So…you’ve decided to get into yoga.
Congratulations! I think it’s the best decision ever, but I am biased.
This is a question that is probably the most asked by people who are curious about the practice. How do I start? Do I sign up at my local studio? Do I stay home and use Youtube videos? Do you buy that $100 mat right off the bat?
No. And yes. And no. And yes. And no!
There are several ways to begin a yoga practice but let’s start with what I think is important and should be the first thing you learn.
Respect for yourself, the practice, and the culture which still practices this to this day. Know, at least for now, that yoga is a centuries-old practice and that the modern purpose of yoga, at least in the Western world, doesn’t always match the rest of the world.
Basically, this is someone’s religion. Put some respect on its name. Oh, and it doesn’t belong to you.
Also, respect yourself. Understand that this is a practice. Meaning you’re not going to do a headstand the first day. You’ll probably have trouble touching your toes. You’ll probably be sore. That’s all okay because it’s YOUR practice. Be gentle with yourself. What you do and what you bring to the mat is all you, you own it and can do what you wish with it. Once you understand that, it’s freeing.
Now, the actual start. I have a couple of suggestions. Keep in mind, these are suggestions from a practicing yogi and not a yoga teacher (yet).
I would go to a beginner’s yoga class. You want to be lead by a teacher who can help you with the alignment and any modifications that need to be done at this part of your journey with your practice.
Find a beginner’s class where the teacher is sensitive to things that are important to you. For example, are you a plus-size body? You will move a bit differently. Are you a person of color and would like to be in a safe space? That is a consideration for lots of yogis of color.
There’s a bit of trial and error and, of course, research. People in the community talk — which teachers teach well, their philosophies, etc. Use social media to get to know the teacher a bit and read their bios on the studio’s website.
When you get there, most especially if it’s your first time, you’ll want to be in the first row of mats. Introduce yourself to your teacher and explain to him or her that it is your first time and if there are any sensitive areas (knees, tight back muscles, etc). They’ll need to know that as they lead practice so you can get the attention you need.
Seriously. Start. Slow.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re looking at the schedule and seeing how often you can fit the class in your weekly schedule.
Stop. The. Insanity.
Take the first class. See how you feel first. Then take the next class. I am going to suggest waiting a couple of days between class one and class two. What did you like about your first class? What do you think you need at this point in your practice (probably MORE practice)?
As your body warms up and gets used to the asanas and the flows, up your number of classes. Go ahead, build that community!
Note: While in an asana don’t push yourself. You should feel discomfort, not pain. Let your teacher know if a pose is painful. He or she will know a modification.
But don’t be afraid to jump around
I will be curious to see what the yoga teachers say but…take different classes from different teachers. Not everyone teaches the same. Not everyone will focus on the same things. One teacher hardcore core into building the core while another is into hip openers. That is how you will learn about the practice, and more specifically, your practice — what you like or don’t like.
Note: Not everyone likes Chaturanga. It’s okay.
What about practicing at home?
I am a FAN of the home practice. Look, I love that I can listen to my body at the beginning of my practice and the flow into what I need. Diffuse some oils, spray your mat with your own mat clear, use whatever music is speaking to your soul…it’s so luxurious!
But here’s the thing, it took me a bit to get to the point where I can home practice and flow for myself and I’m still learning to do it.
Here’s what I suggest: Once you have learned and executed the alignment of poses, do a mix of studio and at home practice. Here are some suggestions for at home resources when I decided to go at home.
You’ll know when you can go 100 percent home practice. It’s your journey after all. But also, don’t dismiss going to the studio or a pop-up yoga class to continue building community and learning more asanas and flows. Also, you’ll need a challenge!
And you’ll also want to try different kinds of yoga. Yin yoga is amazing. Heated Vinyasa is WHOA! I haven’t tried Hatha yet but I’m eyeing a class at a Houston-area studio to get into it and help expand my practice.
Don’t, I REPEAT, don’t go crazy with the gear. You don’t need the $100 mat right now. Slow your roll. Use that mat from Five Below or Target first. It’s okay to layer the inexpensive mats together if you need more cushion.
I love me some yoga blocks but you don’t need to go buy the expensive stuff. You can use books, phone books (do they still make those?) and other things for now. I can attest that I have gotten inexpensive blocks (they were 5 bucks each) and they are lovely. If you find a deal, get you a pair.
Really, what you want to focus on are clothes, and that doesn’t have to be expensive either. Clothes that fit and are easy to move around in. If you have this NEED to get you some yoga-esque clothes, get thee to Walmart. Seriously. You can get some pretty good exercise clothes and it’s not expensive.
Towel! You will need that to not only wipe your brow but you can use it to get into deeper stretches and poses.
Remember, starting slow is important. You don’t want to injure yourself. Enjoy your practice!