It’s been just 3 months since I became a regularly practicing yogi, and looking back on these last few months, I realize that the most difficult time for me was the beginning. I realized quickly there were “rules” to this whole yoga thing, and I didn’t know them! Scary, right? So I spent a lot of time looking around wondering, “Am I doing this right?” Not just during class, but before and after, I wondered if I was doing things the right way. And to some, this fear of doing it wrong is the barrier to starting a yoga journey. For me, not knowing how or fearing that I couldn’t do it were equally as taxing and scary as I walked into my first class.
Fear of looking dumb can be paralyzing, so if any of you are thinking about trying your first yoga class, I’ve put together my best list of “Tips for Beginners.” Don’t wait! Try your first yoga class today.
- BYO – Bring your own….supplies. Many yoga beginners show up at class empty handed, and while most studios have mats, towels and water, most studios charge for them. You could be out $2 for a mat, $2 for water, and $2 for a towel. And on top of that, the rental mats are never quite as good as one you buy yourself. My mat is a $15 Gaiam mat from Target, and worth every penny. It’s thick, comfortable, and saves me from the “yuck, how many people used this mat before me” thoughts with a community mat. You won’t need any additional supplies – studios usually provide straps, blocks, etc. for free if you need them during a class.
- Let go of judgment. The highest hurdle for me when I started yoga was my own judgment – downward dog brings out the worst of the “I’m not good enoughs” and the “What the hell, I can’t do this’”. But you have to let go of judgment, knowing that the person next to you isn’t looking at you or thinking about how ugly your hair looks during class. Be in the moment and accept where you are.
- Child’s pose is always OK. One of yoga’s best resting poses is child’s pose (pictured below), and usually at the beginning of every session, your instructor will remind you to “take child’s pose” when you need a break or if you lose your way in the practice. Listen to me now, THEY MEAN THIS! It’s not weak to take child’s pose, it’s not failing (it has taken me a bit to learn this). Child’s pose is like pressing a reset button – refocus, breathe deeply, and bring yourself back to center. Especially when you’re just starting out in yoga, this may be the most important tip I can give you. Go into child’s pose at any time, and (referring to the last bullet) don’t judge yourself for needing it. It will improve your practice overall.
- Get to know your teacher(s). I credit 100% of my yoga experience to my regular teacher, Rebecca. She single-handedly changed the way I thought about yoga. For years, I thought of yoga as something I would never be good at. From the moment I met her, she taught me that yoga is something I can always get better at. I was lucky to find her (and very lucky she teaches at multiple studios so I can follow her around throughout the week). Since then, I’ve gotten to know a couple of additional instructors I trust and can change things up by taking their classes as well. But I always take the time to speak to my teachers, get to know them better, let them get to know me. This will get you more attention inside and outside class, more instruction, more adjustments. When they know you and feel comfortable with you, they’ll make your experience better. Especially if you’re new to a studio, absolutely introduce yourself prior to your first class so the teacher can help you if needed.
- Watch those around you, and respect what they do. I go to a couple of studios that are very social. There is a lot of chatter before class, excitement and fun. Another studio I go to, though, is more serene, quieter, and once you enter the doors of the yoga studio, it’s expected that the space should be quiet for reflection and meditation before class. And very little can be more annoying than someone who doesn’t respect those “unwritten rules.” If you’re going to a new studio, it’s perfectly alright to look around you and do what your neighbors do. If they are being quiet, be quiet. If they are meditating laying on a mat before class, try that. If they’re chatting and saying hello, say hello and get to know them. Do what those around you do, and you’ll be just fine. New yogis are always welcome, but don’t be “that person” who ruins the mood for everyone else.
- Eat! and Hydrate! It’s easy to see yoga as relaxation time, but it’s a workout whether you believe it or not. Fuel your body the same way you would prior to any other difficult workout. And drink water whenever you need it before, during, and after class. For me, I grab a Kind or Luna bar before class, drink at least 12 oz of water during class, more water after, and usually a banana or another piece of fruit immediately following class to keep me from getting light-headed. Especially if you’re doing heated yoga, you need need need need need to fuel or light-headedness will be inevitable.