Trying anything new can be intimidating, and being new to yoga class is no different.  There is so much information about yoga out there that it is easy to get overwhelmed.  People new to yoga may be asking “what should I look for in a class?   In a teacher?” or “what are all these styles and what does that mean?”

Yoga has become very popular in the last few decades, and with that popularity have come all sorts of new yoga classes and different ways of practicing.

What is a beginner yoga student to do?

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First, relax,

there are a plethora of yoga studios and teachers out there. Just get started with. You will be able to find a class and teacher to match your goals.

Second, explore the reasons why you are interested in doing yoga,

this will help you narrow down the type of class you want to attend.

Also check out Yoga for weight loss – all you need to know and Yoga for runners – surprising benefits and injury prevention facts

Are you interested in yoga as a practice or yoga as a workout?  Yep—they’re different!  Yoga is system of wellness that is about more than the poses (asana) , such as breathing techniques (pranayama) and information about the way we should conduct ourselves within society (yamas and niyamas).

Yoga as a holistic practice is actually a very beautiful system and can lay a wonderful groundwork for how we conduct ourselves throughout life. The physical demands are challenging, but there is also a deeper exploration and a cultivation of sensitivity of our consciousness.

I often think of yoga as a science of the mind and thought but an art in the physical expression of asana.  As a yoga teacher, I can’t help but recommend that you explore yoga fully.

I am not unrealistic however, I have been teaching long enough to know that some folks want to practice yoga for a workout– period. That is OK too, everyone has different reasons for wanting to start yoga.

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There are yoga classes and methods of teaching that address the more holistic approach to teaching and others that use yoga asanas as a form of exercise.  Depending on your goals, one of these approaches will be more appealing than the other.  Your goals and interests could change overtime however, so be open to the possibility that yoga may surprise you and draw you in!

The experience level of your teacher is very important

I have seen far too many people in my time come to me after they have been injured in another class.

Find out where your teacher got his or her training, how long they’ve been teaching and do a little research on the type of certifications they hold to check your comfort level with him or her.  If you have injuries or health concerns, it’s OK to ask your teacher if they feel comfortable having you in class.

If they don’t feel they can help you, they’ll be a great resource for a referral to someone who can.  All that said, give your teacher a chance.  If you don’t love them right away, go for another class or two, not every class is the same.

If you want to move around and sweat and you happened to stroll into class on a restorative day, you may unfairly judge your teacher as being too slow.  Conversely, if you walk into your first class on a back bending night you may think that yoga is way too hard and you never want to do it again.  Ever.

Find balance between giving your teacher a chance and knowing when to find another teacher if you don’t feel safe.  When you are first beginning yoga it’s OK to take a variety of classes with different teachers and see what you like best.

Try different yoga classes till you find what you are looking for.

After a few years of taking different yoga classes, I stumbled into an Iyengar Studio.  From my first class, I knew I was home; I had found what I was looking for.  I never would have discovered my love of the Iyengar method of teaching yoga if I hadn’t just kept plugging away and trying out different studios.

Many yoga studios offer a free class to first time students, so check out the policies of your local studios. Once you’ve found a class you’d like to try ask to see if you need to bring anything with you. Normally, you will not have to as the studio will have all the mats and props you need.

Dress comfortably,

you don’t want to wear anything too tight or so loose that your teacher cannot see your form. Go barefoot during class. Your teacher may offer physical adjustments, these can be wonderfully helpful.

It is good yoga class etiquette not to step on another person’s mat and to silence your cell phone.  Try not to have a big meal too close to class.  A light snack is OK.

Yoga is a wonderful practice and I think you’ll be pleased with your decision to give it a try.  Remember, you are not in class to compete with anyone, yourself included.  It is no big deal if you are tight and can barely touch your toes.

Just do the best you can, without forcing and enjoy

We all have to start somewhere.  Just do the best you can, without forcing, and enjoy the process of your body getting stronger and more flexible.  Be consistent in your practice.  You’re likely to get more out of a little yoga every day or several times a week than doing a two hour class every so often.  Most importantly of all– enjoy!  You are doing a wonderful thing for yourself by exploring the practice of yoga.

Images by lyn tally and Andrew Whalley

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