So you haven’t done yoga yet but you totally want to it’s just that you’re really not flexible, you don’t have a mat, and class always seems to collide with nightly Seinfeld reruns. Or maybe you’re a dude – and you can be a girl dude or a boy dude or any kind of dude – who doesn’t do tight pants or chanting. Or just maybe you’re a little worried that everyone is going to know that you have no idea what you’re doing when the teacher says, “amazing Ujjayi everyone, I can almost hear the ocean.”
Whether you’re a nineteen year old boy-man, a forty something on the run mama, or a seventy year old bachelor, yoga is for you. Touching your toes is not the secret handshake that gets you into the yoga club. Never having done a Downward Facing Dog is not going to get you relegated to the corner. If you’re contemplating yoga, but haven’t quite left the house, here are some tips from a teacher and veteran yoga newbie, to help you walk out that door.
1. Do it. Just go to the class.
Don’t worry if this will happen or if that will happen or if you’ll look like a total newb. You are a total newb thus it might occur that you look like a total newb. But news flash – everyone in the class will be more concerned with themselves than they will be with you. You’ve never done yoga before so of course you won’t know what you’re doing but that’s okay. Like with all things, you need to learn and practice. Just go. The rest will follow.
2. Talk to the teach.
It is completely okay and even encouraged for you to say something along these lines: “Hi. I’m Todd. I’ve never done yoga before. I have a knee injury from a few years ago that sometimes gives me grief.” If you tell your teacher what’s going on with you and your bod, they can better understand what you need and what modifications to offer you.
3. Don’t push it.
Yoga is about intelligent challenging. It is not about pushing as hard as you can to grab a hold of your foot. It is always better to be on the softer, more controlled side of your threshold. Just because you can do something physically challenging doesn’t mean you should and it also doesn’t mean it’s serving you in any kind of way. Contrary to popular belief, yoga is not simply about being the most physically adept, impressive looking moving and shaker.
4. Baby, don’t hurt me.
If something hurts – like sharp, bad pain – stop and back out of it. Don’t push through pain. There’s no point. If something is massively intense which could be construed as pain but isn’t actually pain – then breathe. It will be okay and won’t last forever.
5. Breathe like you mean it.
You must breathe. Don’t worry too much about special kinds of breathing, especially when you’re just starting out. Use your breath to help you relax into challenging poses. Use your breath to settle your mind. If you’ve stopped breathing, maybe you’ve come too far into a pose. Back off and keep breathing.
6. This ain’t no ball game. Drop the competition.
When you know that your body isn’t quite capable of something and you see someone next to you doing that very thing with what seems like no effort, you don’t need to try to be like them. You don’t need to strive or push like whoa especially when you’re still learning your boundaries You don’t need to compete with your neighbour or yourself. Let go of your ego and see what comes when you drop the competition.
7. Keep coming back for more.
The more you practice, the better you’ll feel. Breathing will become steadier, your mind will slow down, and poses will become more accessible. You’ll feel like less of a newbie and you’ll gain some confidence. Then when you see a fresh newbie in class one day you can take them aside and tell them how you felt when you first began practising yoga. And so the torch is passed on. Being a yoga newbie is nothing to be ashamed of.