The beginning is the most important part of the work. - Plato
Oscar Wilde said “To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance”. Wherever you are on the journey of loving yourself, starting the practice of yoga has the great potential of turning into a passionate love story of self-discovery and healing.[wp_ad_camp_1]
If you have taken the first step in this path, or have been pursuing it in different forms for quite some time, congratulations! Learning to love yourself is always worth your time and effort, and beginning to do yoga is likely going to become one of the best choices you have ever made.
Approaching yoga for the first time can be both scary and exciting; maybe you’ve wanted to try it for years, or maybe you got dragged to your first class by your yogi friend that is just so excited to show you something they love, or maybe you are looking for an alternative form of exercise that gets you off that treadmill. You might be nervous, scared you will make mistakes, not know what to do, and make a fool of yourself. Anyone doing yoga for quite some time still feels this way sometimes. It’s ok to be nervous. Take a deep breath, and let go of the fear. Remember, you are doing this for you, and nobody else.
If you are a newbie to yoga, check out these 5 mistakes in order to avoid frustration, anger, and self-bashing. Start your practice with love, gratitude, and determination. If you have been practicing yoga for quite some time, you will likely relate to the most common mistakes most people make their first week of yoga. I know I do!
1) Picking the wrong level class
Throw caution to the wind and just do it. - Carrie Underwood
When approaching a yoga studio or a yoga class at the gym, or a class online, it is likely that you will feel overwhelmed by the choices. First of all, there are so many different kinds of yoga and so many places offering all kinds of different practices. My advice is to just pick one. If it’s not for you, you will figure it out later, but pick a yoga studio or gym that has the most convenient location and time for you. You are much more likely to go if it is close to home or work, and don’t have to drive across town to get there. Or if you are motivated by going to the same place as your friend or a place that was recommended to you, do that. Just pick one that you are inspires you to get up and moving, even if it is at 6 a.m. or after a hard day’s work.
Secondly, if you are new to yoga, pick a BEGINNER or ALL LEVELS yoga class. Even if you are fit and practice other sports and climb mountains and run mud triathlons, do the beginning course. Yoga has its own language and series of unique movement that you will learn with time. If you pick a class that is intermediate or advanced, you will likely feel lost and want to give up. If the class feels too easy, then move on to an intermediate level, but give it at least a week of committed practice to learn the language of yoga first.
2) Coming in with expectations
Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won't come in. ― Isaac Asimov
It is likely that you will, consciously or subconsciously, go to your first class with a lot of expectations and beliefs about yoga you have gathered over the years. With the popularity of yoga exploding in the last couple decades, it is no surprise that people have so many different opinions about it. You have probably internalized those beliefs as well, and if they won’t lead to a positive and nurturing practice, let them go.
3) Being Too Hard on Yourself
The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself. - Anna Quindlen
Yoga is a personal practice that we most often practice with a bunch of other people. You might find yourself looking around the room and thinking “Whoa, I can’t do that!” and feeling discouraged and frustrated that you can’t get your heels on the ground in downward dog, or your hands to touch the floor in forward fold. The key is to think “Whoa, I can’t do that!...YET!” and keep practicing. Judging yourself against other yogis is a losing game. There will always be someone who has practiced longer than you, can bend more than you, or eventually hold a crow longer than you can. Be kind with yourself and focus only on YOU. I know that it can be hard to focus completely on ourselves when we feel like everyone else can see our every move! The fact is, people are paying way less attention to you than you think they are. They are probably not looking at what you can or cannot do (or can and cannot do yet!), and if they are…who cares! You are in it for yourself. So be your own best friend and challenge yourself and also be gentle.
4) Giving up
Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time. - Thomas A. Edison
There have been many times during a yoga class where I just wanted to leave. “Why am I even doing this?” my mind says, “this it hard”.
Keep going. You probably took the yoga class in the first place because you’ve heard from others how great it can make you feel and how good it is for your mind, body, and spirit. Remember this when you want to give up. And then keep going. Just try one more time. And then one more.
5) Deciding what you feel about yoga after one, two, or even seven classes
I do the very best I know how - the very best I can; and I mean to keep on doing so until the end. - Abraham Lincoln
You did it! You went to your first class, maybe even two or three and you decided that you…hate it! You struggled through class, or felt silly, or just didn’t feel the awe-inspiring-soul-uplifting-energy-boosting-peace-giving feeling that your friends have been talking about. It’s just not happening for you. And that’s ok. It’s ok to not like something. But that also doesn’t mean that you should give up on it yet. Yoga is a practice, and like every practice, it takes time. Some people like it right from their first cat and cow, others never want to go to a class again, and some keep going at it even if they don’t always love it 100% of the time. It is all part of the experience. It has been proven that yoga improves health, self-esteem, flexibility, and joy in one’s life. If you need that mental knowledge to keep practicing, fine. Bet I bet you that after a while, you will stop practicing for the rational health and fitness reason that yoga can bring, and start practicing simply because your body craves it, and you always feel better when you do yoga than when you don’t. Just give it more time.
Best of luck!
If it’s your first time, also check out this article How To Start Doing Yoga If You’re A Newbie by Yoga Travel Tree founder, Brooke Roberts.
Image via: flickr