybeyourmagic.
She runs an English speaking yoga practice in the heart of Barcelona with classes day and night. Lucy’s Monday am basic yoga class is the perfect way start the week.
[FYI UK peeps are in for a treat when Lucy heads over to England for some super yummy yoga classes - see her instagram account for details]
Going back to Yoga basics taught me:
1. Choose a class with the right feels, where you will be comfortable
Purposely having no mirrors, Lucy's classes allowed me to leave that ego at the door. Being in a more intimate and rustic place to practice means that everybody feels equally as welcome. You’ll be surprised by how experienced yoga peeps benefit just as much from a basics class as those new to the smell of yoga mats or those who just come for the Savasana. Especially after injury, or if you’ve had a gap between your last practice, try a basics class. It isn't fast but you’ll still move body in an active way.
2. Set an intention
Taking 5 mins at the beginning of a basics class to breathe, repeat affirmations, scanning your body to relax whilst lying down is like a mental high-five for the soul. Lucy takes her time to get you focusing your attention on your feet, legs, hips, stomach, back, shoulders, face, jaw, forehead, 3rd eye (between your eyebrows) and I truly feel my limbs melting down into the ground. I’m breathing in that intention and breathing out anything that doesn't serve me. By doing this, I’m able to check in on that intention throughout class.
3. To breathe
Obvs! Pranayama (or closed nostril breathing) where you alternate your breath between each nostril calms the nervous system ready for moving into yoga poses. Just remember to blow your nose before class or you'll be concentrating on the monstrous sound you're making!
In basics class you get longer to move through your poses so you can really concentrate on how taking slower breaths helps you to move calmly. Breathing in from your belly, then your chest, then breathing out from your chest, then your belly has totally helped to calm me down when I’ve felt anxious or have been experiencing panic attacks. So you could say it’s a life skill!
4. To be present with my alignment
Lucy’s melodic-like instructions have helped me feel the difference between dropping my head down and really hanging it down. Basics class gives you the chance to hear what you need to hear to help you strengthen your core (breathe your stomach up into the heart), or how to move safely through poses. All the subtle alignment of your hips forward (like car headlights), bringing your chin down to your neck when curling down, rolling those shoulders away from your neck etc is explicitly said, which gives you knowledge on how to self-correct your poses. It's not called yoga practice for nothing. Knowing all these checks will serve you well in dynamic classes where alignment may not be as often commented upon.
5. How the weather / season can totally affect your practice
Lucy uses cooling poses in the spring/summer season and fires you up with heat-inducing poses for the autumn/winter. Taking stock of what's happening in the moment around us can help to heal the body and mind. Basics class helps me understand why certain poses are effective because Lucy takes the time to explain this.
6. Tool up
This is about how great it can feel to use belts, blocks, blankets & bolsters not just for newbies or people with injuries but for everyone. Sometimes our bodies just can't go as deep into poses. Lucy gives thoroughly considered adjustments like blocks to sit on when your hammies are as tight as the government’s budget; belts are great for stretching your shoulders if you can't touch your hands behind your back; blankets for a cosy savasana which are also great underneath your knees or shoulders for shoulder stands; Bolsters are super lush under your hips in pigeon pose too. In a basics class, you get a sense of where your body is today so you can tool up before the sesh with everything your body needs.
7. Nothing, I repeat nothing, is better than a cosy savasana
With Lucy, her classes are 1.5 h so you are afforded more time to relax at the end. Blanket on, lavender eye mask darkening the room, Lucy’s shoulder massage and oil application is as heavenly as humanly possible. Your left for a good 10 mins to relax completely and absorb beautiful breathy sounds of live cello.
Going back to basics in yoga is for everyone, not just beginners. Regardless of whether you know your Chaturanga from your Trikonasana or you're more like ‘‘I-don’t-know-what-you’re-saying-asana’, I recommend choosing a class like Lucy's that feels authentic, soothes you with the combination of yoga and live music and soothes a busy mind and body. If you often find your looking around to see what the others were doing than going with the flow, then it’s time to go back to basics. And that’s ok! Lay a foundation through Basics Yoga and you will ultimately become a stronger yogi, without thinking about ‘keeping up’ or ‘getting it right’.