Yoga for Beginners: Do’s & Don’ts For Your First Yoga Practice
Whether you’ve just started Yoga or are thinking of hitting the mat, now it’s the time to learn a few things about Yoga that will help you to fit in the Yoga community and make the best of your Yoga time.
The thing is that Yoga can be intimidating. Even when you’re sure you want to give it a try, it’s not that easy to put yourself out there. Yoga is the fastest growing “fitness” trend in America, yet starting Yoga is not like joining a gym to work out. Let’s try to break it down into Yoga do’s and don’ts so you’ll feel prepared to start your Yoga practice.
You’re not alone if you’re feeling intimidated.
What to do to not feel totally lost in your first Yoga class
With so many health benefits, Yoga is getting so popular that you might feel like you’re missing out on it.
At the same time, from a Yoga newbie point of view, all you might know is that there are mysterious classes, in the dark, where you could feel exposed, not knowing what to do or how to behave.
The good news is that contrary to what it might appear, the Yoga community is very forgiven of any “Yoga rookie mistake”. The so called Yoga etiquette is all about common sense that aims for inclusiveness and well being of whoever is practicing.
However it doesn’t hurt to know ahead of time what you will find and how you would be expected to behave.
You will see how these common sense Yoga do’s and don’ts are not hard to follow:
Yoga Class Do’s:
Closing your eyes
You will soon notice how pleasant it is to close your eyes through the practice and being present at the moment all for yourself. Close your eyes, as much as you want and enjoy the pose, the breathing and the peaceful atmosphere.
You will be also more in tune with your body.
It might take some time to get used to closing your eyes all through the practice. However listening to your instructor, rather than watching him/her, is a very pleasant experience. Yoga teachers are very skilled on giving detailed instructions and explaining all the steps.
Taking a break
Probably this is the most important Yoga tip for Yoga beginners. Do it!
If at any point in class you need a break, it’s perfectly ok to stop and relax for as long as you need.
It is always better to take a break when your body asks for than to push further just because you feel embarrassed to do so.
Don’t ever think that people will be judging you. Everybody in the class is focused on themselves and too busy to care about what the other ones are doing.
Some people who go to Yoga more regularly, for example, feeling their bodies are not 100% functional on that day, just hung out on Child’s Pose or Savasana. This happens frequently in the Hot Yoga classes, where the heat plays a stressing role in your body.
Do it any time, you feel like it. Yoga routines will create internal heat that will make you hot and sweaty. THe initial poses of the practice are designed to warm your muscles and ligaments and get your body ready for the work. When you’re starting Yoga, your body will react to this different dynamic and you might notice you’re sweating and thirsty, even if the pace of the practice is slow.
Don’t sweat it! Take a break, drink your water and bring a towel in case you’re sweaty.
Loud breathing, gasping, sighing, etc
Breathing is one of the most important exercises in Yoga. Some instructors say that proper breathing is the “most” vital thing you can do while in there.
You will learn different types of breathing, such as inhaling through the nose and exhaling through your mouth, as an example. It will be noisy! Some Yoga instructors say that if you’re not making the throat noise when exhaling, don’t even bother being there (of course this is a comment that is more likely to happen in more advanced classes).
Don’t worry! There will be other noises, loud sighing and moaning too.
Nobody will ever be called of “annoying mouth-breather” in yoga class!
Feeling comfortable with your body (Yoga gazes out and other noises)
It is way more common than you think! All the twisting poses, up and downs, moving around is supposed to massage your internal organs, which is very good for your body! It’s fresh oxygen being pumped to your body, opening spaces and detoxifying.
You’ll be also more relaxed and it is normal that your gastrointestinal tract will get a little bubbly. It happens to everybody. Don’t feel bad or leave the room.
The good news is that as you progress in your Yoga practice, you will be naturally ready to make some changes in your eating habits towards a healthier diet. This change will lead to a better digestion and normal bowel movements and the end of the agony of gasing out when moving into your downward dog.
Getting into a Yoga habit, practicing daily will adjust your body metabolism over time and these incidents will be way less frequent.
Falling from a pose
This will happen a lot too. Even if you are very fit in other physical activities, Yoga will be working in your muscles and ligaments in a total different way. There is a lot of “let go” combined with holding a pose and it takes time to find this balance. The more you practice the better you will be, as anything in life. Part of the Yoga learning is that you’ll become aware of what your body can do and what it can’t. You will learn to respect its limits and enjoy being with your body and slowly shaping your body with Yoga.
If you fall, take your time and catch up from where you stopped or take a break.
Even the most experiences yogis fall in some most challenging poses. It is part of learning and again, nobody cares. The more you do, the better you’ll get a hold of balance poses.
After working hard, the last part of a Yoga class is to end in Savasana (Corpse Pose), which is lying down, eyes closed, letting the relaxation take your body. It is the most pleasant part of your practice, where the sense of calmness welcomes being still, lying on the floor, breathing peacefully.
It is when you might catch yourself dozzing-off. Believe me, it happens a lot. I do it all the time and I have even heard people snoring during this brief 5 min.
Just enjoy the result of your practice and let it go.
Crying or feeling very emotional
Yoga is a harmonizing system of development for the body, mind, and spirit. Even if you’re a Yoga beginner, the way your body will move during your early classes will be different from everything you’ve done before. This dynamic might stir some different feelings inside you.
