January is fast approaching, and yoga studios everywhere are gearing up for the first-of-the-year rush. According to Lynn Burgess, founder and director of Yoga From the Heart in Sarasota, Florida, yoga is a popular New Year’s resolution and wellness commitment to make for the coming year. “It’s wonderful for the body and for the mind,” says Burgess.
But, she adds, for beginners, yoga and anxiety often go hand-in-hand. “Walking into the studio for the first time can be very intimidating,” says Burgess.
To help beginners, Burgess put together the following guide to help keep peace of mind at the top of mind when discovering yoga. “Keep in mind that we fall down a million times before we learn how to stand on our heads,” she says.
1. Begin at the beginning. There’s a reason a beginner’s class is called such. It’s a step-by-step introduction to yoga, helping students explore, deepen their awareness and receive feedback as they learn. “Too often, I see first-timers start off in a more advanced class, telling themselves, ‘I’m in good shape,’” says Burgess. “And maybe they are in good shape, but the ability to run two miles means very little on a yoga mat.” In a beginner’s class, an instructor can guide you through poses, correct any mistakes and help you feel comfortable.
2. Take one step at a time. Don’t try to do too much at once in your first yoga class. The poses will all feel new and different, and that’s ok. “I see newbies, all the time, get frustrated, turn red-faced and take it out on the yoga strap,” says Burgess. “Instead, accept where you are and do what you can. With patience, the poses will come.”
3. Don’t grin and bear it. If you feel pain in yoga, you should either tell the teacher what you’re experiencing and ask for an alternative position, or stop altogether and assume a rest position until the class is ready to move on. While suffering in silence may be noble in some spheres, pain and yoga should not go together, and could actually lead to injury.
4. Focus on your capabilities, not someone else’s. “I see countless students turn yoga into a competitive sport,” says Burgess. Instead, she says, when you enter the yoga studio, you should focus on your own goals and work toward improving your own performance. Instead of trying to be stronger, more flexible and better balanced than others in the class, focus on being stronger, more flexible and better balanced than you were yesterday.
5. Enjoy the class. Yoga is about embracing the life you’re living right now. It’s not about wishing for something different, such as a thinner body, straighter poses or perfection. Focus on each and every aspect of the class, and find an appreciation for the little things, like learning new positions, pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and growing more mindful.
6. Keep at it. Yoga is not about instant gratification. It’s about study, practice, participation and commitment. Even the most accomplished yogis know that there is always still more to learn. The more you delve into yoga, the more ingrained it will become in your life. Before long, you may wonder how you got along without it.