From the outside, yoga can seem intimidating, what with all the photos from Insta-famous yogis, crazy poses named after obscure animals, and the promise that it’ll change your life. But don’t let all the PR noise keep you from trying it for yourself! You don’t need to be crazy flexible or a super athlete to find your om. To help you navigate your first class, we asked blogger and yoga instructor Christine Yu from Love Life Surf to give us her top strategies for newbie yogis.
1. Focus on you, not your neighbor. Don’t worry that you’re doing it all wrong just because your Downward Dog doesn’t look the same as the girl on the mat next to you. Know that everyone’s final version of a posture will be different because everyone’s bodies are different. So long as you’re doing the move safely — which your instructor will be watching out for — there’s not one ideal. It’s a matter of looking within and going with how your body feels in that moment.
2. Don’t be afraid to use props. Props exist for a reason: to help you position your body safely using correct form. A lot of people think that they’re a crutch, but they’re not. It’s about taking care of yourself and keeping your body safe. It doesn’t matter if no one else in the class is using one. If it helps you, use it!
3. Listen to your breathing. As a beginner, it’s about recognizing how your breathing changes as you move into different poses. As you gain experience, you can move from recognizing your breathing pattern to consciously changing it to match your movement. Start by taking five minutes at the beginning of class to feel your breath, focusing on taking full breaths from your belly instead of shallow breaths from your chest.
4. Choose a beginner’s class. To avoid feeling intimidated, it’s best to start with a beginner-specific class. Many studios and gyms offer a Yoga for Beginners workshop, which is a great place to start. Typically the instructor will go over the most common poses and help you get the gist of each movement.
5. It’s OK if you don’t absolutely love your first class. There’s a lot of talk about yoga being a transformative experience, but it’s totally normal if you don’t experience that your first time on the mat. Or even your fifth. You may walk out thinking yoga is hard and frustrating. And that’s okay. As with anything, the more you practice, the more enjoyable the experience will become.