Starting anything new can be daunting—and yoga is no exception. It involves body movements and language that are completely unfamiliar to you, so it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Fortunately, yoga studios are very welcoming and, in no time, you will feel right at home. If you are stepping into a yoga class for the first time, take a deep breath, exhale, and remember these three things.
Like any other physical activity, start slow. If you experience pain, strain, or breathlessness when trying to enter a yoga pose, back off. Pain is the body’s way of telling you when something is wrong. These are all new movements, and it will take time for your body to adjust to them. Pushing past your limits can cause an injury, such as a pulled muscle or tendon. Yoga should always help your body and never hurt it.
Consider using yoga props, including blocks, straps, and blankets, to support your practice. These accessories are designed to modify yoga poses, so that you receive all of their benefits.
One of the main teachings of yoga is ahimsa, or non-harming. This teaching applies to the self as much as it applies to others. Pay attention to your thoughts throughout class. Some poses you will love, and others will cause you frustration. Acknowledge all of these feelings, and then let them go. Don’t get caught up in the way any one yoga pose makes you feel, because it will change over time, as your practice changes.
Remember that everyone around you has a unique body and a unique practice. It’s okay if you can’t do what the person beside you is doing. This will change with time and practice. There may be poses that are never accessible to you because of your bone structure, however, and that is also okay. Yoga is a journey.
Most importantly, remember to breathe. Breathing is key in yoga, especially if you are taking a vinyasa yoga class in which movement is linked to the breath. Learn to breathe while you are in the poses. Holding your breath will not make the postures any easier, but rather kick-start the same body systems you are trying to relax. As you advance, you can begin to practice different breathing techniques, which will bring your practice to another level and open up doors to new experiences. But for now, just remember to breathe—slowly and steadily.
Your first yoga class may be scary, but what you’ll find is a room full of people who are happy to be there, happy to have you there, and ready to spend an hour sharing an experience with you. If any questions come up during class, make sure to ask your yoga teacher afterward. Your instructors are there to offer support and to guide you on this new journey.