September 8, 2021
This article was written by Tie Simpson - a certified international yoga and wellness educator, lifestyle blogger, coach and entrepreneur. My favorite topics to write and speak about are yoga, holistic healing, conscious living, with sprinkles of conscious parenting.
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It happens to the best of us… we finally push the button on trying Yoga out, either by the suggestion of a doctor, influence of a friend, family member, or after seeing a cool and creative pose on Instagram that you just HAVE to learn. So, you decide you’re going to go for it, and without a thought jump right into the practice! Well, as a certified international yoga instructor of 6 years, who’s seen my fair share of “yoga oops”, or common yoga mistakes made by people who just jump into this practice without proper preparation, I’d suggest you hold your brakes, and read this first…
If you’re new to yoga, whether you are going to a yoga class for your first time or starting an at-home yoga practice, here are a few things you may want to know as you get started. These are some of the most common yoga mistakes made by beginner yogis, but they can be easily fixed.
The first two have to do with proper etiquette and proper preparation when you arrive at the yoga studio for class.
Do your best to be early, not just “on time” for yoga classes. You should aim to arrive 10-15 minutes before class, taking into account. Be sure to factor in time for traffic, parking, and any other possible hold-ups that can occur. If it’s your first time to the studio, it may take some extra time to get registered for the class and sign the appropriate waivers. When you arrive early enough, you have time to change your clothes, greet the teacher, and prepare yourself for class.
If you do happen to be late for a class, however, it is important to be courteous to your fellow yogis. If class has started, enter very quietly. It is possible that the instructor is setting the tone of the class with silence, deep breathing, meditation, or chanting. Respect these rituals and stand still near the door before entering to set up your mat. Only when the class begins should you then enter to set up very quietly and without interruption to others.
Read the room:
Read the room. Take into account the type of yoga class you’re participating in, because the culture is different across yoga styles and teachers. As a general rule of thumb- When entering into the yoga ashram or class, understand that you’re stepping into a sacred space and act accordingly. This means being mindful of others around you: roll out your mat quietly and wait for the appropriate time to retrieve your yoga props.
Turn off or silence your cell phone:
And speaking of quiet, be sure to turn off your cell phone before entering class. If there is a place to store and lock your personal items outside the classroom, that would be ideal. If you need to bring in your valuables, turn off your phone completely, or place it on vibrate if you’re expecting an emergency message or call.
Whisper or No Talking At All:
Remaining on the quiet tip, if you come to class with friends or begin to develop some friendships after attending several yoga classes, refrain from conversations during class. This is not only disruptive to your fellow yogis and instructor, but it also pulls you away from your personal yoga practice. This is a time for you to focus fully on yourself and your needs. Engaging in conversation would be considered rude and inappropriate.
A question that is sometimes brought up when practicing or attending a yoga class is what to wear. This may depend on the type of yoga class you’re practicing. Generally, you want to wear clothing that is comfortable and allows for easy movement. Avoid wearing items of clothing that are too binding; you will feel uncomfortable in some of your yoga poses and it will distract you from your practice. Likewise, try not to wear clothing that is too loose or baggy. This too will turn your attention away from your practice.
If attending a Hot Yoga class, you are certain to sweat, so minimal attire is fine to wear. (Just be sure your clothing is socially appropriate and not too distracting.) For women, a supportive sports bra and short shorts can be worn in a hot yoga class. Men, you may go shirtless with short shorts. Make sure to wear an athletic supporter or have appropriate liners in your shorts so there are no accidental exposures. Other classes that involve a good amount of movement may require comfortable fitting, easy flowing clothing. For non-moving classes, like yoga meditation, long pants and long sleeved shirts may be conducive to the practice since you are not moving much, but you want to maintain a comfortable body temperature while you’re in class.
Breathing is the most important element in any style of yoga you practice. In a studio class, a good instructor will continue to remind you to focus on your breath. Some postures may feel strenuous and cause you to hold your breath, but the one thing you want to avoid is holding your breath. This is counterproductive to the practice and can cause you to get light-headed or tired more easily. This is when it is necessary to take a deeper breath in order for your body to fully move into the yoga pose. Consistent and mindful breathing keeps your body well oxygenated as you move from pose to pose.
Unless you have specific medical conditions, take off your shoes and socks before you enter the yoga practicing space. Often the yoga floors are primed or made of special materials, so wearing shoes into the studio would be counterproductive. Often, there is a place to store your shoes in the lobby or stored away in a locker.
Be sure to take off your socks when you practice, too. Please, if not for your own safety and pleasure, do it for me! I see this all the time, and I’m always thinking “Wow, his/her practice would be sooo much more enjoyable without those socks on.” You’ll find that wearing socks will be very slippery on your mat which is yet another distraction. Trust me on this one, go with the bare feet- they will stick much better to your yoga mat giving you better traction and movement throughout the practice or class.
