Yoga works wonders for the mind, body, and soul. I truly believe everyone can benefit from yoga, but if you’re new to the yoga world, getting started can be an intimidating and confusing endeavor. Luckily there are ways to ensure your first yoga experience is a positive one. If you’ve been wanting to try yoga but aren’t sure where to start, here are some tips to help you have a great first-time experience, which will hopefully turn into a lifelong practice. Namaste!
Come up with a general idea of what you want out of yoga.
There are so many different types of yoga, different studios, different teachers, different temperatures, different speeds, different spiritual paradigms…it’s easy to get overwhelmed and confused. Instead of trying to research every form of yoga (you’ll get trapped in a Wikipedia black hole for days), keep it simple and focus on what YOU want out of yoga instead. Do you want a challenging workout or a restorative, relaxing hour of “me time”? Are you looking to increase flexibility and strength? Do you like a slower or faster pace? Pick a couple areas of focus and then communicate that — to yoga enthusiast friends to see if they have recommendations, and to prospective yoga teachers to see if their class would be a good fit. And speaking of communication…
Be open about your beginner status.
Call any potential yoga studios ahead of time and ask which classes/teachers they’d recommend for someone trying yoga for the first time. Some studios offer classes tailored specifically to beginners or first-timers, and if not, they’ll still be able to make suggestions of yoga styles and teachers that will be the best fit for you. Once you get to class, introduce yourself to the teacher and remind her of your beginner status again. Let her know if you’re feeling a bit nervous (which is totally normal!). The more open you are, the better she can accommodate you and help you have a positive experience.
Think outside the yoga studio.
Listen, yoga studios are great, and when you find one you love, it’s almost as thrilling as meeting your soulmate. That being said, yoga studios can be intimidating, not to mention expensive. If you’re a yoga newbie, consider broadening your search for classes to less traditional venues. Community centers often offer yoga classes at low prices, and their instructors are used to catering to a wide range of ages, fitness levels, and yoga experience. Depending on where you live, you can find yoga classes at farmers’ markets, parks, and even athletic stores at the mall — and many of these offerings are donation-based (or free!) and super casual. In other words, it’s the perfect way to dip your toe into the yoga world.
Vow not to judge yourself.
A few years ago I told my friend Ami, a yoga teacher, that I was scared to try yoga because I thought I wouldn’t be good at it. “Here’s the thing,” she said, “there’s no such thing as being good at yoga.” Since starting my practice, I’ve come to realize she’s absolutely right. Are there poses I can’t do yet? Yes. Are there people in my classes who are more flexible than me? Yes. But that doesn’t mean they’re “better” at yoga than I am. We are both there, practicing, breathing, and moving our bodies in ways that feel right to us — and that’s truly all that matters. When you take your first class, give yourself permission to try new poses that feel weird, to use muscles you didn’t know existed, to take breaks if you need it (seriously, child’s pose is your friend!), and not get down on yourself if you tip over in a balance pose. Remember that anything new is challenging, and just by being in the class, you’re giving yourself — your body and your mind — a great gift.
Dress the part.
This piece of advice is 75% practical and 25% superficial, so bear with me. First, the practical: you need to be comfortable to do yoga, especially when you’re new to it. Wear something that gives you a wide range of motion without cutting into you or making you feel self-conscious. My favorite combo is leggings with a wide waistband and a moisture-wicking tanktop. Keep in mind that bending forward into downward dog can make loose shirts slip down your torso, possibly exposing more midriff than you planned for, so choose your top accordingly. Now, on a superficial note: there are so many cute yoga clothes out there, so if treating yourself to a new yoga outfit helps you get excited about yoga, go for it! Yoga is not about outward appearance, but if those pink tanktop and galaxy-print leggings motivate you to get to class, hey, more power to you.
Use a good mat.
I know it seems counter-intuitive to invest a chunk of money into an accessory for an activity you might not even like, but your chances of enjoying yoga are infinitely higher if you are using a good quality mat. I thought I hated yoga for years when I was using a $15 mat I randomly bought at a grocery store, because every downward dog was a torturous, slippery experience. Finally a friend convinced me to buy myself a good mat, and suddenly yoga was fun! I could spend my time and energy focusing on each pose rather than trying desperately not to faceplant into my thin, slippery mat. If you have an extra $65 lying around to buy a good, non-slip mat (I love my Jade mat!), trust me that your investment will pay off. Think of it like buying a nice pair of sneakers for running. If you’d rather not spend so much right off the bat (totally understandable), borrow a good quality mat from a friend or rent one from the studio. Either way, know that a nicely cushioned, non-slip yoga mat is going to make your experience much more enjoyable.
READ MORE: How To Clean A Yoga Mat
Don’t give up right away.
Promise yourself that you’ll take 4 different yoga classes before quitting, and make sure to choose a diverse selection of classes: different studios, different yoga styles, different teachers, etc. This will give you the chance to experience a wide range of yoga offerings and figure out your likes and dislikes, but more importantly, it will take the pressure off that very first class. It’s tough to enjoy yourself when your entire opinion of yoga is hinging on a single class. I truly believe there’s a yoga class out there for everyone. All you have to do is go find it.