I often meet people who are intrigued by yoga. They have heard from friends who yoga that it is great and awesome. They have seen people leaving a yoga studio and think they look healthy or lean or relaxed. They want to add more exercise or movement into their lives or know they should. But let’s be honest — it’s hard to start something new. It’s hard to step into that studio for the first time. It takes bravery to put yourself out there, so to make it easier, I have compiled a list of things to know before you walk in to that first class. This is a list of things that you might feel (physically, emotionally, or mentally) as you start practicing yoga. You still have to take those steps into the studio class, but I hope this helps you feel a bit more prepared (along with my earlier post about how to find a good studio for you).
When You Start Practicing Yoga:
- You will fall over.
One of the great things about yoga is that it will test and strengthen your balance. As you are strengthening your balance, you will fall over. You won’t necessarily fall all the way to the floor/mat, but you might. It’s ok. Losing your balance in some way is normal; it’s natural. It’s a reason we work on balance in the practice. It’s to challenge us and hope to improve. Even if the person next to you didn’t fall over today; they fell over yesterday or will fall over tomorrow. We all fall as we test ourselves. Don’t worry; you will also get back up!
- You will have no idea what I (or the instructor) am talking about.
At some point during practice I will use a pose name or a “yoga term” that a new yogi will not have heard of before. You don’t need to know and aren’t expected to know every term or word I use. I will be explaining and demonstrating, and I am usually pretty good at interpreting faces to know when someone is confused and will know to cue more. Watch me or your instructor demo what they mean, and as you continue to come to practice you will become more and more familiar with the cues and the names of poses. Just like with anything, you will become more comfortable and familiar the more you come. Also, please feel free to ask an instructor to clarify or explain more.
- You will be jealous.
In yoga (and really in life) we should not compare ourselves. It’s not about comparing your practice to anyone else, including even yourself and what you did yesterday or think you should be able to do. However, inevitably, at some point, especially early on, you will catch a glance of someone else who you think is doing the pose/position or this whole “yoga thing” way better than you are able. It’s natural, but keep in mind that we are all made differently. Some people have tight hips but great upper body strength, and so certain poses are harder and easier based on that; others can balance well but struggle with tight hamstrings, etc. Yoga is about you and spending time with your body on your mat. We want to get where we don’t even notice those around us and don’t compare ourselves to others or even ourselves from practice to practice. There might be a practice where you feel really strong. The next you struggle. It’s human. In yoga you come to the mat and practice. No judgment. Feed your body and mind with today’s practice and what feels nourishing.
- You will feel awkward.
Other than falling over and having no idea what I’m talking about and being jealous, you will also probably feel awkward at some point. As we introduce new poses and positions for our bodies, they often feel awkward or like we are not doing something correctly. It gets easier. If you really are in improper alignment, that is why I move around the room – to help you make adjustments that are safe and potentially more comfortable. The rest is just practice and your body relaxing and stretching and finding its comfort in the positions and flows.
- You might be sore.
Yoga stretches the muscles (and the mind) in ways that we often don’t in our day-to-day life. If this is a new practice for you, you may experience some mild soreness. To help minimize this – during every practice we want to feel a stretch and push to our edge (where we feel the challenge but can sustain it) but not past it. Do not push yourself to do something that the body says NO to doing. Yoga is not a punishment-based practice but a nourishing one. We want to stretch but not reach the “ouch” stage. If you need a break; take one. After practice, drink lots of water. And then come back to the mat for your next practice. 😊
- You, or someone in the class, may experience some bodily noises.
We are moving our bodies in lots of different directions and compressing organs, etc. That means, at some point, someone will pass gas or have stomach gurgling or burp, etc. Class will continue as if nothing happened. It might be difficult, but please keep in mind that it is VERY common, obviously natural (and probably healthy), so do your best to not be embarrassed.
- You will think that I am judging you, (but I am not).
I am the “teacher,” but yoga instructors usually see ourselves as leading rather than teaching. I am leading you through the practice, but it is your practice. I am not judging one person’s downdog to another’s. I want to help make each practice the best for each individual in that given practice. To do that, I am counting on you to be honest about your body’s abilities that day and each day and to only do what your body says is ok. Even if I come around and make an adjustment, it is not out of judgement but about proper alignment for safety and helping you feel confident and comfortable and properly challenged in the position. If you need/want to rest in child’s pose frequently or take savasana early, or you use a block or take modification, I am not going to judge you or determine you an unfit yogi. I will be glad that you listened to your body and its edge. You want to do what feeds your body and mind so that you want to continue coming back.
- You are not alone.
Your yoga classmates are all feeling the same way. They all had a first day in the studio as well. They felt or feel awkward and are worried and nervous, etc. It’s natural. It’s also something we work on in yoga – letting go of these concerns and not being attached to these feelings, learning to focus instead of our breath and our space and our practice. It takes time; it’s a journey, and we are all on it.
- You will feel great, awake, relaxed or any number of other amazing things.
After class, after savasana (corpse pose), the magic of yoga sets in. Some people feel energized and ready to be productive; others feel zen and ready to be mellow; others feel loose and in some happy place between awake and zen. Enjoy the boost. Keep in mind that if you are a mellow yogi, take your time before driving to make sure you are fully alert.
- You will want to buy yoga clothes and props and do yoga all the time.
If you are like me, as you really begin to feel and enjoy the magic of yoga and feel the progress, whether it be physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally, or in all of those arenas you may become a full-fledged, budding yogi and want to buy all the props and do yoga all the time. Just be prepared for these feelings, keep your own personal budget restrictions in mind, and yoga away 😊