By Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN
For beginners or non-yogis, the prospect of starting a yoga practice can be quite overwhelming. It can feel like breaking into yoga is very hard, especially if you’ve seen complicated poses posted on Instagram. However intimidating it can be, the wonderful thing about yoga is that it really can look like whatever you want it to and whatever your body will allow it to be. Yoga is a very individual practice. Sure, in any class there are poses in a flow that you may be instructed to follow, but there is also a lot of flexibility (literally) in the pace of your practice — this is really what I love most about yoga.
For any new or prospective yogi, it’s important to know a few key things to get started with a new(er) practice. Here are some helpful guidelines to consider as you get started practicing yoga.
Don’t focus on the person on the mat next to you. Everyone’s yoga practice is different, and where everyone is on their mat is different, too — so try not to compare yourself to the potentially experienced yogi on the mat next to you. Keep your eyes focused on yourself (if there’s a mirror) and/or the instructor — the person next to you will be doing the same thing!
This will help you feel more comfortable in your surroundings and will likely help you open up a little too with your practice. Sometimes being comfortable in our surroundings is the most important thing when it comes to getting us into our new yoga practice.
Mats are sacred spaces — and yes, while some studios certainly have clean mats available, I find that most of the time I don’t want to put my face down on a mat that has exfoliated someone else’s feet and soaked up someone else’s sweat. Mats are pretty inexpensive as well. If you don’t want to lug a mat around, you can bring a yoga towel and place it on top of a borrowed mat. Just throw it in the washing machine when you’re done sweating on it.
Leave your phone and Apple watch outside the yoga studio. One of the most frowned upon activities in a yoga studio is to be texting or emailing and lighting up the room with the LED beam of your phone. Don’t forget that disconnecting is also really helpful for your psyche and stress management practice, so that device-free time will benefit you both on and off the mat.
For beginners, yoga can feel like a miserable sequence of holding difficult and uncomfortable positions. I promise, though, that if you work on the breathing aspect of the practice the experience will feel more tolerable and also a lot more fun. Start to breathe from the moment you walk into the studio and keep breathing throughout the practice. Before you go for your first yoga class you can try easy breathing by practicing this easy sequence: Breathe in for five counts and then breathe out for five counts.
For more information, check out this post on 5 big benefits of doing yoga.