Sooooo...You Have Never Done Yoga?
You have never done yoga?
Never stepped into a yoga studio?
You’re not flexible?
And all of it is just wildly intimidating to you?….
I know this story. This used to be my story. I have seen this story….and it plays over and over again.
You’re not alone!
As a matter of fact, we all pretty much start out this way. Think about it! If you have never lifted weights before, would you know how much to load on the bar for a squat? What if you have never gone to a spin class, or rode a stationary bike, would you know how to set it up for yourself? I am willing to bet the answer is no. Why is yoga any different?
Whatever it is that you do as your pastime, recall when you first began, and then think of how far you have come. It is about practice. Practice is what we can boil most things in life down to. One of my new favorite mantras is “consistently practice”. Again, why is yoga any different?
It can absolutely be intimidating to walk into a new space, and, it seems that when I talk to new students there is a perception – which is natural – of people, in a room, twisting into all kinds of pretzel like shapes, with no struggle, and they all know exactly what they are doing.
Let me assure you right away, this is not the case. I myself have been moving on my mat for about 11 years, and lately I have never been less flexible, and, every time I step onto my mat I learn something new about myself.
The more you really dive into it, the more you realize, the physical asana (poses) in yoga are just one of the many benefits that the practice has. Yoga touches it all – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual – and you carry it with you, everywhere you go.
As someone who is an advocate for spreading the word about yoga, wanting to shout it from the rooftops, talk to strangers about it, and consider myself an ambassador of the message of yoga, I’d like to break down some barriers that might be preventing you from wandering into a yoga studio or even squandering your time into taking yoga. So, check out these pointers and FYI’s for yourself.
Here is a step-by step, moment by moment “what to expect” if you decide to find your way to your local yoga studio:
- You arrive and the door is locked, but you hear voices inside – check the schedule, read the signs on the door – chances are, you arrived during class. Often times (but not always), studios are locked between classes, or mid-afternoon when the day is in full swing.
- MINDBODY has a wonderful app to locate studios, get times, and sign-up in advance
- Show-up 15 minutes early – as a new student, there may be paperwork and it is nice to introduce yourself to the space. Set yourself up for success and arrive early.
- What about the heat? Yes many times yoga is done in a warm or heated room. There are a few reasons for this. First, the heat helps warm our bodies and our muscles, and therefore creates a bit more flexibility. In addition, the heat is an element that helps build strength in your mind. It is natural to want to “get out” of the pose, or even the room.
Focus on your breath, and do your best. Might be a good idea to bring water and a towel.
- Set-up in the back of the room. Locate the front of the room, and where the instructor will be, and then try your best to be in the middle or back row. This way, you can have some guidance from those around you when you move.
- Take off your socks. Barefoot is always the best way to practice. Practicing barefoot not only builds the muscles in your feet, it also helps you settle into the pose without slipping. (NO ONE is looking at your feet, except you)
- Props – feel free to grab blocks (these are used for bringing the floor closer in poses) – if straps, a bolster, or a blanket is needed often times the instructor will indicate this.
- If you are renting a mat – ask where the mat rentals are, often times there is mat storage for monthly members – do not confuse the mat storage with mat rentals.
- Child’s pose – resting pose – often cued at the start of class – this is a pose you can come to at any time. Remember it, and find it when you need it.
- Listen to words – this is one I find most often with new students. When you are not sure what the teacher said, sure, let your eyes wander for a moment to check it out, but try your very best to listen instead of looking. Listen in to the words you hear, and listen to how you feel in your body. Take this time to rest your eyes – maybe even challenge yourself and close them
- Adjustments / Assisting – sometimes (not always), the teacher will assist students in the pose (this can be done in the form of corrections or deepening). If you do not wish to be touched – inform the instructor. If you are touched, again, the entire class is not watching, there is no need to be embarrassed – it is a practice and we are all learning every day.
- Modifications – if you are working with an injury or there is simply a pose that doesn’t feel good or isn’t accessible to you, most likely there is a modification. Feel free to ask the teacher – by catching their eye or waving them over – to help you find a variation of the pose that is best for you.
- Sanskrit – sometimes the instructor may say words and they sound like they are in a different language – that is because they are. Sanskrit in the ancient language that yoga was communicated in. Often times the pose can be communicated in both Sanskrit and English.
- Savasana – this final pose – also called “corpse” pose. This final pose, a resting pose, is a gift. We allow our bodies this time of rest to reap the physical benefits of the practice. Often times students find it to be either the best pose, or the hardest pose. Take this time for yourself. Rest deeply, and listen to the instructor as they bring you into the pose and out of the pose.
- Chanting / Namaste – class can sometimes be closed out with a chant (OM or other), and Namaste – this traditional closing out allows the community of practitioners to bow in appreciation for each other.
- After class – if you rented a mat or borrowed some blocks, wipe them down and return them to either the front desk or where they were stored. If you have questions, please ask.
Yoga is for everybody.
As an instructor for many years now, I have had the honor of teaching runners, cross-fitters, cyclists, first-responders, children, families, those working with an injury, anxiety or chronic illness, and everyday people, just like you. This practice is worth stepping out of your comfort zone.
The best part is, you will most likely leave with a sense of pride, ease, and excitement. Trust yourself in this practice. Again, after spending time talking to beginners, and even recalling it myself by looking back, there is a certain intuitiveness to this practice that is difficult to explain. Somehow the body starts to know the more that you listen.
There isn’t a need to fear any longer. Yoga studios are not a space for judgment, they are a space of acceptance and community.
Hope to see you on your mat soon, yogi ;)