These next few tips will focus on your actual practice so that you can have the best experience when you’re new to yoga.
As you begin your yoga practice, there is no need to push too hard or go too fast. Take your time, go at your own pace. Accept that progress in yoga can happen very slowly and do not force your body into any yoga pose before you’re ready. Listen to your body. Move into each pose slowly and mindfully to find your “edge”—the place where you feel a good stretch but no pain. It is important to find a balance between practice and surrender in yoga. Some of the yoga postures can be challenging and perhaps beyond your limits as a beginner. That’s ok; modify your poses. When you begin to push yourself to achieve the “perfect” pose and get caught up in ego, gently bring yourself back to a balance between practice and surrender.
When in a studio class, the instructor will demonstrate ways to modify yoga postures to fit your current level and ability. Pay attention to these instructions. Over time, you will see a natural progression and improvement. If practicing at home, try the ‘Perfect Your Practice” Yoga Deck for Beginners that will provide ample modifications and common mistakes to avoid in each posture.
It is best not to have a full meal before practicing yoga. Your body needs adequate time to digest, plus a full stomach may leave you feeling bloated and uncomfortable while practicing yoga. Performing twisting postures, for example, may leave you feeling nauseous. Instead, have a very light snack, like yogurt, nuts, or fruit before practicing. Staying hydrated before and after class is also a good idea.
Another mistake to avoid is locking your joints in certain yoga poses (e.g. Seated Forward Fold, Downward Facing Dog), and over extending yourself in others (e.g. Pigeon, Dancer). Some poses will challenge your body in ways that are new to you, but please don’t over do it in these positions. It’s best to keep a slight bend in your knees or elbows, for example, so you can maintain muscle engagement in your yoga pose. A good rule of thumb is- Yes, certain poses will feel foreign or uncomfortable if you’re not use to practicing them regularly, however, yoga should never hurt. If you’re not careful, you risk putting too much strain (or potential damage) to on your joints, muscles, and other important ligaments. .
I get it, it can be easy to view props as unnecessary or even a sign of weakness, but here’s a little secret- yoga blocks, straps, blankets, and bolsters, are actually meant to enhance, support, and deepen your practice. And quite honestly using props have made my personal yoga practice quite enjoyable. These underrated yoga tools can be used to make your practice more challenging, easier, and/or relaxing. THAT is the beauty of them!
Having trouble touching your toes in a Standing Forward Fold? No worries, stacked yoga blocks to rest your hands on to support you. Want to get deeper into your Seated Forward Fold? No worries, place your blocks in front of your feet for an even deeper fold.
Most studios are equipped with props like blocks and straps to assist you in some postures, but I also recommend investing in them to enhance your at-home yoga practice. Bolsters, blankets, and sandbags are other useful tools to use in yoga class so welcome them into your experience. You will thank me later. 🙂
When first starting your yoga practice, you may be tempted to go out and buy the cheapest yoga mat you can find. I understand not wanting to invest in something you’re not sure you’ll want to continue, but please know that yoga mat quality highly influences your yoga practice experience.
Now, I’m definitely not saying that you need to go out and buy a fancy $150 yoga mat to begin, but keep in mind that clinging on to a cheap mat can hold you back as you grow in your practice because they will slip, bunch up, and oftentimes, not stay flat. Mat issues like these can distract you, prevent you from reaching the fullest expression of poses, and even cause injury. As you shop for a yoga mat, choose one that provides enough cushioning for your knees and wrists and has overall good grip to prevent slips.
I think we can all agree that in this day and age, most of us are over-filling our days, distracted, and often taking on too much. This can make it challenging to maintain a regular yoga practice if we’re not intentional about it. Only occasionally practicing yoga will make it difficult to develop or progress in your practice, and it will reduce the beneficial effect yoga can have on your body, mind, and overall well-being. Dedicating yourself to a regular yoga schedule will require some tough choices and firm priorities. Set yourself a solid and consistent schedule, plan for it, and place it on your calendar. Commit to practicing yoga 2-3 times a week for 30-60 mins, and if necessary, make your practices shorter to fit better with your schedule.
I know, I know- it’s super easy to get caught up in bringing our culture’s competitive nature into our yoga practice, but it’s the ultimate TRAP, ya’ll! Don’t fall for it because it will end up doing do a lot more harm than good. Comparing yourself to instagram yogis, or the person next to you in class will distract you from the real goal of yoga. This could potentially cause you to push yourself too hard, get injured, or evewant to quit altogether. When you find yourself having comparative thoughts, remind yourself that we were all born with different bodies and are all in different places in our yoga journey.
Consider these 12 tips as you continue your journey as a new yoga student. Avoiding these common mistakes will make your experience a more enjoyable one; one that you will want to continue for years to come! Speaking of practicing yoga for years to come, check out “8 Ways To Take Your Yoga Practice Off the Mat And Into Your Daily Life” for a peak at what’s in store for your yoga journey!