If you're thinking about trying out yoga for the first time but feel too scared of making a fool of yourself, you're not alone. The most common excuse I hear from people is that they feel yoga is for flexible people only. But why would flexible people need to do yoga if they're already flexible? My point: yoga is for everybody. So take these 10 simple tips for surviving your first yoga session that will help make you a more confident beginner!
1. Be prepared to sweat. When I stepped into my first yoga class, I had no idea that it was going to be a workout. Granted, some yoga classes are purely relaxation and meditation. So whichever it is, make sure you ask someone what the class is like beforehand.
2. Listen to your body. If you feel you need to take a break, don't be afraid to take child's pose at any point during the session. On the other hand, if you feel like taking your poses to the next level, do it. It's your yoga practice, so don't be afraid to take control of it.
3. Everyone's body is different, learn to love yours. Don't waste your time comparing your body or your poses to anybody else's in the class. Yoga is a meditative practice, not a compare session. Focus on appreciating your own body and on what you can do. As you progress, celebrate your achievements. When you start believing in and loving yourself, your yoga practice will soar. After all, it's not the body we must ultimately conquer, but the mind.
4. If you don't want to be touched, speak up. In most yoga classes, it's common for teachers to walk around the room and help make physical adjustments to their students' postures. If you're uncomfortable being touched and adjusted, make sure to let the teacher know before class. Otherwise if you don't mind being adjusted, it can be one of the best ways to improve your yoga practice!
5. Don't worry about knowing sanskrit or yoga jargon. Yoga teachers will often use unfamiliar words to describe or command postures. Don't worry about not knowing what any of it means at first. Just follow the teacher or your neighbor in each posture, and focus on relaxing your mind & breathing deeply with confidence through each move. Remember that the more you practice, the more familiar you'll become with the words. And as always, don't be afraid to ask the teacher after class to explain more to you.
6. Introduce yourself to the teacher. Get to know your teacher before or after class. Let them know you're new or that it's your first time in a yoga class. Not only will it help you feel more comfortable in class, but it will also give the teacher an opportunity to give you some pointers, introduce you to other beginners in class, or you might even become good friends with the teacher through time.
7. If you don't like it the first time, try it again. There may be many reasons why you may not like yoga the first time around. The teacher annoyed you, you felt lost in class, you felt like someone was being a show-off, you thought it was weird, you felt it was too challenging. Regardless of your reasons, try it again. Take a different yoga class, try a different instructor, go with a friend, try it with a home DVD first, step out of your comfort zone, challenge yourself. Whatever you do, don't give up the first time.
8. Wear a shirt that won't fall in your face. If you've ever been in downward dog posture, you know why this is important. In a yoga class you may spend a lot of time folding forward, and bending downward. The last thing you need is a big baggy shirt falling over in your face time after time, making it harder for you to breathe comfortably and focus on your practice. Take my advice and wear a tighter fitting shirt to prevent this from happening.
9. Breathe like you mean it. Ever since I can remember I've felt embarrassed to breathe loudly, especially during exercise. To me, it meant I was out of shape, I was fat, or I was gross. In my very first yoga class, I remember hearing someone in class breathing heavily and loudly. It wasn't until a couple of classes later that I realized it was the instructor, and that she was trying to teach us all to breathe loudly, with a "victorious" breath. All yoga practices focus on breathing and on the importance of breath. So learn to be proud of your breath, and to breathe loudly.
10. Open your heart to something new. Yoga is humbling. A yoga class is full of people who are stepping up to their challenges, testing their limits, and pushing their boundaries both mentally and physically. Remember that everybody great once started as a beginner. So stay positive and soak it all in!