I remember walking into my yoga studio for the first time; it was like walking into high school for the first time. I didn’t know where to go, who to talk to, where to put my mat, where the washroom was – needless to say I felt very out of place. I remember putting my mat down in the back row so no one would see me and the individual next to me doing all these ‘pretzel’ type of warm-up stretches and busting out into a headstand – and I thought “yup we are off to a good start.”
After a few classes, I pushed past the story of “what the hell am I doing here,” and moved into a place of “wow this thing actually might help me not have anxiety.” A few years later, I look back and realize how important the support of the yoga community is, this is the place we come to for celebrating every moment (literally). Any yogi who tells you that they haven’t cried on their mat is lying.
There is so much joy inside of me right now as I share with you some tips that have helped me along way when I first began practicing yoga:
1. Do Not Rush: Take your time with the flow and each pose, there is no where you need to go so don’t rush the sixty minutes you have to yourself. We are already rushing in our lives, trying to cross everything off our to-do lists, that we forget the concept of mindfulness.
2. Do Not Compare:Easier said than done right? We are doomed to do this the first time we hit our mats, it’s a little hard not to. I remember trying to get into Extended Side Angle and people around me were diving into Birds of Paradise, and I thought, “well then…time for a water break.” Baron Baptiste wrote in one of his books “you are always awkward when you first try something new.” I read that and thought: “yupp, but so what?” Remember we are all beginners at some point.
3. BREATHE:Another one of those easier said than done kind of things. We are breathing every second of every day (or we wouldn’t be alive) but sometimes in the early stages of yoga, we hold our breath all together in moments of fear or doubt. Don’t do that! One concept in yoga is ujjayi breathing where you breathe in through your nose and out through your nose (trust me I was confused too at first and it took me a solid few months to grasp this concept).
4. Props:Say hello to your new yoga best friends: the yoga block and the yoga strap. I am not sure whether its intimidation or an awkward feeling, but I have seen people not use them when they first start their practice. The yoga block and the yoga strap are there to help you and deepen your practice. Do not shy away from either of those!
5. Be Kind to Yourself: I know it’s tempting to just dive in and try to do it all, but remember yoga is a practice and one that involves growth. Remember to listen to your body and to be kind to yourself, when you want rest – take it, when you want a sip of water – drink some. We have all done it, where we hit our mats the first few times forcing ourselves to do every pose, but yoga is not a competition.
6. Say Hello: Yogis don’t bite! Say hello, flash a smile and engage with the yogis in the community – it may not be on day one or day three, but make it a habit to wave hi. I remember after my first class I high fived a few people because I was very excited to have not fainted after the hour of pure sweat.
7. Drink Water:Please drink water; take a break when you need to; especially if you are doing a hot yoga class.
8. Have Fun:Honestly, it’s just yoga. No one is grading you or watching every little detail, so indulge in the moments on your mat and enjoy them!