To be honest, it took me a lot of time to learn some of these things. Sometimes, even after years of consistent yoga practice, I still need to remind myself to not take myself too seriously, to focus on my breath, and to be gentle to my body. So don’t expect to master these things right away. They are just 12 things I wish I had in mind as an absolute beginner in yoga.
And yes, these tips are valid for any style of yoga class, from Hatha to aerial yoga.
6 things to know about your body as a beginner in yoga
- Non-violence (Ahimsa) is the foundation of yoga. Avoid violence towards yourself: do not force your body to go into a pose it is not ready for yet and do not criticize yourself for not being able to do something.
- Every body is different. We were all born with our unique gifts and limitations. Some might find it easy to plant their feet on the ground in a Downward Dog while others might never get there. It does not matter where you are. You are right where you need to be. Each one of us is working with what they’ve got and trying to improve on it. Let go of comparison and focus on yourself.
- Your pose might look different from what the teacher is showing, or what anyone else in the room is doing, and still be correct. Poses are made to be adjusted to our bodies. Not the other way around.
- Breath into each pose. You will not believe how much breathing helps to settle into a pose or go deeper. Teachers often remind: “don’t forget to breathe” because this is one of the first things we do when we are in difficulty. In yoga, if you’re struggling to breathe holding a pose – take it down a notch. This is a sure indicator you’re too deep into the pose and you need to step back. Non-violence, remember?
- Props are OK. In fact, they are recommended. They can help you safely get into poses or progress towards poses you are not ready to achieve yet. Yoga blocks, straps, wheels, blankets, bolsters, cushions, etc. are all there to help you.
- During yoga class teachers might guide you with cues such as: “Feel the stretch along your outer hip”. Ultimately, you will feel the stretch where you are most tight.
4 things to know about your mindset as a beginner in yoga
- Yoga is much more than just Asana – the physical practice you probably have seen. It is also more than Pranayama, the breathing techniques, or Dhyana, meditation. There is not enough room to fit yoga into a 60 or 90-minute class. Plus, yoga is plagued by commercialism, like anything in our times, so what you will see in studios or online might not be an accurate representation of what yoga is. If you do not want to dive into yogic philosophy and spirituality, by all means, stick with what works for you. Asana and Pranayama will have amazing benefits on your mind and body regardless. Just be aware that there is much more to yoga.
- Try out several different classes before deciding what to stick with, or if yoga suits you or not. It might be the teacher, the style, your mood, or a mismatch between the whole mix that leaves you with a limited view of yoga. Before making a decision, be curious.
- Don’t take yoga classes too seriously. I love reminding myself this in balancing poses because I struggle a lot with them and they’re just easy to mess up. So what if you fall off? Try again. You might not get it right today and that’s completely fine. Every day is different, every practice is unique. Accept it for what it is and where you might get frustrated, just laugh it off and enjoy the journey.
- Take note of your thoughts and feelings. We rarely get so much time on our own, with our thoughts and feelings, as we do in a yoga class. It is normal for them to arise. Rather than trying to suppress them – observe them. They are great indicators of what you need to work on.
Emotions, both positive and negative, are often felt in the body. Do you ever feel the heat when you’re angry or muscle tension when you’re anxious or nervous? Unresolved emotions are “stored” in the body, especially in your shoulder and neck area. During a yoga class, you might physically access these “storages” and have an emotional response. Some people cry after a yoga class or might feel an inexplicable frustration. This is another reason why being aware of your emotions during a yoga class can benefit you.
2 more things to know
- You might often hear strange-sounding words such as Ahimsa (above) or tongue-twisting pose names. They all come from Sanskrit, the ancient language of India. You do not need to stress over remembering all the Sanskrit names of things, it will happen naturally.
- Basic studio etiquette requires you to take your shoes off as soon as you walk in. What is more, yoga is practiced barefoot because socks with socks you will struggle to have enough grip to hold poses. Switching your phone off and keeping quiet during the class will allow for everyone to center in their practice. Although we are in a shared space, we are all on our own journey. Sometimes you the teacher might speak to you so just make sure you reply in a tone that will not disturb others. If you have used one of the studio mats, give it a good wipe after you have used it. I always try to clean a mat the way I’d like someone else to have cleaned it for me. You can read more about cleaning and taking care of a yoga mat in one of my previous posts.