I’m what you might call a wannabe yogi. I took my very first yoga class back in college, and completely fell in love with the practice. My instructor was this wonderful woman with the most peaceful demeanor and she was one of the first people in my life who told an entire room full of people that they were all beautiful, that they could do anything, that they would surprise themselves if they only kept trying. It was a pretty life-altering experience, honestly.
Since then, I’ve taken a few sporadic classes here and there, though I mainly follow a few select yoga instructors online. I definitely don’t practice nearly as often as I wish I did (because hello, busy freelance writing toddler mom life), but I’m working on it. After all, yoga has many benefits, including reducing depression and anxiety (and stress!), keeping you toned, increasing your flexibility, providing you with more energy, helping maintain your metabolism. And if that isn’t enough, did you know yoga can even improve your sex life? It's actually hard to find a reason not to do yoga.
I must say, though, that going to a new yoga class for the first time is always a bit nerve wracking. And I know it’s not just me. We all end up having a lengthy internal monologue during that first practice, and it goes something like this:
If You’re Not Used To Being Barefoot, You’ll Get Self-Conscious About Your Feet
When I first started yoga, I was not one to bare my feet much. It took me some time to get comfortable with this, not to mention seeing a bunch of other people’s feet. Then I remembered feet are perfectly normal body parts and we’re all human and it was time to get the hell over it.
And Then You Might Feel Self-Conscious About Everything Else
There will always be someone in your yoga class who just looks like they’re a freaking Lululemon model. Don’t let it get to you. We are all beautiful people with equally beautiful bodies. Yoga is so not a competition.
“Oh man, what a cool mat!”
There’s usually one or two people who have insanely cool yoga mats. Go ahead and ask them where they got it and make a friend. Trust me, they want you to ask. There will probably also be someone with really rad leggings or other yoga gear. Don’t worry, you’ll get there someday.
You’ll Wonder Where You Should Put Your Mat Down To Begin With
When no one has put down a mat yet, it’s kind of awkward trying to figure out whether everyone practices with mats going from front to back of classroom or side to side, and then you’ll also wonder how close you should get to the next mat. I suggest waiting for a few regulars to set up camp and then following suit.
“I’m Totally NOT Doing This Right”
We’re all not sure what the hell we’re doing the first time (and we’re usually not sure what the hell we’re doing the second and third and 25th times either). The point is to do your best. No one is judging your performance half as hard as you're judging your own.
You’ll Be Asked To Close Your Eyes At Some Point And You’ll Wonder If You’re The Only One That’s Actually Got Them Closed
But you’re not. Keep them closed. We’re all doing it.
“How Do People Know What To Do Without Looking At The Instructor?”
It doesn’t come to you automatically the first time, so feel free to take a peek.
“What did I get myself in to?!”
You’ll start to wonder why the hell you walked into the studio in the first place. Whatever you do, don’t leave! It’s so worth it.
“Whoa! Wait...There’s No Way I Can Bend That Way!”
And once you are looking at the instructor and they turn themselves into a living pretzel, you’ll start to feel your confidence slip, but that’s OK. Just keep doing what you’re doing.
“Why Do My Hands/Feet Keep Slipping?”
You’ll probably look around you to see if anyone else seems to be slipping, and they may or may not, and that can get a bit discouraging, but that’s OK. Just do you.
“Man, That Is One Funny-Looking Pose”
Yoga has many graceful-looking poses, but it also involves a lot of poses that would look particularly hilarious if done alone in public. One of the most common, downward dog, is not exactly something you’d want to do in the middle of a crowd.
“I’ll NEVER Be Able To Do THAT!”
I know your brain might tell you you won’t, but keep at it! Yoga is an ongoing practice and the more you practice, the more flexibility and strength you develop, and the faster you finally get to do some of those impossible-looking inversions.
You’ll Suddenly Feel Muscles You Never Knew Existed
Some of them will hurt, or at the very least, they'll surprise you. Do you know what the backs of your knees or your ribcage normally feel like? You’re not alone.
And A Lot Of Them Will Actually Feel Good
While some movements might feel a bit painful (in which case, you may want to slow down or stop, since yoga technically shouldn’t hurt), many movements will bring some pleasant feelings in your body. When I haven’t been on the mat for even a few days and finally get back on and do a little cat/cow or better yet, a pigeon pose, everything suddenly starts to feel so yummy.
“I’m Too Fat/Skinny/Uncoordinated/Inflexible/Whatever To Do This”
Stop thinking this. No one kind of body is too anything for yoga. That’s the beauty of yoga. It’s not about your body type. It’s just about what you want to do, and what you’re willing to open yourself up to.
“I’m Going To Fall. I’m Going To Fall. I’m Definitely Going...To...Oh Crap!”
Yeah, we all fall. Sorry! But, you know, like Batman’s dad said, “Why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves back up.”
Sometimes you’ll be asked to hold a pose for a while. And you might get impatient. Fight the urge to move ahead. Enjoy the moment for what it is.
“Where’d they get THAT from?!”
Suddenly, folks will bust out a bolster or block and you’ll feel entirely unprepared again. It’s cool. You’ll learn more about all the fun yoga accessories as you go along.
“Did Anyone Hear Or Smell That?”
Gas. It happens. Ignore it and move into the next pose.
“Can We Please Stay In This Pose Forever?”
At some point in your practice, you’ll probably find a pose or two that you’d rather stay in for longer than the instructor asks. Feel free to do that if you want. Or keep it in mind for the next time you practice at home. My personal favorite is happy baby or ananda balasana. And yes, that’s definitely one funny looking pose.
“Oh, Crap. I Fell Asleep!”
By the end of your practice, you may end up in shavasana, or corpse pose, and if this is a comfortable position for you, there’s a 2-in-3 chance you’ll probably fall asleep, if only for a few seconds. Nothing like a nice rest after a strong practice!