Going to a yoga class for the first time can be intimidating, even when the class is online! We create all sorts of stories in our head about why we can’t go, or what might happen when we get there:
“I will be the worst one there!”
“I don’t have the right (clothes, mat, props, etc).”
“Everyone will know that I don’t know what I’m doing!”
“People are going to stare!”
Please know, these stories are just that: stories. A good yoga class is a safe space for you to learn and explore the practice of yoga without judgment. It’s okay if you don’t know what is going on, you’ll learn. Don’t worry about looking foolish, focus on what you can control: your body and your breath.
Here are some things to know to hopefully assuage your anxiety about stepping onto your mat for the first time in a group setting:
Ease your anxiety about your first class by planning to arrive 10-15 minutes early (at least). Give yourself the opportunity to get lost on your way to the studio. Allow yourself time if you have trouble signing in. Give yourself time to set up your props and mat, and introduce yourself to the teacher. Let the teacher know your yoga history (or lack thereof) and of any injuries or limitations you are working with. There is nothing worse than rushing in at the last minute and having everything go wrong your first day. Set yourself up for success and build in extra time.
Wear something that makes you feel comfortable
Clothes do not make the yogi. It doesn’t matter whether you are wearing the highest priced leggings or sweats you got at the dollar store. What matters is that your clothing feels good to you and that you can move easily. The less things are riding up and down, the more you can focus on what your body is doing. You want to feel good in your body, so wear clothes that allow for that. They can be cotton and breathable, stretchy, form fitting, loose, whatever will allow you to move freely and feel your best on the mat.
Props are your friends
Props are there to assist you in your yoga practice. Let them help you! Not using props doesn’t mean you are a better yogi, it just makes you frustrated. Experienced yogis know that props are not a crutch, they are support. They allow you to feel the yoga poses in the body that you have, your yoga body. Yoga blocks can help you balance, stretch, and reach the floor when your hands don’t. Yoga straps or towels can help you connect your hands when you have tight shoulders, or reach your feet when you have tight hamstrings. A yoga blanket offers cushioning to the knees, a lift to the hips or thighs, support during meditation, and for poses like Shoulder Stand.
Everyone is focusing on themselves
One of the biggest worries that beginners have is that other students will judge them. The truth is, practicing yoga can be challenging. No one is looking around the room at other people, they are concentrating on themselves and trying not to fall over. Most people keep their eyes either on the teacher or on their own mat. They focus inward on what their own body is doing. No one is looking at you or judging you. If they are looking at you, it is usually with compassion, since even the most experienced yogi had a first day on the mat. Ideally everyone is working with a Beginner’s Mind, not just you. Yoga teaches compassion, non-judgment, and non-harming with thoughts or actions. Your yoga studio, whether in person or online, should be a safe space for you to begin your practice.
Listen to your body
This is the most important rule when it comes to practicing yoga, or really doing any physical activity. You are the boss, you have dominion over your body, regardless of what anyone else says. If you feel tired, rest. When you lose your balance, shake it off and try again. Let go of struggling and embrace ease. If you feel pain, back off. Your yoga practice should be appropriately challenging and leave you feeling calm and relaxed at the end. It might be sweaty, it might be restorative, but you should always feel in control. If the teacher criticizes you for taking a break or doing something different in class, find a new teacher. True yoga instructors allow you to be in the body that you have and don’t force you to do anything that is uncomfortable or harmful.
Yoga is a practice for all bodies. Each yoga practice will look different, as no two people are built the same. What matters is that you stay in your body, let go of self-judgment, and just breathe. You have nothing to prove to anyone, not even to yourself. Showing up for yourself on your mat as you are is enough. Maybe your practice is to be on your mat and just breathe. Maybe you try a few poses. Perhaps to follow the entire class as the teacher guides. In the end, the choice is yours. This is your practice. Do what feels best for you.
I teach online Beginner Yoga classes every Monday and Wednesday! You can take them live or on demand by going to https://purpleroomyoga.com/classes!
My Back to Yoga Basics course is coming in March! Click here to get on the waitlist!