It is almost mid-January and if you are still waiting to tick one more thing off your to-do list before you finally enrol for that much touted yoga class, let me inspire you with an exciting 2021 yoga wishlist that will hopefully tempt you to set a few yoga-related fitness goals for this year.
You may be familiar with that funny meme that tells you all you need to get a yoga body is to take your body and do yoga. While it is mostly true (practising yoga is one of the most low maintenance fitness modalities), investing in a few items to aid a super smooth start to your yoga journey is a great idea.
Identify the Right Space and Teacher
No journey is well begun until one finds the right guide. Yoga is not just a physical fitness modality. There is ample research available from Ivy League universities on how profoundly it impacts the mind, the nervous system, and the overall quality of life. Hence, it’s critical to invest in the right space and teacher. Both will influence the way you approach and sustain your practice.
While it is exciting to have so many options online as well as in-studio these days, hopping from one studio and teacher to another will not allow for consistency and steadiness in your practice. Do experiment with a few teachers and styles occasionally, but find one that is your main base to come back to for regular, steady practice.
Good quality yoga mat
Ask any regular, self-respecting yoga practitioner what their most prized yoga possession is. Whether you are new to yoga or have been practising it occasionally on your all-in-one fitness mat, I recommend investing in a high-quality yoga mat. One that is specifically designed for the practice, offers a good grip without having to worry about rubber scraping off the surface and most importantly has sufficient cushion for sensitive areas such as knees, hips, neck and shoulders. There are several good brands available online. Check for reviews and select one that is most suited to your needs. Remember fitness mats are not yoga mats, their design does not take into consideration the whole range of postures that are part of a proper yoga practice.
Right props – strap, belt, block, and cushion
While props did not initially feature in a traditional yoga practice at the ashrams, over time the asana practice has evolved just as people’s bodies have undergone a significant change. A sedentary lifestyle, desk jobs and lots of digital consumption later our hamstrings, lower back and neck/ shoulder area are left fairly vulnerable. Props are a great way to access postures that otherwise would be plain awkward, if not impossible. Attempting them at any cost, a mindset which many practitioners adopt, is a major cause for injuries. Using props especially as a beginner is a safe and wonderful way to understand present body limitations and work towards overcoming them. I still use props for specific postures as they allow me much freedom to experience the asana without worrying about over-extending myself.
Yoga accessories – apparel, mat holder etc.
Yoga doesn’t demand expensive Lulu Lemon pants for a truly authentic feel and experience. You can practice in comfortable pyjamas or shorts in the safety of your home space. However, I do recommend ear-marking a set of clothes as yoga gear for each time you wish to practice outside of your home base. Keep a fresh set ready and preferably not something you have just woken up in. Invest in good quality and long-lasting yoga pants that won’t burst your wallet. I prefer going for loose yoga harem pants because of the freedom of movement they afford. Avoid extremely tight-fitting clothes as they can interfere with blood and energy circulation as well as range of movement. Invest in clothes that allow space for the body to breathe.
And if you suffer from wanderlust just like I do, keep a good mat holder handy. It’s a trusted companion for all the journeys you might want to make in order to get away from the humdrum of urban existence.
Now that you have a yoga wishlist, what fitness goals are you looking to achieve this year?
2021 Yoga Fitness Goals
Start small & build up
If you are a complete beginner and have been dragging your feet, start with allocating 60min twice-a-week for your yoga practice. Identify the best time slots for your sessions and diligently work your schedule around it for those two days. Make these two slots sacrosanct and bring in consistency. Once yoga practice becomes an integral part of your weekly fitness goals, you might want to extend your practice to include more days in the week.
Tackle stress & bring calm
Aspire to learn at least two yogic relaxation modalities that will prepare you to unwind from heavy and stressful day. Master some “relaxation on call” breathing techniques such as Poorna Yoga Pranayama or Nadi Shodhana Pranayama that will instantly calm down your nerves at the end of a long day. I also highly recommend learning how to do a short and simple 10min Shavasana or Yoga Nidra practice from a certified instructor, which can be used anytime during the day to switch off the stress response that gets automatically activated in our deadline-oriented lives. These techniques will truly help in bringing about that elusive work-life balance.
P.S – While Shavasana is done lying on the floor, Yoga Nidra can be attempted even in your work-space and is extremely energizing.
Tackle your fear of inversions
If you have been practicing for some time but inversions still make you nervous, maybe this year it is time to take the bull by its horns and master at least one inversion safely and effectively. Do this under the guidance of a certified and experience instructor, preferably in person or if challenging then under live online supervision. Your instructor should guide you with regards to the props/support you may need in order to transition into and out of inversions safely. Do not attempt to learn inversions (especially headstand, shoulder-stand, scorpion etc.) from online/social media videos. Watching them to understand is okay but attempting inversions without direct guidance can cause injuries.
If you suffer from persistent stiffness, make a resolution to attain at least two flexibility related goals for this year – attempt to learn a nice backbend like Chakrasana (wheel pose) or a full split (Hanumantasana) or something as simple as being able to touch your feet comfortably in Uttanasana. Start from where you are. Assess your body’s present capabilities and limitations, engage your yoga teacher’s feedback and see what is realistically achievable. Work towards it steadily and with full focus.
The body can accomplish a lot, if only we stop letting our minds interfere.
Wishing you all a wonderful and fruitful 2021. May there be more meaning and clarity in all our actions and goals!