I will always remember turning up to my first yoga class. I was a sedentary gangly young thing whose mobility was more akin to Bambi-on-ice than anything else. But I knew it was what I needed, so after dragging my heels for a good few months, one Saturday morning I attended a class with a teacher (who later would be the one to teach me how to teach yoga too).
I rocked up in a longline oversized t-shirt, without any idea of what I was getting into, to find myself in a small village hall with around 20 others of whom I was the youngest by a minimum of a good 20 years or so. I borrowed the teachers provided yoga mats, for I did not yet have one of my own, and patiently waited for the class to begin. Let’s just say…my body was not ready. My t-shirt was a terrible choice as it kept falling down over my head and getting in my face… I will never forget the sound of the thud I made as I fell out of a posture, crashing to the floor, whilst everyone else held themselves with such poise. Here are a few tips for when you finally get to your first yoga class too:
#5 – Nobody is watching you
I thought it before I turned up to class, and I hear so many others saying it as a reason they don’t want to go to yoga either, but believe me, nobody is watching you. Everyone that shows up to yoga is there to dedicate that time to themselves, why would they spend that time watching you? If anyone is taking a peek at anyone, it will be the new yogis looking at the more experienced practitioners to help figure out what they are supposed to be doing with their bodies. But let me tell you as a teacher, nobody doing yoga is looking around the room because they are too busy getting into the Asana’s or holding their balance. Plus, there is nothing better for your practice than closing your eyes, so most of the time nobody is looking at anything at all.
#4 – Get your own yoga mat
Most teachers will provide their own for you to use, but often these are bulk bought well used mats not in the best condition. You will find they are either too thick or too thin, or more often the case, that they provide no grip at all. Having a yoga mat with good grip will change your life. Ok, that might be a bit dramatic, but it will definitely change your yoga practice. When you are new to yoga, and you are trying to figure out your down-dog from your up-dog, having to worry about your hands and feet slipping is nothing but a nuisance. Invest in your own yoga mat and you can thank me later. To own a yoga mat is a lifelong commitment to a yoga practice, because it will always be there for you to roll out whenever you want, whether in class or at home. Plus, isn’t it just so much nicer to know that it is only your sweat on there?
#3 – Dress code is comfy but practical
As I mentioned before, after wearing a big loose baggy t-shirt the first time I attended yoga, I never made that mistake again. You may not be able to wrap your legs behind your head just yet, but in case you surprise yourself, wear something that will enable you to do so. What’s that saying? Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Well, dress for the yoga you want to do, not the yoga you can do. The last thing you want is to be attempting the splits to find out you’re displaying more than just your ability! Make sure you are wearing clothes you find comfortable, and I would also advise tucking your top in. I now always try to remember to tuck my top in too, as recently teaching online I have come to realise all my students have a good idea of my favourite underwear brands.
#2 – Smile for the lesson learned
The difference between someone new to yoga, and someone well practiced, is the number of failings it has taken to get it right. It takes a lot of getting it wrong to get it right just once. The truth is you won’t be able to do everything in the classes you go to. It is as simple as that. Accepting this is essential to enjoying anything new, but to fail is only a failure when we don’t try again. So, you can’t touch your toes just yet… the next time you try it you will be so much closer than you were before. So, you lose your balance… after 7 years of practice I do too! Some days you have it, some days you don’t. Smile; don’t take it too seriously.
#1 – Yoga is not exercise
Breathing is number one when it comes to yoga. Everything else in your practice is secondary to your breathing. If one was to do a yoga class without working with their breathing, and another was to stand in the class but not do any Asanas, yet practice conscious breathing, the latter would have done more yoga, and the former would have done none. In exercise, we use up energy, which is why we must replenish ourselves afterwards by rest. In yoga, we are bringing energy into the body, which is why you walk out of class feeling revitalised. In the early days of your practice, you might be thinking “Revitalised?! Really!?” but when you manage to align your practice with your breathing, when you practice Yoga, you will always remember, breathing IS number one.