Don’t Worry If You Have No Idea What Is Going On
If it is a mixed level class (not specifically for beginners), your teacher may be using unfamiliar names for the postures, may even be using Sanskrit names or mantras (ancient Indian language), and may not be demonstrating every little movement. Yoga often involves complex movements using muscles that are under-utilised in everyday life, AND we’re expected to link these movements with our breathing. It’s a lot to take in. Fear not, everyone in the class was there at one point. You’re not expected to pick up everything on your first go. If your teacher doesn’t know you’re a beginner already, just introduce yourself and let them know it’s your first class. They will be looking out for you. Rather than feeling overwhelmed with all that is going on, try to focus on one thing per class. For example, focus on fully inhaling and fully exhaling throughout the practice, or on showing yourself compassion if you mix up your left and right. It’s a journey, we learn as we go, picking up new things along the way. Try to let go of those ego-centred thoughts that are telling you to attempt a very advanced posture even if it means going blue in the face with effort. Respect your body and your limitations and choose a version of the pose, maybe a modified one with blocks, straps or bent knees, where you feel the desired benefits and where you can breathe easily. With practice and dedication, you’ll see your capabilities changing. Even if you don’t see those physical changes, you are taking time out of your busy day to observe your body and your mind and find some self-acceptance and calm in this hectic modern world.
Don't Wear Socks
If you’ve never done yoga before or any dance, swimming or martial arts, you might not be used to shedding your shoes in the company of others. There also seems to be a stigma about bare feet or at least a lot of foot-phobic people out there. No, your feet do not look especially weird, everyone’s feet are unique and different and besides, nobody is looking anyway. Trust me I’m a qualified podiatrist. I’ve seen way worse things than your crooked toe. I know there are ‘yoga socks’ with grips underneath to prevent slipping. If you are concerned about hygiene, bring your own mat to class. There’s no need to stand on the floor but maybe keep your socks within reach for after class. If slipping is an issue, I recommend placing a very light towel over your mat, or preferably just getting a better-quality non- slip yoga mat. The reality is that feeling the soles of our feet on the ground helps us to engage the small muscles we have there, building a strong foundation and awareness to a much-neglected part of our bodies.
Find a Yoga Class That Suits YOU
There are so many different varieties of yoga: vinyasa, ashtanga, hatha, Iyengar, anusara, Bikram, yin, etc. The list goes on and on. We as individuals have very different needs and preferences, and so naturally that is reflected in our yoga practice. Our needs often fluctuate at an hourly rate, meaning that our yoga practice should be different on different days, and certainly at different times of the day. You may prefer a class that is very dynamic and energising, or require a slow, mindful restorative session. Choosing a yoga teacher is another important consideration. Teachers create a different atmosphere, have varying ways of speaking and giving cues for the yoga postures, and their lives, background and occupations can give them a very distinct style. You may love being introduced to yoga philosophy from your teacher, or you may favour learning about precise functional anatomy. If you weren’t puzzled enough by this yoga thing, when booking your first class you have a LOT of choice. You may not resonate with your first yoga teacher or experience, and that’s okay. Just try another class. Yoga is for everyone and there is a class out there to suit every individual. It’s also worth noting that personal growth comes from pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. Maybe you’ll discover something about yourself in that incense-filled yoga studio, during the Tibetan singing bowl sound bath meditation. Give it a try!