I may be biased saying this, but the benefits of yoga are endless; not only can it be used to improve the physical aspects of the body, i.e. strength, flexibility and balance, but it can also be a great way to release stress, quieten the mind and develop a more positive outlook on life.
Because I have experienced many of these benefits myself and I have seen how a regular yoga practice has had such a positive impact on my students, I am determined to get more people to give it a go. However, there is often a fear surrounding starting something completely new, especially if you’re amongst other people in a class environment.
I want to help eliminate this fear and I believe one of the best ways of doing this is through education; the more you know about what you’re getting yourself into the less scary it becomes!
1. You do not have to be flexible to do yoga
This is one of the most common misbeliefs I hear. To me, it’s like saying “I’m not fit enough to go to the gym” or “I’m not dirty enough to have a shower”…very few people are naturally super bendy and one of the key reasons people do yoga it is to improve their flexibility; it doesn’t matter if you can touch your toes or not, everyone starts somewhere (so stop comparing yourself to Instagram pictures of yogis with their legs wrapped around their neck).
2. Familiarise yourself with poses at home
There are so many guided yoga videos on YouTube (Yoga with Adrienne and Cat Meffan are my two favourites). The only downside of these is that you don’t get the assistance you would if you were in a class or having a one to one session, but they can be a really great way to start building up your practice and familiarising yourself with poses.
3. Arrive early and talk to the teacher
Let them know you’re new to yoga and tell them if you have any injuries that may affect your practice. This will start to build a rapport straight away between you and them, and they will likely keep an eye out for you throughout the class, giving you help if you need.
4. Try not to sit right at the back of your first yoga class
I know it’s tempting, especially when you don’t feel confident, but actually this can hinder your practice; you may not be able to see the teacher properly and could easily get distracted by what everyone else is doing in the class rather than focusing on your own practice. You don’t have to be the super keen bee that places their mat 5 inches away from the teacher’s, but do try and position yourself in a space where you can see and hear clearly.
5. Remember, “yoga practice, not yoga perfect”
This is one of my favourite things to remind my students. The reason it’s called ‘a practice’ is because it’s just that; the mat should be a space where you feel safe and at ease, where you can learn new things, try new things and make mistakes. Remember, yoga teachers are yoga students too, my practice is by no means perfect…I wobble and fall over and mess up, even when I am teaching a class of 30 people! It’s all part of it.
6. Your first yoga teacher may not be your favourite
Yoga is a very personal experience and every teacher is different; you could have two teachers taking the exact same class and yet I guarantee, there will be one you like more than the other. This doesn’t necessarily have to be to do with the teacher’s level of experience or skill, but rather just how they make you feel, the atmosphere they create, their voice, their presence in the room etc, etc. If you don’t enjoy your first class, don’t be discouraged…try going to one with another teacher.
7. Try different styles
Unknown to many people new to yoga, there are lots of different styles which can vary massively; from Vinyasa, to Yin to Kundalini to Ashtanga. Again, this is a really personal thing and the only way to find out what style is right for you is to try as many different variations as possible. To start with, however, I would recommend a vinyasa as it’s great for building the foundations of your practice.
8. Be prepared to chill out in Savasana
Savasana, or ‘corpse pose’, will most likely be at the end of any yoga class you go to. This is where your teacher will instruct you to lie down on your mat and close your eyes, they may take you though a short guided meditation, they may play music or it might be silent. Some say Savasana is the most difficult pose in yoga, perhaps because it’s not often we allow ourselves to ‘just be’. Try to stay open minded here, allow yourself to relax, and trust that your teacher will tell you when to start moving again. Many new students will continuously pop their head up throughout Savasana to check that everyone else is doing the same and therefore don’t get the benefits from the pose.
And finally, just a warning…yoga may make you feel really bloody good 🙂