People are kind of sick of me sometimes because I am always preaching things to them that have changed my life. I just get so passionate when I find something new that makes me feel good inside and out, when these rituals and practices find me I want to shout out about them on the rooftops. Yoga is most definitely one of those things. But after my 9 years of trying to get people to try out a class I’ve learned that not everyone thrives within the same experience. It kills me that sometimes people are completely turned off by yoga because they didn’t find themselves in the right capacity for their first yoga class ever. I compiled these tips in hopes that a beginner yogi will find their way into their practice with joy and ease.
- Never, Ever Push Yourself Too Hard
After being a competitive athlete it was really difficult for me to understand that you can’t just push yourself into a final pose in yoga. My sheer willpower isn’t enough to make me an advanced yogi, the only way to achieve that is with consistent practice. Being athletic can help but a lot of times in yoga being an athlete can work against you. Mostly because in American athletics we are focused on pushing ourselves all the way to the limits of our comfort levels. Yoga is quite the opposite, you can really hurt yourself if you use this mentality when approaching your practice. Your mind can be pretty loudly telling you to force yourself into a posture as you look around to these strong, bendy yogis around your class, ignore it. Keep working, slow and steady like a turtle. Eventually it will come, but it will take way longer if you pop your MCL or pull your abdominals. Take your time, listen to your body. Confront your instructor with any new sensations during the class to confirm if it is something to be worried about.
- Go to Many Different Studios
I’ve had countless experiences at different yoga studios, often times 2 studios right down the street from each other are completely different. Don’t go to a studio and buy a month or tons of sessions; try out just one class before committing yourself to a huge payment. It is possible that you might not like the first studio that you try. Before even going in for a class its smart to check out the schedule with a couple of things in mind. First off assess your own level; for the purpose of this article I’m pretty sure that you’re a beginner. So only choose classes that are Level 1 or marked for beginners; this will ensure that you’re not terrified by a class way past your beginner skill level. Next decide the type of class that you’re looking for. Here are a couple of classes that are common in the yoga world, there will also be classes that are simply labelled Beginner Yoga; that is always a good option.
Hatha: This style of yoga focuses on holding poses for around 5 breathes, it combines some movement with focus on deepening into poses.
Ashtanga: Enjoy a fast connection of movements that really ramp up your cardiovascular system, this is a great class for upper body strength. My arms have never been as in shape as they were when I practiced Ashtanga 4 times per week. Beginners who are quite strong or athletes that needs more movement to stay focused should try this mode of yoga first. Beginner yogis that aren’t naturally athletic might want to steer clear of Ashtanga first thing.
Yin: Oh man, I tell everyone that will listen about Yin yoga classes. My first yin class I was a little bit out of my element but it started a journey that led to soaking up as much yin as possible. Yin is the opposite side (Yang) of the yoga styles that are fast paced and build muscles. Yin helps to repair connective tissue through laying in supported poses (using pillows and blocks) for 3-5 minutes. The muscle can repair itself and the mind can actually take time to purely STOP. This is one of my favorite modes of yoga because those who say they’re too hurt to develop a practice can’t be, they just need to use props and eventually they will find the ability to heal themselves.
Iyengar: I won’t go too much into the story of Iyengar after my spirited Yin rant but basically BKS Iyengar’s story is amazing and every yogi should know it. This yoga class will feature a vinyasa (faster) movement style using props to assist your body in feeling the pose with out the full expression being unlocked in your body. Use a combination of straps and blocks to truly feel with your body may not allow you to do alone just yet.
- Develop a Home Practice
I don’t think I went to a real yoga class until after I’d been practicing for more than 6 months. My first yoga experiences were with my living room and Namaste Yoga for FitTV by Kate Potter. Having an understanding of rudimentary poses before going to a class that I paid for made me kind of feel like I was getting the most for my money. Over the years my home practice has developed, I generally don’t use videos anymore. Now with my knowledge from regular classes I just get on my mat and create an entire flow from the feelings and movements that pour from my body. Developing a home practice helps a new yogi to understand the meditation and relaxation within the movements of yoga because there aren’t any distractions around. Check out The Bad Yogi for really great videos to help structure a positive home practice. I’m also a big fan of Kino’s youtube channel for Ashtanga heavy theory and practice.
- Don’t Give Up, Yoga is a Daily Practice
I’ve been practicing for almost 10 years on and off, there were full years where I wouldn’t get on my mat. I’m sure that it goes with out saying that those yoga-less years were often the ones where I was going through painful, existential crises where I just wasn’t myself. I joined Instagram’s thriving yoga community and started to notice that yogis that had practiced only 2 years were able to accomplish poses that were just so beyond me. I started to get down on myself, to feel less than while I lurked around different photos comparing myself. It’s often these times where I quit things, where I give up because it’s easier than putting in the actual work to step up my game and rise above self pity. This time I decided that I wasn’t going to sabotage myself like that, that instead I would be inspired by these Insta-Yogis to dedicate my knowledge to the mat. Now I practice every day for AT LEAST 20 minutes and I’m unlocking arm balances and binds that were just impossible to me before. I share this portion of my egotistical comparing competitive mind because yoga isn’t something that people are just good at.
Yoga is a journey where you slowly release the light in your spirit through mastery of poses, calmness of the mind and growth in the soul. Everyone starts somewhere, don’t get discouraged just be inspired to continue.
RESOURCES These are a few of my favorite studios in the couple of places that I’ve visited.
Flagstaff, Arizona: Northern Arizona Yoga Center
Dana Point, CA: I Heart Yoga in the Park
San Francisco, CA: Yoga to the People