So You’re New To Yoga…
Anything new is intimidating. It’s the nature of us human beings to be nervous or resistant to things we’re not “good at” or activities we are unfamiliar with.
We’re scared of looking silly. We are fearful of being judged. We’re nervous that everyone else will be better; but the paradox is: how the hell can we be good at something we’ve never tried?
A little bit of fear and nervousness is ok – it’s actually healthy. But if we allow fear to lead the way, we’ll end up missing out on a lot of this wild and precious life. (And that is a whole different topic)
So, to minimize the fear and resistance around yoga, let’s focus on some tools that will make your first yoga experience a little less scary.
What To Expect When You Arrive
Plan to arrive at least 15 minutes before the class begins. This will give you enough time to park, sign any waivers, and meet your teacher without running in frantically. This is a really important step because if you’re anxious when you walk in, and your rushing to your mat, it will be a much more difficult transition to get settled, and could result in a less enjoyable experience overall.
When you arrive, there will likely be someone at the front desk area that may or may not be your teacher. Introduce yourself and let them know that you are brand new to the studio and to yoga! Your teacher or the desk person will give you a general run down about where to place your things, and where you will be practicing, and any other pertinent details you may need.
If you don’t have your own yoga mat, make sure to call ahead to see if the studio has mats to rent (which they should).
What To Expect During Class
Go ahead and drop every single expectation you’ve walked into the room with. Expectations are essentially a great way to set yourself up for disappointment.
If you can drop all your expectations about what you think will happen, you leave yourself open to experiencing things as they are – not as you want them to be, or think they should be. Instead of coming into the room with judgement and expectation, you are a clean slate, open to whatever is to come. The less expectation you have, the better. Just keep an open mind.
With that being said, there is still a general order of business that you can expect to happen. The teacher will very likely begin by asking you to bring your attention to your breath, and explain to you the proper way to breathe. Just do your best. The breathing will become more natural as you grow more experienced in your practice.
Now depending what style of yoga you decided to practice, the rest of the time on your mat could look a number of different ways. I would recommend calling the studio ahead of time to inquire which class would be appropriate for your first time.
If you are taking a vinyasa yoga class, expect to get your heart rate up, and probably even break a sweat. Vinyasa refers to a style of yoga that trains you to breathe and move simultaneously, at a specific pace. In a vinyasa class, we aim to continuously synchronize the rhythm of the breath with the rhythm of the postures and movements. This may sometimes be referred to as a “flow”.
If you are practicing a more gentle style of yoga, like restorative or yin yoga, don’t expect to move around too much, get your heart rate up, or break a sweat. This is a more meditative environment. You will spend longer periods of time in one posture, and throughout the entire class, may only do 5-10 poses total. It is a very different experience than vinyasa.
A Few More Important Things:
- When you need a break, just take one! Seriously. It’s ok to take a beat, rest in child’s pose and get your whits about you. Child’s pose will always be there for you, and it’s highly recommended to rest when you need to rest. Sometimes we just need a moment out of the physicality of the practice and a chance to reconnect to the breath. Don’t feel like you need to keep going just because your neighbor is going. Take care of YOU.
- Om-ing and chanting is very typical in yoga. If the teacher starts chanting something and asks you to repeat, don’t freak out! Mantra and chanting are ancient yogic traditions, and if you don’t feel comfortable participating that’s ok, you don’t have to.
- Props are your friend! It’s always a good idea to have a block and a strap nearby, but this is especially true when you’re first starting out. They are a great way to make poses that seem out of your reach become more accessible.
- It’s ok if you accidently touch your mat neighbor. It happens all the time, and no one is mad about it. Just try not to physical injure your fellow yogis. If you’re trying something new, like an inversion, start at the wall.
- Your teacher seriously doesn’t care how “good” you are, so don’t try to push yourself to impress them. Just focus on you.
What You’ll Need
- a good attitude and an open mind
- a yoga mat (any mat will do, but if you’re interested in learning about my favorite mats, I wrote a post and you can read that here).
- a towel, especially if you tend to sweat. A small face towels should do, but if you’re taking a heated class you’ll want one to cover your mat so you don’t slip
- Comfortable clothes that you can easily move around in
- Don’t wear your shoes inside the yoga room.
- Turn your phone to silent before you enter the studio and avoid having phone conversations inside. If you need to use the phone, step outside or wait until class is over. Definitely do not bring your phone into the practice space.
- Practice good hygiene. It sounds like a no brainer but – shower, wear deoderant, and wash your yoga clothes and towels!
- Be on time (5 minutes early). It’s disruptive for everyone if someone walks in after class has already started, and it’s also not fair to those who were there on time. If you know you’re going to be late, call the studio and let someone know. And don’t make a habit out of it.
- If you have to leave early, tell your teacher before class. Get a spot close to the door to minimize the distraction to other students, and leave the room quietly.
- Embrace the community! If you are close to your mat neighbor, introduce yourself. Make friends instead of being annoyed that someone is close to you. It’s everyone’s space, not just yours.
- Don’t compare yourself to others. Keep your eyes on your own mat or in front of you. Avoid looking all around the room and just try to focus on your own practice.
Other Things to Note
My best tip is to just do your best! If you have never done yoga, you don’t really stretch, and you consider yourself to be “inflexible” – great! You are a perfect candidate to begin this journey.
Try to be patient with your body and your body’s ability to move in these new ways. Don’t judge yourself or compare yourself to others in the class. If you can simply show up, the rest will fall into place. All you have to do is keep an open mind, and accept your body as it is today.
Over time, and usually after a fairly short amount of time, you will start to experience the benefits of your practice, and the postures will become more natural. But just like anything else, you must give it time. We call it a yoga “practice” because that’s exactly what it is – a practice.
No matter how long you have been doing yoga, there is always more to learn. We never stop being students.
Yoga is a lifelong practice. We all had to start somewhere. So where do you begin? You begin where you are. It’s very simple, but just because something is simple does not mean it’s easy.
It will probably make you uncomfortable to step outside of your comfort zone, and naturally, there may be some resistance or even fear around the unknown. But this is exactly when we have an opportunity for growth. Let yourself be uncomfortable.
Move beyond the fear. All of these experiences are part of life, and what kind of life are we living if we’re not seeking growth?
Try it on. See how you like it. You might surprise yourself in the best way possible.
“Go ahead and drop every single expectation you’ve walked into the room with.” Brilliant… I always need to hear and remember this! Thank you for this!!!
Thank you, Erin! Such a great reminder for all of us!
Good for your First or your next class!
Thanks a lot for you sharing!It helps me a lot !Absolutely love it and i am expect more from you.