5 Things to Know Before You Start Yoga
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Happy Holidays friends! I am currently knee-deep in holiday recipes. I'm trying to find something that's that perfect combo of delicious, healthy, inexpensive, and can be whipped up quickly. Essentially, I am looking for a rainbow-unicorn of vegan dishes, so if you have one that fits my criteria please, PLEASE, send it my way.
In the fitness world, New Years is always a big thing. People tend to go a bit...nuts. I kid you not, the first few weeks of January at every studio that I've worked at are always totally bonkers because of all the resolution-ers (you go girl!). As much as I roll my eyes at the January rush, I secretly love it. There is something extra special about watching people fall in love with yoga for the first time. I was there once, too.
I've already had more than a handful of friends + readers ask me for tips about starting a yoga practice in 2017. Or... just getting the guts to try yoga once to see if they like it. It's intimidating. Trying something new can kind of suck. It's not always the most fun to be a beginner. Sound like you? Maybe you want to get into yoga for the first time ever in 2017 OR maybe you want to dust the cobwebs off the mat you asked for last year.
Want to know what to do? Don't worry, girl. I've got you.
1. Literally nobody is watching you.
The biggest thing that people say to me about their first yoga classes is that they were totally paranoid that everybody was looking at them. They maybe felt like everybody was judging them and were so overcome by the thought of their fellow yogis watching them flop around on their mats that they never came back.
I'm going to tell you a secret- nobody is watching you. Not even a little bit. The students around you are probably too focused on not farting/falling over to really notice what you're doing. Seriously! I want you to imagine the last fitness class that you went to, and then describe every person who was next to you. You probably can't right? Exactly. If you do catch somebody looking at you, it's probably just because they like your yoga pants.
The only person who is likely watching you in class is your teacher, and that's only because they want to make sure that you don't hurt yourself. If your teacher comes up and gives you a correction it isn't because they want to embarrass you in front of literally everybody in the world, it's because they want to make something a little easier for you and to keep you from getting injured. Your teacher is also focusing on teaching a good class, so they aren't totally focused on you, either.
2. It's OK to not know what's going on.
In one of my first yoga classes I was so mortified that I didn't know what was going on that I almost didn't go back. I hated the idea of looking stupid so much that I almost never tried it again.
If you stray away from everything that you don't know you are going to keep living the exact same life that you are currently living. Not that there is anything wrong with your life, but don't you want to try something new?
It's part of a right of passage in yoga- or any new activity- to feel totally out of your element the first few times. My advice? Go in the back of the room, be attentive, and let your ego go. Literally nobody cares that you don't know what Warrior 2 is, because we have all been there. Nobody expects you to be a level 700 yoga goddess your first class. Don't beat yourself up about it too much. Keep coming back and it will get waaaaay easier.
Which brings me to my next point...
3. Don't be a hero.
Seriously. don't be a hero. Nobody expects you to come into your first yoga class and completely own everybody in the room, so take that expectation out of your practice right meow. You don't need to do all of the poses the absolute best, you don't need to be the most perfect student in the room, hell, you don't even need to complete the whole class. I'm serious! If you need to lay down, lay down. If anything your teacher will applaud you for taking care of yourself. You are a wise yogi.
Especially if it's your first ever yoga class, pacing is important. You have absolutely no idea what's coming next, so go slow with your body and make sure you don't totally burn out. This is particularly important it's your first time doing hot yoga because you truly don't know how your body will react in the heat. Keep in mind that your class will typically follow a bell-curve pattern. You will warm up and cool down, and there will be a definite "peak" in the middle when you feel like you might not make it. Go slow, ease-off, and take time to really learn how to do things correctly.
4. Listen to your body, damn-it.
Are you so hot you feel like you might pass out? Is your knee starting to ache? Are you thirsty AF? Your body is smarter than you are, so listen to it. If you feel like you might pass out (which can happen your first few classes in a hot room), lay down. If you feel like you may throw up, leave the room. I'm not saying that every class will be like this- that would be terrible- but when you feel a little yucky, embrace that.
The great (and challenging) thing about yoga is that it's a continuously evolving practice in letting your ego go. It's also one of the rare activities where your progress really doesn't matter all that much. Yoga is more about feeling good in your body than looking good, so allow yourself an hour of self care and give your body a break if it needs it. I won't tell anybody.
5. Ask questions.
Still confused about what to expect? You are a grown-ass adult, ask some questions! If you aren't terrified of the phone (#2016Problems) call the studio ahead of time to ask the kind of questions that you're stressing over. Let me tell you, people do this all the time and we truly don't care. Honestly, we prefer it! It's better for everybody if you come prepared and comfortable, so ask away. Most studio websites will also have a "first-timer" page to reference, too, if you just hate the idea of talking to a human.
If the idea of talking to a human on the phone makes you want to die a little bit, show up to class about 15 minutes early to chat with the studio staff. In general, the studio will have a whole little speech they'll go through when they find out you're new. It's in their best interest to show you around so that you come back! BUT if you still feel under-prepared, some good questions to ask before you take your first class are:
Where should I put my mat in the studio?
Where should I put the rest of my crap?
Is there anything I should know before class?
I injured my blah-blah, what should I do?
Do I need anything special like a block or strap?
What kind of yoga is this?