This is the year, you’re finally going to do it! Way to go!
I remember the first time I went to a yoga class. Although I’d heard so much about the benefits of doing yoga and knew it would be a positive addition to my life, I won’t lie, I was anxious.
When I thought about yoga, images of people twisting and contorting their bodies into unimaginable poses came to mind. I had no idea of the ‘yoga lingo’ (chaturanga what?), what to wear, what to expect, and didn’t know if my body would be able to move in the way I assumed it needed to.
Curiousity trumped fear and, thank goodness it did. Fifteen years later, I’ve never looked back.
What got me through the door (apart from the psychological, emotional and physical benefits I knew I’d be gifted) was the remembrance that most new experiences are terrifying. Going to an event where you don’t know anyone; jumping out of a plane; travelling to a foreign country; starting a new job – most things that are new to us, arouse a sense of trepidation and anxiety. I knew if I could confront my fear and make the unknown, known, I’d be okay – and maybe even a bit proud. I’m also a firm believer in doing things that scare me, so I knew I was on to something when I felt this way en route to my first yoga class.
I know many people have a lot of questions about yoga that they’d like answered before they attend their first class, so I’ve compiled a Q&A with some of the questions I get asked the most. I hope my responses help to allay your fear and get you on a mat at your local yoga studio soon (even better if I see you at one of my classes! Here’s where you’ll find me around Brisbane).
What can I expect in a yoga class?
In most styles of yoga, each class is different. Although you’ll do the most common poses regularly, you’ll also be introduced to some new ones along the way (which is what makes it fun!) Most teachers demonstrate the poses at the front of the room, and all of them very clearly tell you how to get into and out of them. All you need to do is follow along and do your best. Your first experience is bound to be awkward but keep in mind that everyone else is too worried about what their own downward dog looks like to be looking at you.
If going to your first class worries you, try a class or course specifically for beginners (I’m teaching one at SoHo Yoga), having a private one-on-one session at home or doing a class on YouTube. But if you want to just dive in, I promise you’ll be fine! Just give the teacher the heads up that you’re new when you arrive, and he/she will keep an extra eye on you!
Aaaaaand if you hate yoga the first time you try it, please try again. There are millions of teachers and countless styles of yoga so, with a bit of experimentation, you’re bound to find the perfect teacher and style for you! Sam wasn’t sold after his first class (too much patchouli… not enough deodorant) but, eventually, found a teacher and a studio that felt just right for him.
What should I wear?
Wear whatever you feel comfortable in beautiful! Yoga is not a fashion show, so I suggest just wearing something you can move in. I love wearing yoga tights with a firm fitting singlet so my top doesn’t ride up when I’m in certain poses and my arms can move freely. There’s no right or wrong though – just do you!
What if I can’t get into the pose?
No problem! The great thing about yoga is that there’s space for all abilities! Touching your knees is celebrated just as much as touching your toes in yoga! The only thing that matters is that you listen to your body, respect its limits and do what feels right for you. Everybody is different and yoga really respects this.
Let go of what you think a pose should look like; focus on sensation over shape and surrender to the process. Move at your own pace and intensity and above all, be kind to yourself. Laugh when you wobble or muddle up your left and right – it’s all a part of the learning process.
Rest assured, if you’re doing something that is unsafe for your body (such as twisting awkwardly or not engaging your core to support you), your teacher will give you a helping hand and perhaps, a prop or two to support you (yoga props are seriously the best thing since sliced bread!)
I feel so self-conscious. What if I do something wrong and people laugh at me?
One of the things I love most about yoga is that nobody is there for anyone else. Although you’re in a room with a group of people, yoga is a deeply insular and individualised practice. When you’re on your mat, it’s all about you. In all my time teaching I’ve never had anyone be laughed at or criticised. In fact, yoga classes are some of the most supportive spaces I’ve ever been in! Your yoga mat is your safe space, a place you can let down your defences and be completely free. It provides the space to recalibrate and reconnect with your inner teacher (we all have one, trust me). Just focus on yourself and ignore everyone else because that’s what they’re doing!
How long will it take to get ‘good’ at yoga?
Everyone who steps onto their mat is ‘good’ at yoga because yoga is all about showing up fully, giving it a go and moving to the capacity your individual body is able to. A ‘good’ yogi is not someone who can do complicated asanas (poses). A ‘good’ yogi is someone who is consistent, tries their best and speaks kindly to themselves when something feels challenging. Some of the best yogis I know can’t do advanced asanas, but they embody the teachings of yoga – such as compassion, kindness and presence.
Will yoga get me fit? How else will yoga improve my life?
Yep, yoga will improve your strength, flexibility and mobility but that’s really just an added bonus. Yoga is about so much more; when practised consistently, yoga will calm your mind, help you nurture a more loving relationship with yourself, enable you to breathe more fully, and sleep more soundly … the list of benefits is endless!
Yoga is not a quick fix but the fact that it has been around for thousands of years is a testament to its efficacy. The effects of your practice are cumulative; even small gestures can produce significant benefits in the long run.
I also like to think of my practice on my mat as practice for ‘real life’ – listening to your body and inner wisdom and knowing when to push and when to step back; showing up when you don’t feel like it; trying something new (like a challenging pose) for the first time and resisting the urge to give up (your mind can tell you elaborate stories when you’re holding a challenging pose!) Yoga, and the teachings I’ve taken from my mat, have changed me for the better, in all areas of my life!
I hope this helps answer some of the questions you may have had floating around in your head – and I hope even more that it gets you to a yoga class in the very near future. Of course, I’m always here to support you in any way I can so drop me an email or check out my Brisbane-based classes and mobile yoga packages.
For now, let me leave you with one of my favourite quotes from the Bhagavad Gita (an ancient Hindu text):
On this path effort never goes to waste, and
there is no failure. Even a little effort
towards spiritual awareness will protect
you from the greatest fear.