As a beginner to yoga, stepping onto the mat for the first time might just be the hardest part of starting a practice. There can be a myriad of reasons that hold us back – time, the fear of the unknown or not feeling good enough, not knowing which teacher to go to – the list goes on. Here are our top tips to support you stepping over the threshold, we have a feeling your mind and body are going to thank you for it…
Do your research
Find a studio that offers classes that work for your schedule and then once you’ve found one…
Visit the yoga studio first
Popping in to say hello and visiting a studio space can be a great way to put your mind at ease and meet some of the team who probably know a thing or two about yoga. Most front of house teams are passionate about yoga and will be more than happy to share their own personal experiences and recommendations. There will be a familiarity coming back for the second time for your first class and before you know it, you’ll know the ropes.
Start with a beginners class or course.
The session will be tailored for your needs and will make space to show you the basics. A course in particular is a great way to get a solid foundation. It’s also a lovely way to get to know your local community and even make some new friends.
Most studios offer some kind of introductory offer which is a great opportunity to trial as many classes as you can for a set period of time. After joining a beginner’s class this is a GREAT way to try different styles and teachers. There are so any different styles of yoga and so it’s worth experiencing a few different versions at the beginning to build your knowledge of this rich practice. What you’ll get from a Yin class will be very different to a Vinyasa Flow so know that there is a rich tapestry for you to explore.
Be open minded
If you’re used to approaching your health and fitness with the mentality of ‘no pain no gain’, yoga is going to challenge you in a different way. As much as the asana (the physical postures of yoga) practice is important for our physical health, yoga philosophy and a meditation practice can do wonders for our mind, emotional health and general wellbeing.
You are your ultimate teacher
At the beginning it is easy to hand over a lot of the responsibility to your teacher. As your yoga practice continues you will develop an understanding that your ability to self-regulate is at the core of advanced practice. If something doesn’t feel ‘right’ or you’re uncomfortable, it’s for a really valid reason. Of course we may need to ask for advice or support but no one else is in your body and therefore can’t know for certain what you’re feeling. Be guided by your intuition, rest when you need to and trust the feedback of your body.
There can be a misconception that using props is because of a lack of flexibility or strength. Props are actually a wonderful way of adapting our practice to our unique make up and can even make our practice more challenging. They can be used in classes that are about deep relaxation such as restorative or yin yoga so going to one of these classes is a great way for you to experience how props can support you in deep rest as well as more dynamic practice. Start with a yoga bolster and 2 yoga bricks, the most versatile of props.
Invest in your own mat
If you feel the practice is for you, there is something really special about owning your own mat. Not only will you feel more committed to your practice, you’re more likely to roll it out at home or take it with you whilst you’re travelling. The Yogamatters Sticky Mat is a great place to start.
Remember yoga is not just on the mat
It’s not always possible to make it to a class – work meetings over run, family demands take priority, this is life. In these moments, it’s helpful to remember that yoga is a philosophy that extends way beyond the physical practice. See if you can integrate mindful moments into your day such as taking a moment to check-in with how you’re feeling, consciously giving someone 100% of your attention wile speaking to them, or simply taking a deep breath. By taking our practice off the mat, we realise that we can continuously practice even when life demands our attention in other areas.
Learn to relax
Sometimes relaxation (savasana) can be the hardest part of our practice. Learning the art of ‘being’ and allowing ourselves the gift of rest can often feel like a foreign concept at the beginning. For us, it’s one the many reasons that yoga is so special. If it feels tricky, stay with it as best you can, it might just become your favourite part of the practice in the not too distant future.