Starting out with yoga (or even thinking about trying it) can be overwhelming. I know, we've all been there! I remember trying to navigate my very first yoga class, so different than the aerobics class I took earlier that week. I could tell that I was supposed to be relaxing, but was I really breathing right? Was I doing the poses perfectly? Could other people tell it was my first class? I felt like it was glaringly obvious that I was a newbie. I had so much to learn and unlearn.
Regardless of how welcoming the yoga community is, we all still feel like this sometimes. It didn't take me long to realize that yoga isn't at all about
perfection. But over the years, I've found that many practicing yogis
and non-yogis alike still share the same basic concerns, habits,
misconceptions and frustrations. Sometimes we can all benefit by 'taking
a step back' and acknowledging all that yoga really is and is not!
1.) Inherent flexibility will not give you any advantage. Read that
again. You do not have to be flexible to do yoga! Flexibility and
mobility are just some of many GOALS of yoga, but everyone's body is
different. There will always be certain poses that some people can do
and others can't, regardless of however you define "flexibility." So
stop comparing yourself to those around you because being able to
stretch like Gumby will absolutely not make you or your yoga practice
any better (though I always thought Gumby was pretty cute).
2.) Focus on your own practice. When you first start yoga, this can be
challenging. You'll need to stay focused on the instructor for a while
to learn the poses. But once you're a bit more comfortable, work to drop
your ego and never mind how you look in a pose, what you're wearing,
what you're doing after yoga or what anyone else around you is doing.
This is a time to get away from stress, comparison and daily life. Turn
your attention inward and focus on your present mind and body.
3.) Everyone mixes up right and left sometimes, so don't worry. There
are just some days that you, your neighbor or your teacher cannot seem
to delineate left from right. No big deal! If you make a mistake, just
be sure to visit both sides for asymmetrical poses to keep your body in
4.) Stay calm when you trip, stumble or fall on your face. To reiterate
#2 and #3, everyone is focused on their own practice, and mistakes are
part of learning, so don't be embarrassed or frustrated! Sighing in
frustration, shaking your head or throwing a quiet mini-tantrum is only
going to distract others and make it harder for you to stay present in
your practice. Just chill out, take a few focused breaths and slowly try
again or take a break in Child's Pose until the class moves on.
5.) Don't worry about advanced poses. It might be tempting to turn your
yoga into something it's not: a platform to show-off your athletic
prowess. It's okay to have a goal pose and be proud of your
achievements, but you must learn to totally accept wherever you are
right now. Never be ashamed to rest or skip any posture you're not
comfortable with. Your practice will naturally build over time.
6.) Take a few minutes a day for yoga. Just a little each day (a few of
your favorite poses or just some breathing practice) will help your mind
and body more than 1 long class once or twice a week. Give yourself
peace and quiet to just tune in to your body, mind and emotions for the
day. Every little bit counts.
7.) Leave the baggy clothes out. There is a fine line between yoga
clothes and pajamas, so it might be tempting to wear that big loose
t-shirt or a comfy baggy shirt that makes you feel like a trendy yogi.
But trust me, as soon as you try your first Forward Fold or Downward
Facing Dog, that not-so-awesome baggy shirt will flip up over your head,
blinding, smothering and annoying you for the duration of class. Stick
with fitted tops.
8.) Clean and dry your mat. Don't suddenly be ashamed if you haven't
thought of it yet, but yes, yoga mats get dirty and yes, they should be
cleaned every once in a while. Be careful what you use to clean your mat, and keep in mind that full drying time can vary
from 24 hours to 3 days depending on the type of mat. Sometimes a mat
might feel dry to the touch until you get into your practice, so if your
mat ever feels damp or slippery, please don't hesitate to ask for a
spare for a safe and comfortable practice.
9.) No judging. You might hear gentle reminders in your yoga class to
"leave the ego at the door," "stay present in your own practice" or
reassurance that "no one is judging you." In yoga philosophy,
ahimsa—often translated as "non-violence" or "non-harming"—is a very
important practice of cultivating an attitude of loving kindness,
contentment, or non-judgment. We use this to create a welcoming
atmosphere when practicing in the studio for ourselves and others. So no one has to wear
that "newbie" sign around their neck.
10.) Ask questions and make requests! Your yoga teacher really loves
yoga and only serves to suggest poses and facilitate your learning. If
something doesn't feel right, you have an idea or you're curious about
why we do certain things we do, please let your teacher know so that
he/she can help you improve your practice! If you do not practice with a
teacher, I would encourage you to seek one out in your area that gets
you excited about yoga. If you are practicing with an online teacher, leave a review of the class or contact them via email with your questions. There are many types of yoga and teachers of all
kinds, but it's important to have someone to correct your mistakes,
help you in your journey and guide your practice.
10.5) Always respect regular class etiquette and your fellow students.
This tip only applies if you are practicing in a studio, and didn't deserve to be a full #11 tip because it's only common
courtesy. Arrive early or on time for class, do not bathe in overbearing
perfumes, be quiet and turn off your cell phone. Duh!
Hopefully these tips are encouraging for your yoga practice. Use them to
deepen your understanding of real acceptance among the yoga culture.
Save them, pin them, think about them or meditate on any that challenge
you. We could all use occasional little reminders for the simple things
sometimes, so don't forget these basics! Namaste.
By Rosslyn Kemerer
Rosslyn Kemerer is a yoga-lover, instructor and entrepreneur via
Wholehearter Yoga in Pittsburg, PA. With a love of nature and music,
Rosslyn teaches lots of outdoor classes and creates custom Indie
rock-inspired playlists. Outside of the studio, you might find Rosslyn
experimenting with a dicey DIY project, reading, playing drums,
gardening, running or blogging. Check out her blog for more inspiration!
Try one of our Beginner Classes at YogaDownload today!
Yoga for Beginners- Jackie Casal Mahrou
Intro to Yoga - Jamie Kent