All of us have been the new girl or the new guy in yoga class. We’ve experienced the uncertainty of being insecure about our poses, our clothing, our bodies, our practice. Eventually we find our way, but it helps to have some understanding of the unspoken etiquette of yoga studios. Consider this a list of yoga beginner tips.
When you’re just getting started, it’s important to keep things simple. Don’t worry about getting fancy equipment like yoga gloves, or signing up for aerial yoga swing classes. Just stick to the basics!
Here’s our collection of some of the dos and don’ts for beginners and those new to the yoga studio experience.
Yoga Beginner Tips: The Dos and Don’ts of Yoga Practice
1. Do drink lots of water all day.
Stay hydrated so you don’t end up with a dry mouth during class. And don’t forget to bring a water bottle to the session, especially if you’re participating in hot yoga. Drinking lots of water is something everyone should be doing everyday anyway for basic health reasons, right?
2. Don’t eat a large meal before going to the studio.
Filling your stomach and then trying to do poses like downward facing dog, reverse warrior, and tree pose is a recipe for disaster. I admit that I’ve almost gotten sick more than once during practice by gorging an hour or two before class. If you’re hungry before class, stick to lighter foods like yogurt, nuts, and fruit.
3. Do bring a towel.
Have a yoga hand towel with you to wipe away sweat and, most importantly, to keep your hands dry during practice. You don’t want to start slipping on your mat because your hands are too moist!
4. Don’t show up late.
Yoga is about more than physical poses; it’s about getting your head into the proper mindset and letting go of distractions. That’s hard to do when people show up after class has already begun, or if they get up and leave before it’s over.
Arrive early to get settled in your space, relax, and mentally transition from the regular world to the yoga space. Rushing around to try to make it in the nick of time is not the way to get relaxed! If a situation is out of your control and you do arrive late or you have to depart early, sit by the door to disrupt as few people as possible.
5. Do leave your phone in your locker or car.
Once again, it’s about avoiding distractions. Keep the phone in your locker or in the car. You can afford to disconnect from the world for an hour, no matter how busy you are. Bringing a phone to class can only result in bad things happening, like forgetting to silence the phone and having it go off during the middle of a dead quiet stretch.
6. Don’t sit in the same spot every time.
Some studios may have prime seats near a window or next to the instructor, but it’s kinda selfish to take these spots every time. Be a good neighbor and move to different parts of the room to get different experiences. You’re also more likely to meet different people this way. And it’s good to move out of your comfort zone and not feel like you have to sit in the same place everyday in order to feel comfortable.
7. Do keep an open mind.
You might be introduced to a different way of thinking in your yoga classes. Even if the only reason you start yoga is for the physical benefits, try to keep an open mind when it comes to the spiritual aspect of the practice. Without the mental aspect (mindfulness) of the practice, you’re likely to hit a wall on the physical end.
Eventually, the practice becomes spiritual. This doesn’t mean you have to change your beliefs, but it’s important to stay open-minded and find what makes the most sense to you.
8. Don’t refuse help.
Don’t get offended when the teacher assists you. This applies to newbies and experienced yogis. Even if you’re doing the poses correctly, instructors can show you how to get deeper into the stretch for a more fulfilling workout. Who knows, maybe someday you’ll work your way up to doing acro yoga poses with 4 people at a time!
9. Do clear your head before and during class.
Yoga is as much about the mind as the body. Yoga should be your escape from the problems of life. When you walk through the door of the yoga studio, leave behind all your worries and try to clear your head. Focus only on your practice
If, during class, you feel your mind wandering to thoughts about your kids’ school or the mortage bill (and that sort of daydreaming will happen occasionally), catch yourself and immediately focus on what your body is doing. You’ll find that over time, becoming mindful during class and blocking out distractions becomes easier.
10. Don’t push too hard.
Some yoga poses may stretch and strain your muscles a little, but you should never feel pain or strong discomfort during a yoga practice. You don’t have to go as deep into the poses as your instructor. Just reach and stretch as far as feels comfortable for you. Over time, you’ll be able to push a little more.
11. Do focus on the feeling.
Remember: It’s doesn’t matter how the pose looks, it’s how it feels. New students often get frustrated because they want to get into the asana (pose) perfectly. Don’t get intimidated by the poses themselves; you’re not meant to do them perfectly at first (or maybe even ever).
Yoga isn’t about twisting your body into an impossible position, it’s about staying mindful while being in your body. Don’t worry so much about looking like everybody else, instead focus on how your body feels in the pose. If it feels good to you, you’re doing it right.
12. Do take breaks.
One of the beautiful things about yoga is that it’s all about listening to your body. If you need a break, take one! Coming into child’s pose, savasana (corpse pose), or seated meditation are all great ways to catch your breath.
Don’t worry about not doing what the teacher is telling you to do. These resting poses are encouraged when needed, and no one will judge you for taking time to take care of you.
13. Do keep going!
Don’t give up on your practice! It’ll take some getting used to, but your body will thank you for it in the long run. Yoga is so beneficial for both body and mind, it just takes a little bit of time to settle in. Give yourself enough time, about a month, to settle into the practice before you decide it’s not for you.
Try a few different kinds of yoga to find out which one you enjoy the most. If you’re looking for a stable routine, go for Bikram; if you crave variety and fun, try a Vinyasa class. The most important thing is to find one that makes you feel amazing!
Got a beginner yoga tip of your own? Leave a comment and let us know! Yoga has such a rich history. Don’t forget to check out our list of the best beginner yoga DVD videos, and our list of the best yoga on Netflix and Amazon Prime! And if you’re interested in the spiritual side of yoga, considering learning about chakras.
Portions of this article were contributed by Anna Schoener, a yoga instructor living in Malmo, Sweden.