Yoga is huge.
The proof is all around us — in the growing number of yoga studios in the U.S., and the availability of classes in gyms, parks, corporations, and schools. Health practitioners are starting to recommend yoga to patients for help with managing anxiety, pain, and weight. Browse through Instagram, and there’s no shortage of yogi’s showing off beautiful poses that look impossible to most of us. And thanks to brands like Lululemon, yoga pants have become the new blue jeans.
However, despite popularity, yoga classes can be uncomfortable or even intimidating to walk into, especially if you are a newbie. But it doesn’t have to be. Here are 12 ways to make yoga less scary.
1. Tell the teacher that you’re new
Most teachers want their students to have a positive experience and will go out of their way to make the practice accessible and inclusive. Don’t be invisible. Let the teacher support you by telling him or her you are a first-timer.
2. Know that you don’t need to be that flexible.
Flexibility is not a requirement for taking a yoga class, just like being in shape is not a requirement for joining a gym. Many yoga teachers and experienced practitioners were not able to touch their toes during their first, second, and 20th yoga class, either. Embrace the learning process.
3. Go to the back of the class to observe, not hide.
As a newbie or seasoned practitioner, you’ll most likely hear the teacher say words like “utkatasana” and “tadasana.” And you’ll probably become confused and end up looking around the room to see what others are doing. Don’t worry because you’re not alone in that regard. Staying at the back of the class gives you the opportunity to observe others as the teacher calls out the poses. In time, you’ll understand the meaning of “utkatasana” and other yoga terms.
4. Focus on yourself.
Try not be distracted by class members who may be further along than you. Yes, a couple may look like they belong in Cirque du Soleil. Don’t be concerned about the woman whose thinner or has longer legs. This is about your journey. Do you.
5. You don’t have to do every single pose.
You really don’t! Not every pose is right for your body. And you might not feel like doing the pose, which is fine. Respect your body and yourself by doing what is right for you. If the teacher has a problem with that, then that teacher is not for you.
6. Don’t feel pressured to chant.
Have you heard of Om (pronounced A-U-M)?
Some yoga classes begin and end with a mantra, such as Om. And while there is a purpose for each mantra, not everyone is comfortable saying or chanting it. Don’t let that deter you from this beautiful practice. If chanting is not for you, don’t do it!
7. Try different yoga styles, yoga classes, and yoga teachers.
Not all yoga classes are considered equal. Try on different styles – Hatha, Vinyasa, Hot, Ashtanga, for example. Try different teachers, too. Doing so will lead you to the best class for your needs, even if that class is in your living room with YouTube as the teacher.
8. Take advantage of the new student specials.
Yoga can seem quite expensive. But check out special deals for new students. Take advantage of it! Doing so allows you to try different classes and teachers without the high price tag. Note: Try the class first before you commit to the special. A studio may let you do that for free.
9. Go with a friend
Almost anything is less scary when you have a friend by your side. Grab your BFF, or some other brave, willing and able person, and get your yoga flow on!
10. Don’t take class during peak times.
Going at the most popular time slot means the class will be crowded, and crowded could mean mat to mat. This can be a turn off for anyone. If you are new or like having more space to move around, avoid this if you can. On weekdays, peak hours tend to be from 5pm to 7pm. Weekends are usually 8am to 10am.
11. Get private yoga instruction.
There is something nice about getting that one-on-one attention, especially if you’re a newbie. Private yoga lessons are your ticket. In this setting, the teacher tailors the class to your needs and wants. Also, it is easier and quicker to get answers to questions and receive feedback right there on the spot.
12. Walk away if it is not for you.
Just because everyone is into yoga does not mean you need become a yogi. Just because others rave about a certain teacher does not mean you will be like that teacher. Give it your Girl Scout try. But don’t be afraid to walk away if yoga or aspects of yoga is not for you.
Chioma Njoku is a freelance writing, number-crunching yogi based in Houston, TX. She and her pink nosed pit, Brody, love movement, good food, travel, and anything inspirational. Learn more about her at Yoga with Chi or follow her on Instagram at chi_fityogi74.
Photo 4 via Garry Knight on Flickr. Some rights reserved.
Chioma Njoku is a freelance writing, number-crunching yogi based in Houston, TX. She and her pink-nosed pit, Brody, love movement, good food, travel, and anything inspirational. Learn more about her at Yoga with Chi or follow her on Instagram at chi_fityogi74.