Yoga is NOT for me…or is it? My first yoga experience was at one of those big box gyms in 2008. I chose that particular class because it fit my schedule and it was free with my gym membership. I hated it. Here’s where it went wrong: I showed up 30 seconds before class started. The room was packed so there wasn’t a lot of options for me to place my mat. I felt really out of place and lost–as the instructor was teaching, she was telling the class to go into poses I’ve never heard of before. You can see inside the studio from the main gym area which made me feel uncomfortable. Not only did I not know what I was doing, but there were large enough windows where anyone can look in and observe the class.
About a year later a co-worker told me about a heated yoga studio that offers a free week to new students. I decided to give yoga another shot. This time I showed up early and made sure to go to a beginner’s level class. The teacher had an amazing playlist and the heat was amazing. What I wasn’t prepared for was the emotional release I experienced. There were two yoga poses, half pigeon (a hip opener and camel pose (a heart opener) that were life changing for me. I know, it’s quite the declaration for a simple stretch, but I felt a shift in me and I was open to it. We held half pigeon for about 1-2 minutes on each hip. I found myself sobbing! I must have had so much pent-up emotion and energy in my hips. Never underestimate the power of stillness! It can serve as a mirror and the reflection allows you the space to face yourself. When we did camel pose, I felt like something was getting unlocked in my chest. I had horrible posture and was in a time in my life where I unknowingly slouched to make myself small. Good thing it was so hot in there, you couldn’t tell between my sweat and tears coming down my face. I changed my mind about yoga after that, and rolled out my mat 4-5 times a week to practice. One of my favorite yoga instructors approached me about yoga teacher training, and the rest is history. I’ve been a yoga instructor for over 11 years teaching various styles in various settings. Consider myself your friend inviting you, “Do you want to give yoga a (or another) try?”
Yoga is not one size fits all. Just dropping into a random yoga class may leave you disappointed or like me, swearing off yoga. Here are some tips to set yourself up for success.
Environment. Gym vs studio yoga, traditional vs modern yoga studios, mirrors/no mirrors, in-person, virtual, or private 1:1 sessions. Decide what you want the atmosphere to be like.
Teacher. Finding a teacher that can hold this type of space for you, is like finding your favorite hair stylist. Ask your friends if they have a great first time yoga instructor. If it’s a group yoga instructor, check out their bio that’s typically listed in the studio/gym website. Google them! Most yoga instructors have a social media account. Look around their platforms to learn more about them. Does their energy vibe with you? If you decide on an instructor, introduce yourself to them! Tell them you are new so they can be mindful of their teaching sequence and can check in with you after class. I LOVE when students take the time to chat after class. It’s my favorite way to connect with them.
Style. What are you looking for in a yoga class? A beginners yoga class, Hatha, Vinyasa, Restorative, Hot, Ashtanga, Kundalini, etc.? Once you find a location to take class, check out their descriptions. Use Google to do your own research. This will help you decide what class to start with or where you want to eventually be.
Duration. Unless you want to jump all in, your first class should be 60 min or less. If it’s challenging for you to get into a class, then an at-home practice may be for you. I offer different duration and styles on my on-demand platform. There’s endless amount of virtual yoga available to you in the comfort of your own home. If you want to dip your toe in try this 15-minute class.
Arrive early. PLEASE arrive around 10-15 minutes early to class. This way you get acquainted with the space, where to get props, use the restroom, put your things away, and introduce yourself to your instructor.
Sanskrit. I use little Sanskrit in my classes. It’s not a strength of mine and I want my cues to be accessible to all, especially beginners. When I do use Sanskrit, I always offer the English translation. If you prefer it or not, check in with the studio/yoga instructor if they use Sanskrit.
Have the right gear. Wear easy to move in clothes. Stretchy and comfortable leggings or shorts, wear a supportive active bra that’ll hold your breasts in down dog, if you sweat a lot wear fabric that’s moisture wicking, and you can typical borrow a studio mat or bring your own. Test out your mat. Be sure that you can balance on it and that it’s not to squishy. Use a firm mat that stays put on the floor.
Drop your limiting beliefs. Please unsubscribe to the “I’m not flexible/thin enough for yoga” thinking. You practice yoga to gain more flexibility, strength, range of motion, calm, peace, etc. Yoga is for everyBODY. All body shapes and sizes are made for yoga. You also do not have to be a calm or zen person to take yoga. By default, I’m an anxious person. My mindful practice of yoga along with breathwork and meditation manages it.
Don’t do yoga! That’s right, don’t do it. If this isn’t aligning with you right now, no need to force it. Instead, ask yourself why you are resisting yoga. Are you the “I really need to do yoga” person but still not going? We avoid a lot of things that are “good for you”. What’s getting in your way? If you simply do not like it, and that’s okay, just skip the formal yoga class and do another practice that gives you similar benefits like a deep stretch or functional mobility class. Yoga should be enjoyable. This also goes for yoga poses. If you don’t like it, don’t do it. I don’t like to balance on my head. It’s not my thing so I don’t do it. There’s always a modification for a pose or just simply another pose that can be done for similar benefits.
My soon-to-be yogis, I hope these mindful tips help you start a yoga practice that aligns well with your mind and body. If you’re not quite ready to get out there, I invite you to a complimentary 1 MONTH membership to my on-line classes at Carla Jian Wellness. Use code AMTEAM1MONTH for unlimited access to various yoga styles, tutorials, and meditations.
With my hands together at heart center, NAMASTE. Meaning, “I bow to you.”