Top 8 Yoga Tips for Beginners
As a yoga teacher, a question I get a lot is “what should I know before going to my first yoga class”? Sometimes I get a variation like “what should I know about yoga as a beginner”? After answering this question many times, I now have a list to share with you. It’s not really a specific list of things to do, rather it is an approach to consider. This list can be helpful for experienced practitioners working on cultivating “beginner mind,” too.
Here are my top 8 “new to yoga” tips
1. Breathing is the most important thing. If you are breathing well, you are doing it right. Seriously.
2. If something doesn’t feel right or you don’t understand what the person teaching the class is talking about, ask for clarification. You are paying them for their help and knowledge. If you don’t know what they are talking about, that is their problem to solve by explaining things differently… not your problem. The only way for a teacher to know for certain that a student doesn’t understand the material is if the student lets them know. If something doesn’t feel right, ask for clarification or modification options. A good teacher will be happy to help with this and it is amazing how much a tiny change to how you are set up can make a huge difference in how something feels.
3. Not every version of every pose will be for you. They aren’t all for me either. There are seriously thousands of asanas (physical postures) and variations. We all have our own unique body with its own unique history and experiences that is put together slightly different from all the other bodies in the world. Our physical practice should respect and reflect that.
4. You totally might fart during class. There is a posture called wind relieving pose. It’s all about farting. If you do, don’t sweat it. Welcome to being a human in a human body. 😉
5. Learn to listen to your body. Just because a “harder” version is offered in class does not mean that it is better to practice that version. I know an advanced practitioner when I see a person who consistently makes choices to respect their body. Respecting your body means learning where you actually are with your practice and lovingly making choices from that place of understanding. Sometimes if you want more challenge in an area that you already have mastery it can feel like a lot of fun to take that more challenging variation. Sometimes it makes sense to choose a more simple version of a posture because it feels like good self care to respect where you are with that particular type of movement on that particular day. Make your choices based on what feels good (and safe) in your body rather than how it might look on the outside. Yoga is not about what physical postures look like so much as it is about what you learn through the process of consistently showing up for your practice. Trying to skip steps and throw yourself ahead of where you actually are ready to be working will only lead to injury. Where you are right now is a great place to be and the best starting place for wherever you want to go.
6. I wish someone would have told me when I started practicing that it is practice after all and that perfection isn’t real and that it is a trap that keeps people from having fun and enjoying life. Try not to take any of it too seriously. Be kind to yourself. If you are wiggly in a balancing pose, let yourself smile or laugh about it rather than beating yourself up… I’ve been there and laughing/smiling is way more fun.
7. Have lots of fun! Over time you will be able to watch what comes up in your thoughts and feelings. The first few times out, all of your focus may be on “what the hell am I doing with my body?!?”. Once you are more familiar with the physical alignment details of postures, other more subtle stuff will start to surface. Allow yourself to be open to receiving the insights that your practice will offer.
8. There is more to yoga than physical asana practice. Other forms of yoga can include meditation, breathing, study/reading of texts, singing/chanting, and service/volunteer work – to name a few. Some classes blend many of these elements, while others are devoted to a particular focus. Try out any options that sound interesting. You may be surprised by what you like!
I am a firm believer that there is a style of yoga and an instruction style that is a good fit for everyone. Sometimes the challenge lies in finding the right style/instructor for you. Explore lots of styles. Take restorative classes when you are tired and more vigorous classes when you want to move and get more of a physical challenge. If forms of yoga that aren’t centered around physical asana practice appeal to you, please explore these options as well. Don’t let any one experience turn you off from yoga as a whole, cause it is a big awesomely vast thing and has tons of goodness to offer!
Did you find this list helpful or interesting? If so, please share it! If you have any yoga related questions, please leave them in the comment section and I will get to answering them as I am able.