Since completing my 200-hour yoga teacher training back in February of 2017, the number of people who have asked me for tips on getting into yoga has dramatically increased. I’m so grateful & ecstatic that so many friends, co-workers, acquaintances, etc. are starting to take an interest in yoga & that they are able to come to me with questions. For those of you who aren’t able to ask me directly, here are my top 5 tips for yoga newbies! These are for anyone who is thinking of developing a yoga practice.
5 Tips for Yoga Newbies!
1. Take a class & try to go to as many different classes as you can!
In my opinion, half the battle of developing a yoga practice is showing up. Making it to your mat, whether it be a home practice or a studio class, if you’re able to place both your feet onto the mat, you’re off to a great start!
The other half is finding the right type of yoga for YOU. One of the most infuriating things for me is hearing someone say they “don’t like yoga” or “yoga is not for them” or “I’m not flexible enough to do yoga,” especially when they’ve never been to a class or have only been to one or two classes. I truly believe that yoga is for EVERYONE. There are so many different types of yoga classes out there (e.g. restorative yoga, hatha, iyengar, chair yoga, vinyasa, kundalini, etc.) and there are so many different types of teachers out there. FIND what you enjoy & can stick with. Chances are its not going to be that first class (but it always could be!).
2. Listen, really listen to YOUR body.
One of the worst things when starting out (for me at least) was trying to keep up! I’d feel like a failure if I had to go back into child’s pose when everyone else was in their flow, or if I had to take modifications for poses. Once I started listening to my body & accepting where I was in my practice rather than going against my body, I started to not only enjoy my practice more but I also started to see improvements. It’s extremely important to take breaks when you need to and modify when you need to, especially in yoga. so you can keep up with your practice & prevent injury.
3. Learn the foundations of each pose.
If you’re new to yoga, I highly suggest going to class early to tell the instructor just that, especially if the class is not labeled “beginner’s yoga” or a “yoga 1” class. Whenever I have students who are new to yoga in class, I make sure to give extra cues for asanas and keep an extra close eye on their form. I also make it a point to give multiple modification options so that students know there are options out there!
It also doesn’t hurt to do your own research. Learn the foundations of poses, especially those that tend to appear more than others. Sometimes yoga classes go slow but other times they go fast, sometimes too fast for teachers to give all the cues and adjust every student, and sometimes a student comes to an intermediate class rather than a beginner class (hey, we all try to fit it in when we can). One of the best things for me has been knowing how to modify poses to work for me. I cannot tell you the amount of times I’ve been to classes where I’ve modified poses to fit my needs where the teacher didn’t mention it. One of the great things about this is not only do you remind the teacher that there are modifications, it helps them to say it out loud for others in the class!!
4. Let go of expectations.
This goes back a bit to #2 and listening to your body but what helps you listen to your body is letting go of expectations. I cannot stress this enough. In the past several years it seems that yoga has become more mainstream, and with that comes this idea of what a stereotypical yogi should be & yoga-related social media accounts with majestic looking handstands. What you don’t see though, are the hours, months, and years that person spent dedicating to their practice, developing their strength and their balance to achieve their handstand or whatever other pose they chose to share. You don’t see the time they spend warming up their body with a flow to get there or the times that they fell over before nailing it. So let go of your expectations (I know, easier said than done) & try to appreciate where YOU are in YOUR practice. Besides, it’s more fun to watch yourself improve at your pace than compare yourself to others.
Breathe? Yes, breathe!! I cannot tell you how many times I’ve told students in my class, “remember to breathe” and I’ve heard them take big inhales and exhales. Sometimes (especially in yoga & fitness classes) we forget to breathe! We’re so concentrated on pushing ourselves into the pose or holding it that we forget to use the breath to help us, to guide us & push us forward!
These are my top 5 tips for yoga newbies. Ultimately, the goal is the find what yoga looks like for YOU and have fun with it! How else are you going to stick with it? Remember that a yoga practice is a journey. There will be ups & downs, days you crave your practice & days you stay off your mat. Be patient with yourself & be kind. Good luck!