It can be daunting the first time you step on a yoga mat. Remember that everyone else was a beginner at some point and has been in the very same spot that you’re in now. People don’t naturally jump into crazy arm balances and inversions during their first yoga class, and if someone tries to tell you that, they’re lying. Below are common thoughts and phrases I’ve heard from beginner students (myself included).
One of the most common reasons I hear from people who are interested in starting a yoga practice but don’t is: “I can’t do yoga because I can’t touch my toes.” Yoga is not about touching your toes. And let’s be honest, toes are kind of gross, (they freak me out!) so if you can’t touch your toes, you are NOT missing out on anything and you won’t get kicked out of class. As you practice, you will increase your flexibility and strength and maybe one day you will touch your toes…and all that really means is you will be one of those people who have nasty toe germs on your hands.
“I’m not – strong/bendy/flexible/skinny/insert adjective – enough to practice yoga.” Like I mentioned above, yoga does not have a physical requirement to start yoga (as long as your doctor gives you the go ahead before starting). Be proud that you are a beginner, that is the best time in a person’s practice. Each class you have an “ah-ha” moment, whether it’s finally understanding a pose, sticking a difficult pose for the first time, or mentally overcoming a challenge, on or off the mat.
Another great lesson yoga teaches us is to know and accept your physical limit. Sometimes you need less core work and more restorative poses. Sometimes you need to skip Chaturanga and go straight to Child’s pose. That’s OK! You can be crazy strong another day. Focusing on your breath is one of the best indicators in judging your limit. Yoga is basically a breathing exercise. If you are huffing and puffing during a pose or sequence, or grinding your teeth while making an awful face at the teacher, then you are pushing yourself too far. Lessen the difficulty of the pose you’re in, straighten or bend the legs, drop the arms, or find a Child’s pose. You have nothing to prove to the teacher, the other students, or yourself. Join the sequence again when your breath is more controlled. If you don’t listen to what your body is telling you, then you are letting your ego control your actions, which will eventually lead to an injury.
Sometimes the first few classes can be tough, physically and mentally. You are putting yourself in weird positions that most people don’t do. Remember that yoga is not about being perfect. It is your practice and it’s your time to feel alive and loved, and for you to feel better when you walk out of class than when you walked into class.