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10.5 Tips for Beginner Yogis

Posted on 5/29/2013 by Rosslyn Kemerer in Beginner Yoga Tips
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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 balance.


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!


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