Yoga is lauded as being an exercise that benefits the mind, body, and spirit. People all over the world are drawn to the intensity of the pose practice, as well as the feelings of inner peace and self-discovery that are integrated into the journey of yoga.
However, if it’s your first time in a yoga class, the idea of a room full of super-flexible and experienced people rolling out their mats can be intimidating. Rest assured that these feelings are totally natural for your first experience, but with little forward planning they can be avoided entirely.
If you’re thinking about trying out yoga for the first time, here are some tips to help you have a fun and rewarding experience:
1. Don’t be afraid to have a conversation with the teacher before the class.
Many people feel shy or uncomfortable going to the front of the room to talk to the instructor before class, but you should be that person. Go to the front and be social! Like all fitness instructors, yoga teachers are helpful and encouraging because they want you to enjoy their class. Instructors undergo a lot of hours of training before they begin teaching, so they are very knowledgeable and are always willing to share their knowledge.
Plus, if they know that you’re new, they will be sure to give detailed pose instructions and provide modifications for beginners.
If you plan to talk to the instructor, try to arrive 15 minutes before the class so that the instructor has time to give you individualized care.
2. Don’t push too far outside of your comfort zone.
You may often hear instructors exercise classes telling their students to “push your limits to get results.” Though this is a great strategy for Spin or Body Pump, yoga poses require precision and mindfulness.
If you’re new to yoga, the chances are high that you may not be as flexible or strong as the instructor or the regular class attendees. Pushing yourself too hard can be detrimental to the health of your muscles.
Remember to be mindful of your body and listen to the sensations that it gives you. If a pose feels uncomfortable, try a modification or take a break.
3. Don’t let your ego get in the way.
It may be intimidating to see a woman twice your age touch the bottom of her foot to the crown of her head in a Royal Dancer pose. In these instances, it is important to remember that in truth, yoga is about much more than the poses–it’s about connecting with your mind and body, not about who is more flexible. In fact, one of the principles yoga is founded on is letting go of one’s ego.
Therefore, if you are unable to stand on one leg for tree pose, feel encouraged to keep both feet on the ground, even if the people around you have advanced into a Flying Eagle. In yoga, all levels of practice are always welcome.
4. Don’t belittle yoga as being “not a workout.”
Though the people getting out of the cardio kickboxing class next door to your yoga studio are breathing heavily and dripping with sweat while you are hardly even damp, does not mean that their workout was any more intense or effective as yours. There are many different types of yoga, but many of the emphasize the importance of holding poses for long periods of time, which actually builds lean muscle like other workouts. Yoga provides many opportunities to improve strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular strength. If nothing else, a yoga practice 2-4 times per week can help to supplement other exercise routines, like running or cycling.
5. Don’t bring your cell phone.
For most people, coming to the yoga studio is intended to be an experience of rejuvenation, calmness, and self-discovery. However, no one will be able to focus on their breathing and their poses if the ringtone for your group chat is going off every 15 seconds. Be as respectful to the instructor and the other students around you as you can by turning your cell phone on silent and leaving it in your bag. Keeping distractions away from your practice can help you practice mindfulness and allow you to cultivate good feelings around “me-time.”