Ahhh yoga. Yogahhhhh! It does a body / mind / heart / soul / future good. We are living in a remarkable time where there are so many different kinds of yoga to practice and studios in which to practice on every corner – the options are endless! Still, starting a practice can be intimidating and full of questions. What do I wear? When do I arrive? Do I need a mat? Will it hurt? Here’s some ideas and tips to ease your mind.
1. ANY*BODY can do yoga. All ages, all body types, all fitness levels. Folks with disabilities can do yoga. Folks who are obese can do yoga. Folks who are arthritic can do yoga. Children, Senior Citizens, teens and college kids who are too cool for me can do yoga. Men can do yoga. DOGS can do yoga (just please, don’t bring ’em to the studio.) Do NOT let your own perception of yourself keep you from giving it a shot. I promise, you will surprise yourself with what you can do. You are AMAZING – never forget it.
2. Dress appropriately, but don’t break the bank. You do not have to go out and buy $90 yoga pants (in fact, please don’t,) to do yoga. You don’t have to have “official” yoga clothes to do yoga! Things to keep in mind when picking out your workout gear: for most classes, you’ll want some snugly fitting clothes. They don’t have to be TIGHT. They don’t have to be totally form fitting. But you also don’t want to practice in big wide flowing pants (unless you’re doing Kundalini yoga, but that’s a different story.) Sweatpants are okay. Shorts are okay (as long as they are either a) long, or b) snug around the legs – the person behind you will be able to see ALL of you in Downward Facing Dog if you don’t follow those two rules.) Tshirts and tank tops are fine, but do a mirror check – make sure they are not too low cut that you fall out when you bed over, and make sure they are long enough that you can tuck them in if need be to make sure your shirt doesn’t fly up in your face. Please no jeans – you’ll thank me later.
3. Arrive 10 minutes early to class. It doesn’t matter where you practice, please try to arrive 10 minutes prior to class start time. This gives you time to meet and get to know your teacher, to find a place to stash your goods (no shoes, no socks, no purses on the mat, please.) You might need to fill out a medical release form, pay for your class, sign up for related emails, etc. You can also use this time to get to know other students, ask questions, or just sit in stillness readying your mind for your practice. We know life happens and sometimes folks run late. We understand that and it has happened to us all, but it is really distracting when someone comes in late, so try your best to be on time.
4. Don’t try to be a rock star – unless you really are one! What I mean is this: don’t do more than you can. Honor yourself exactly where you are. If a pose is too intense for you, ask for a modification or take child’s pose. If you are feeling like your breathing is ragged, slow down and take a break. If it’s your first yoga experience, you probably shouldn’t jump right into the advanced class. No one is looking at you, so don’t worry if your hand is not on the ground in Trikonasana. You’re not there to impress anyone and no one is there to be impressed, so honor your body, your mind, and your journey by staying exactly where you are TODAY. That Bakasana will come. Sirsasana will come. Hanumanasana will come. Or they won’t. It doesn’t matter. It’s not about doing party tricks – it’s about rocking yourself exactly where you are. Now, Sting and Michael Franti? ROCK ON, Yogis!
5. Invest in a yoga mat of your very own. I know many studios have mats to share and, if you absolutely have no other choice, use them. Don’t let a lack of a mat prevent you from starting your practice. That said, however, people sweat when doing yoga. People release a lot of toxins when doing yoga. People use their feet in yoga. All of that ends up on the mat. Liken it to sharing mascara or underwear. Yes, you could do it, but do you really want to? Probably not. Also, your yoga mat will become your best friend. You’ll build a relationship with your mat and eventually, it will start to tell your yogic story. You deserve your own mat. You don’t have to have a super fancy hi-fi yoga mat. Any yoga mat will do and many are really inexpensive. You can find them almost everywhere -I’ve even seem them in grocery stores, Barnes & Noble, Walgreens. Skip the fancy yoga pants and spend the money on your own mat. Decide that yoga isn’t for you? There are a thousand ways to use a yoga mat. Get one.
6. Ask questions. A good teacher will be walking around the room while teaching, making adjustments, suggestions for modifications, giving encouragement. Use the opportunity to ask questions. Chances are someone else is wondering (or has wondered) the same thing you’re wondering. Ask. Comment. Make use of your teacher – that’s why he or she is there to begin with.
7. Have fun! Yoga is fun. Yoga is funny! Bring your sense of humor – I promise it will get stretched just as much as your thighs.
8. Remember, everyone was a beginner once. While some of us might have quite a lot of natural flexibility, no one was born a master yogi. We all took our first class once. We all needed to learn the very basics – many times again and again and again. We all had to figure out which foot goes first and which arm goes last. We had to figure out what the heck the teacher was talking about when she said, “Breathe through the inside corners of your eyes.” We all were brand spanking new yogis and yoginis once upon a time. You are welcome. You are wanted. Your energy helps us all! Join in, don’t fear. Yoga is a life long journey. There is no destination. We’re all on the same path. Dive in.
See you on the mat!