Thinking of starting yoga?
Millions of people worldwide have turned to yoga to lead happier and more fulfilling lives. You likely notice it all around you, the subtle shifts in the attitudes of your friends who have recently started practicing to the remarkably calm and content faces of students exiting the gym's studio as you're running on the treadmill. Naturally, yoga has piqued your curiosity. With the abundance of benefits this practice offers for both your physical and mental health, we can't think of any reasons why you shouldn't ride this wave of curiosity and discover all this for yourself.
You may be a little hesitant to get started, or unsure of how to introduce yoga into your daily life, and that is normal. Whether you decide to cultivate a practice at home or prefer to try it out at your local gym or studio, these tips will help you feel prepared and more confident about getting started.
Choose your class
Once you've landed on a gym, studio, or home practice, at least for your first time, you will want to check their schedule to see what classes are available that are best suited for beginners. Searching through these schedules or online videos with various yoga styles that you may have never heard of before can be overwhelming at first. Many studios will offer a traditional yoga style yet give it a unique or catchier name, so the key to determining the best class for you will almost always be found in the description of each class. In the description, you can look for any mention of words like "beginner," "basics," or "slow." You may even get lucky and find a class called "Yoga for Beginners," which will more than likely be a class that moves slowly and breaks down postures so you can learn how to do them safely and with proper alignment.
If you cannot find enough helpful information, give your gym or studio a call to help point you in the right direction. This way, you can discuss with them some of your goals or what interests you about yoga. For instance, if you are looking to stretch or unwind, they may direct you to a restorative or deep stretch class rather than a Vinyasa flow.
The important thing to remember is that you can try a variety of yoga styles until you find one (or a few) that suits you. You are never limited to one particular class; in fact, keeping an open mind with yoga can deepen your practice and lead you to interests or goals you never expected to have.
No matter what yoga style you decide to try for your first class, you will want to wear comfortable clothing that you can stretch and move in. Opt for something not too loose or too tight - clothing that moves with you. You may want to bring an extra layer that you can throw on during your final resting pose or if it's a slower-paced class. You will also want to bring a yoga mat, and if you don't have one, the studio or gym may have one available for you to use or rent, but be sure to ask ahead of time.
Aim to arrive at class about 15 minutes early to give you plenty of time to sign in, fill out any necessary waivers, and familiarise yourself with the space. If you get a moment to speak with the instructor, introduce yourself and let them know you are a beginner and if you have any injuries or limitations, they will always be happy to help and there is no need to be embarrassed. This will help them know if they need to provide you with a modification for any of the poses and will make for a safer class. Arriving early will also give you some time to find a space for your mat that looks comfortable for you before other students come.
If you plan to practice at home, find a space that is clean and decluttered. Choose somewhere that is quiet, at least to a level that you can control. Though you will surely develop a greater focus as you continue practicing yoga, it always helps to control the distractions around you, including keeping your phone silent and somewhere away from arm's reach.
Keep an open mind
No prior knowledge of yoga is necessary before trying your first class. In fact, releasing your expectations and things you think you know about yoga is an excellent way to discover what yoga means to you. After all, yoga is a personal practice, so you will want to try and keep your focus within the boundaries of your mat.
That said, remember that your instructor knows best, and they are trained to provide you instructions and options based on your abilities and needs. If you are struggling in a pose and they either don't notice, or you do not wave them down for help, know that you can and should come out of a pose if you are experiencing pain. That said, if your instructor does come up to you to offer a verbal or hands-on assist, there is no need to be embarrassed, as they are not judging or criticising you. If this happens, trust that they want you to achieve your safest and fullest expression of that pose.
Come as You Are
You do not have to have a certain level of strength or flexibility to practice yoga, so don't let any thoughts over this discourage you. While yoga's physical body benefits can be tremendously helpful and healing, you may discover over time that you appreciate even more the mental strength and flexibility you foster through this practice.
As with any new experience, it is essential to show up with patience and self-compassion. You never need to force yourself to do something unrealistic, whether it's day 1 or day 365, so try to relax, breathe, and move at your own pace. Your mind and body deserve kindness, and yoga is a beautiful way to create more of that, not only on your mat but in your day-to-day life.
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