My 75-year old mother started attending yoga classes in New Jersey near her hometown. This could be a sign that yoga is for everyone and that it’s never too late!
My mom sent me several questions via text before my daughter started her first yoga class. It reminded me of the importance to support new yogis in their new practices. It also served as a reminder to new students that even though it may seem obvious to teachers and long-term students, it might not be to them.
Here are nine helpful tips for beginners to yoga.
1. Begin From Where You Are
It is a good idea to reach out to the studio where your classes are held to request a recommendation for a class. Let them know your fitness history, and any limitations. There are always differences between teachers, even gentle classes. Your studio manager or owner can help you determine your best starting point.
It is best to start in a beginner’s class. Here you will learn foundation poses, alignment and breathing basics. If there is no beginner’s class available, I recommend that students start with a gentle class. Gentle classes are slower and allow for you to learn the postures and breathwork more easily. Many students will continue to practice gentle yoga as their primary practice. Others will choose more challenging classes. It is almost always better to take your time when learning a new discipline than rush into classes you don’t feel ready for.
2. Arrive Early
It is best to arrive 15 minutes before class begins. This will allow you to settle in, find bathrooms, and adjust to the space’s energy. Anxiety can be brought onto your mat by rushing into any yoga class. My classes are often attended by new students who admit to feeling nervous before their first class. This is completely normal. Don’t add stress to beginners by being late.
3. Introduce Youself
Introduce yourself to your teacher and tell them that you are new to yoga. I try to make contact with all new students to get to know them and ask any questions they may have. Do not be afraid to share your problems. For example, your teacher might be able to offer modifications to certain postures.
4. Choose A Good Point
After many years of working in education, I realized that many people gravitate to the back row of a class. Many new students choose to start yoga classes in the back row. This might not be the best option depending on how the class is laid out and how many people are there. Instead, place your mat so that you are able to hear and see your teacher.
5. Set An Intention
Yoga classes usually begin with an opportunity to breathe and center, before moving on to the postures. A teacher may also present a theme or an intent for the class. This is a good time to create your own intention. You might choose to breathe deeply during class or not judge others. You can also ground your practice by offering gratitude for the chance to use yoga to take care of your body. No matter what your focus is, you can call it up whenever you need inspiration or a reminder about why you came to yoga class.
6. Listen To Your Body
As a beginner, I didn’t understand what this meant. Your connection to your body will improve as you practice more yoga. Yoga shouldn’t hurt. If you feel any pain or discomfort, stop immediately and return to the “home base” position , mountain or easy sitting. Your body may experience new sensations, challenges or openings. These sensations are normal and can be beneficial. If in doubt about whether the feeling you are experiencing is safe, you can always revert to the original pose. Your breath can also be used as an indicator. Your breath can also be used as a gauge to determine if your breathing becomes unsteady or ragged. You can take a break, then take a few deep breathes before you return to your practice.
7. Eyes On Your Own Material
My 10th-grade English teacher in high school asked me to stay after class. She explained to me that whenever she gave me a test or paper, I would immediately look at mine and then crane my neck to view the grades of everyone else. She said to me, “You’re going crazy if all you do is compare yourself to others.” This wise advice is still relevant twenty years later. Yoga is not a sport. No grades will be given. There is no winner or loser. We strive for progress, not perfection. It doesn’t matter if your neighbor can sit deeper in her chair than you. Maybe she has been practicing for longer or her body is different. Focus on your mat and move through the class in a way you feel is best for your body.