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This month brought a big change for me and my business: we moved locations!

November is a fresh beginning for Body Solace Studio, our classes, and our teachers. As we settle into our new space with more Yoga, Pilates and Functional Fitness classes, I want to bring awareness to the practice of yoga. We hear so much about it, yet it can feel so intimidating to start. Please know that you don’t have to be young, you don’t have to be thin, you don’t have to be flexible, you don’t have to be female, etc. Whatever preconceived notions come up when you think of yoga, I want to encourage you to find your yoga. That means finding a class that suits you, and a teacher that resonates with you. There IS a yoga class and style out there for you!

Simply getting started can be the hardest part of doing anything. It can be scary to enter new doors, so here are nine tips to help get you started attending yoga classes:

  1. Be a beginner.

It’s a great idea to contact a local studio (or multiple different ones) to ask for a recommendation for a class that’s appropriate for you. Explain your exercise history and let them know about any injuries or limitations. They can help you find your best starting point.

  1. Arrive early.

Try to arrive about 15 minutes before the class starts. This will give you time to get settled and comfortable with the energy of the space. Rushing into any yoga class – no matter how experienced with yoga you are – can bring anxious energy onto your mat, and since almost everyone confesses to being nervous before their first class (which is totally normal!) try not to add additional stress by running late.

  1. Introduce yourself.

Make sure to introduce yourself and let the teacher know that you’re new to yoga and if you have any physical or emotional concerns. Don’t be shy about doing this, as it’s in your best interest to speak up before class (for example, the teacher could offer helpful modifications for certain postures, and make your first class experience that much better for you).

  1. Get a good spot.

Wanting to go to the back row of a class is natural. However, depending on the layout of the studio and the number of people in the class, that might not be the best choice. Rather, make sure to place your mat where you can best hear and see the teacher.

  1. Choose a focus or intention.

Most yoga classes begin with a chance to breathe and center yourself before moving through postures. The teacher might also introduce a theme or an intention for the class, and/or you could set your own intention as well. For example, you may decide to focus on breathing deeply and relaxing throughout the class, or to practice not judging yourself or others, etc. Whatever your focus, bring it to mind any time you need some inspiration or could simply use a reminder of your reason for coming to yoga class.

  1. Listen to your body.

One of the most popular cues in a yoga class is: “Listen to your body,” but you may wonder what exactly that means. For starters, just remember that yoga shouldn’t hurt. If you experience any sharp pain, immediately pull back and/or return to a posture that was more comfortable.

Throughout the yoga class, you may notice new sensations, challenges, or openings in your body – those are perfectly normal and beneficial. If you’re ever in doubt whether what you’re feeling is safe, err on the side of caution and come out of the pose. Additionally, use your breath as an indicator. If your breath becomes strained or unsteady, or you find yourself holding your breath, it can be a sign that you’ve exceeded your limits. Take a break and a few deep breaths.

  1. Stop the comparisons.

Stop comparing yourself to everyone else (this goes for on and off the mat!). Yoga is not a competition, no grades are given, and no one wins or loses. So what if your neighbor can go deeper into a pose than you? Perhaps they’ve been practicing longer, or their body is built differently. Keep your eyes on your own mat in order to focus on moving through the class in a way that benefits your body and your needs.

  1. Let yourself relax.

For many people, savasana (the final rest pose) can be the most challenging posture of the class. Many people say that they experience stress in savasana because they can’t stop their thoughts; but this idea that someone must stop their thoughts is a misconception. Rather than trying to stop the thoughts, just notice them, and then return your focus to your breath. You may find yourself thinking many thoughts during savasana; just keep returning to your breath and letting your body relax into the mat each time. Again, start where you are, and try to avoid judging your experience.

  1. Keep coming back.

Yoga is a gradual practice. If yoga doesn’t click for you right away, give it some time. Try different styles of classes and different teachers until you find the right fit for you. With diligence and consistency, you’ll soon begin to reap yoga’s many benefits!

I hope these tips will encourage you to start a yoga practice. Try new classes and new teachers until you find the ones that suit you most. Cut yourself some slack and remember to enjoy the adventure of new experiences!