One of my favorite experiences as a yoga teacher is watching a brand new yogi roll up his or her mat after a first class. New yoga participants look like kids who just rode a bike for the first time with no training wheels. I call it the “I did it” face. And every time I see it, I am honored to be sharing the journey.
Yoga gets a bad rap. The comment I get most often from non-yogis is, “I will come to yoga class when I get more flexible.” What? Do you clean your house before the cleaning lady comes? Do you style your hair before you go to the salon? Your yoga teacher is there to help you become more flexible, stronger, less stressed, and more confident. But you have to take the first step, and come to your mat for the first time.
The following tips will make your first yoga experience a positive one.
- Invest in a yoga mat. You don’t have to spend a ton of money. Discount stores offer the thin “sticky mats” for between $8 and $20. It’s worth it to have your own mat and not have your face where someone else’s you-know-what has been.
- Read. I recommend Beth Shaw’s YogaFit. It gives simple and sound advice on the best way to start a yoga practice. Shaw breaks down some of the common myths surrounding yoga, and makes it understandable and personal for every body.
- Find a yoga teacher who is great at welcoming new students. Not all are. Some yoga teachers pride themselves on offering extremely challenging classes which can be intimidating to the newcomer. Save those classes for down the road when you have some experience. Ask around for recommendations. Your friends know which teachers love working with the newbies.
- Let go of expectations. Come to your mat for the first time, and every time following, being OK with where you are. Your goal is to breathe, and to be aware that you are breathing. To move your body in a way that feels healing and safe. I believe every pose in a yoga class should have an element of “ahhhhh.” Even the hard ones.
- Wear comfortable, breathable clothing that is not too loose and baggy. When you go upside down in your first downward facing dog, you don’t want your shirt to fall up around your ears.
- Set up in the middle of class. While it’s tempting to run for the back row, that doesn’t give you the best view of the teacher or the other students. In the middle of the room you will be able to see people on either side of you no matter which way the class is facing.
- Honor your body. Every day is a new day, and each day our body shows us new strengths and weaknesses. If something hurts in a yoga class, don’t do it. Listen for, or ask for, modifications. All teachers are happy to help you be safe and comfortable.
- The most important, and beneficial thing you can do in a yoga class is learn to focus on your breath. Your teacher will show you different ways of breathing, and of watching your breath. That comes first. Putting your leg behind your head will come later. Just breathe for now and be patient.