Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Frugal Yoga: Getting Started

So, between January cloudy skies and being diagnosed with arthritis, I decided I had to do something to get my groove back.  I've experienced a lot of different types of exercise in my life, and in light of everything going on in my life, I decided to get back into yoga.  

Why yoga? First of all, yoga has been practiced by a variety of people over thousands of years.  No one has died from too much yoga, to my knowledge.  I believe it helped me when I had done it before, and in general: if people keep doing yoga, yoga obviously does something for people.  

Secondly, I know for a fact that aches and pains lessen with yoga (and most mild exercises, in general).  Regular exercise is shown to help reverse joint stiffness, as well as build up muscle and promote normal joint movement.  This means you become stronger and don't suffer fatigue as fast, which makes for more active and productive days.  

Thirdly, yoga is cheap.  Don't think so?  Then you've read too much yoga-hype and haven't looked around your house or your community.  Any expense from yoga is in one of three areas - classes/retreats/dues and educational material, clothing, or gear, and every one of those can be done for free or close to if you try hard enough.  

Classes CAN get up to $20-30 a pop, but free or affordable community yoga classes are often also available.  Check with your local yoga schools/gyms, libraries, or community centers.  I started doing yoga because a class was offered for free by my work.  Yours doesn't do that? I highly recommend you recommend something similar to your boss, as a morning yoga really does improve the rest of your day's productivity.  Usually you can find at least a 'free first class' with no obligation for a Yoga class series, which helps you figure out some basics.  If you have friends also interested in yoga, pool together a few bucks to afford an instructor to teach the group in someone's basement.  Otherwise, you can get online guides, videos and tutorials from the internet for nothing.  Go to your local library and check out their yoga books and DVD's.  There are quite a few free apps for phones, too, with poses and insight.  You will more than likely be able to make a routine for yourself and get to try new things.

*Update:  Check out these free yoga lesson videos / sites compiled by freebies.about.com.  I like how some of them are super-sortable - by time, types, and experience level.  

And how does one go on a yoga retreat for nothing, you ask?  Easy.  First, clean your house.  Declutter at least the area you yoga in.  The less stuff in the area, the more restful your eyes are.  For music in the background of your sessions, go to a music site like Grooveshark.com, and look for "yoga", "relaxation", "meditation", or "nature music".  Or, for some fresh takes on meditation music, look up artists like DJ Drez, Thievery Corporation, Lykke Li, or Desert Dwellers.  Just play music from your phone (placed in a glass bowl if you need it to be louder) or exercise near the computer.  Want some appealing scents?  Skip incense and candles (too smoky) and consider getting crafty by making aroma goodies like potpourri, Homemade Gel Air Freshners, or scentsy-styled heated aromas.  Keep the lighting low and make it uplighting if you can.  Want a really cool lighting effect  Hang a white sheet on the wall so it reaches the floor, and stick a lamp behind it so the light goes up the wall and is diffused with the sheet.  Put images of nature or natural things on the walls to look at while you breath, as it has been shown even looking at a picture of nature creates a sense of calm in humans.  Clip these from outdoor magazines, or look for posters at the thrift shop.  If you have any potted plants, move then to where you yoga.  Take any mirrors you can move and lean them against the walls / hang them in the area.  

The second cost, workout clothing, should NOT set you back $50 for a pair of pants.  I did my yoga in a pair of stretchy thin cotton pajama bottoms that cost my $0.80 at the thrift store - I went on Dollar Clothing Tag Day and had a 20% coupon, naturally.  I do recommend you find your pants in black (you are working out, after all, and should sweat a bit.)  Tank tops or sports bras are fine for covering your torso, so long as you can stretch out in it and not flash anybody.  Just make sure your clothing isn't too baggy, so (if in class or if looking in mirror) your actual body outline can be seen, to make sure you have proper alignment.

And the third cost, equipment, is the most over-inflated of them all.  You don't need a $30 starter kit with mats, blocks, and straps.  All you NEED for yoga is some comfortable open floor space.  Seriously.   All the yoga-related “stuff” you can get helps promote comfort and variety while exercising, but aren't required for most basic yoga.  If you really want to have all the stuff to perform all the moves, it is possible to make things work in place of the store bought item, like using a towel instead of a mat, or a bathrobe belt instead of yoga belt.  Assuming you have an average household of stuff, I realized you could make-shift most yoga equipment for a grand total of $0.33.  If you have a tennis ball floating around already, you could make-shift it all for free.  Don't believe me?  Check out my post on it here. 

So, since I can't seem to sleep past 5am lately, I'm going to start my own Frugal Yoga style, and save myself from stiffness and stress.  I'll post patterns, positions, and success rates as I do this.  It's all about motivation, really.  

Here are some other tips for anyone else wanting to get into yoga but not sure where to start: 
  • Take one class before committing to any series of classes - usually the first one is the 'free' hook, and will let you know if you like it.
  • Take a friend or spouse with you if possible – exercising with a partner motivates you to keep up with it.
  • Call ahead before a first class to see if you need to bring anything - mat, belts, etc.
  • Make sure to bring a water bottle.
  • You will probably feel relaxed but energized afterword - try plan the time of yoga to make use of that feeling.  
  • If you do yoga at home, set it for when you aren't likely to be distracted by anyone or anything making noise/needing your attention.
If you are arthritic or have some difficulty moving:
  • Consider gentle or restorative forms of yoga like Iyengar, rather than more active Bikram, Astanga, or power yoga.
  • Avoid poses that involve balancing on one foot, like the tree pose, or bending the knee more than 90 degrees, like the frog pose. Modify these poses to fit your flexibility limitations.
  • Do 60 percent of what you feel capable of doing at first, and then build up the degree of stretching or speed.
  • Find an instructor/source that offers ways to modify poses.
  • Have blocks or other props to assist with modifications.

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