If you become overwhelmed by your thoughts or emotions and the waterworks start flowing, don’t feel embarrassed. It is actually a good sign your body is sending. You might be able to assess these feeling later or just be aware that they’re there.
Crying is always good for you!
Wearing whatever feels comfortable
We all know that Yoga fashion is a huge industry with a new trend happening every hour. And is probably very rare these days to not have at least a couple of pair of Yoga pants in any woman closet.
Women have discovered that nothing beats Yoga pants in comfort. They can range from a few bucks to a couple of hundred dollars.
You don’t have to worry about fashion or style for your Yoga practice. Just wear what feels good and comfortable. If you feel that there is a lot of fashion competition in your practice, you’ve probably have joined the wrong one.
In a serious Yoga class, “nobody cares” how you dress and nobody will be looking at you. People will be focused in their Yoga workout and probably with their eyes closed for a good part of the class.
From Yoga pants to shorts, sweaters and T-shirts, baggy sweatpants, wear what you like and what will give you the most movement range, while being comfortable.
Asking for guidance any time
It is more than ok to ask for guidance and help all through your practice. Some instructors encourage comments and verbal interaction, while others don’t. They’re always ready to help though.
In any scenario don’t be shy to call your instructor, a small silent gesture will signal him/her and the support will be always prompt and helpful.
If you’re like me, I love to do some homework first so I know what I can expect (I know, a control freak thing) . You can try to do some easy and Safe Yoga Poses at Home or start your mornings with simple stretches and routines that will help to lose your joints and muscles.
Yoga Class Don’ts (please don’t!):
Don’t arrive late or leave early
Plan to allow enough time before your practice to set your mat up and take your time to settle in. Your practice starts the time that you decide to go, it’s your private time, when you’ll be dedicating all your attention to yourself. Make it right and enjoy this time that I bet you had to work hard to get it.
Follow the Teacher’s Sequencing
Trust the process. Don’t do your own routine even if you feel that you can do more. Be present to what is being offered to you, open to the learning and to the instructions you’re receiving.
Let your teacher know about any injuries or conditions (such as pregnancy) that might affect your practice. Your instructor will provide you with appropriate modifications.
Don’t Try to Impress Anyone
Yoga is not a competition and you’re not there to impress anyone, but to dive into your own practice, learn and live through the process.
Your practice will be different every single day. If you feel that you did very well, acknowledge it to yourself, but do not seek rewards for your effort.
Keeping focused on your practice and body there will be no time or opportunity to watch anyone. Be in the present, with yourself.
Put Your Props Away After Class and Clean the Studio Mats
Respect the Space
You will be practicing Yoga with a group of people, which means the setting becomes sacred. Be aware of not talking before, during of after the practice. People get early to the classes to have time to relax and get their minds set up for the practice. Be respectful and follow the studio rules.
Apply the yogic principle of saucha, which means “cleanliness” or “purity.” Personal hygiene is an integral part of practicing yoga. Ensure that you and your mat are clean before practice, avoid heavy fragrances.
Never, ever bring your cell phone to the class
If you can’t do it, maybe Yoga is not for you. This is probably the only hour or so that you ‘re suppose to be completely unplug to be able to focus on your body and mind.
Checking the phone right after the practice, as the first thing you do, might spoil your work and relaxation. Take the time to clear your mind and forget about the outside world.
Worrying about the Yoga accessories
Most Studios will offer you all the equipment required for your practice: mats, bolsters, blocks, straps, blankets. Nothing wrong with bringing your own stuff – my mat is 15 years old and I won’t use any other one – but you don’t have to.
Your instructor will guide through what will be used and how to use it, if you’re in a beginners Yoga class. Don’t go crazy purchasing anything until you know what you’ll really need for the type of Yoga you want to do. All you’ll need to begin is some water in a bottle that keeps the water cool and maybe a Yoga towel if you sweat a lot.
Taking photos or videos
By starting Yoga you’ll feel proud of what you’ve been doing in class. As a new practitioner, you might want to share on social media! Please, don’t.
It’s important to be respectful of the Yoga practice and mindful of your fellow colleagues who may feel uncomfortable being recorded. Plus, you shouldn’t have your cell phone with you anyway!
Never go for a Yoga class on a full stomach
It seems obvious that before any physical activity you shouldn’t have a big meal. However, a Yoga beginner might find that the Yoga practice will be slow therefore not interfering with the digestive system. This is far from the truth. Even gentle classes, beginners level, like Yin and Restorative Yoga, might include twists and turns of your abdomen.
Actually one of the amazing benefits of Yoga is the fact that you will be always working with your whole body, as oppose of segmenting movements like it happens with lifting weights or other kind of physical activities.
If you’re really hungry before your class, go for a small healthy smoothie, nothing else.
If you’re a Yoga beginner, just take your time
As anything else in life, it takes time to absorb the culture and mysticism of Yoga and its community. Try to go with an open mind and not being judgmental of what you’ll find different. If you’re only curious, watch some videos before you go and see what you can expect of a Yoga practice.
The most important fact is that Yoga has to resonate with you and with what you’re looking for. It is a self awareness activity in which you’ll learn a lot about your body and mind.
Once you’re practicing regularly, you’ll find like-minded people, who probably share similar values and interests. You’ll feel a sense of belonging and being together.