Tips for Yoga Beginners: What to expect when starting a yoga practice
If you’ve never done yoga before, just the thought of starting can be intimidating! It may seem like there are lots of things you need to know beforehand, but if you start in the right place, you’ll be able to pick it up like a pro. Here are some helpful and simple tips for yoga beginners, that will help you get started on the right foot—so to speak!
Tip #1: Feeling sore? That’s okay. Go with it.
As a yoga beginner, you might wonder how you will feel as you start your practice. When starting any exercise or movement routine, you may begin using muscle groups that you haven’t used in a while…or ever! It’s normal to notice some new sensations throughout your body, as you get used to moving in new and different ways.
New yoga students have remarked that they were sore in places they didn’t expect, like their feet. If you are practicing yoga classes with standing poses, or even classes where flexibility and strength of your feet is emphasized (like mine do! then you very well may feel soreness in your feet. This is good. We want strong feet and leg muscles, to keep us mobile as we age.
Just know that if you feel sore the day after your yoga class, that’s okay. Maybe it’s even a good thing! That means you moved and stretched and perhaps challenged yourself a little.
When a yoga student tells me, “I was sore after your last class!” my response is invariably, “You’re welcome!”
You might also wonder how you’re supposed to feel as you begin practicing yoga. This is understandable. Many times, I’ve had students ask me after a class, “What was I supposed to feel during pose XYZ?”
There are soooooo many ways to answer this question!
First and foremost, nothing should cause you pain. If you feel pain when moving a certain way or holding a certain pose, modify so you don’t experience pain. Or, stop doing whatever it was altogether. It is okay to skip certain things in a yoga class – only you know your body’s strengths and limitations. We all have both, so honor all of it as you practice.
Just note that there is a difference between being sore from learning new forms of movement, and pain from an injury. Sore is okay, pain is not.
Need some relief from yoga-related muscle soreness? Try a warm bath, drinking plenty of water, more gentle movement…and keep practicing yoga!
Tip #2: Ask questions
I get asked many of the same questions by students. Like the one above, about what they should be feeling. Or people ask me for modifications based on injuries or limitations. Sometimes I get asked to explain technique in detail.
The point is, I am very okay with all this! You should always feel free to ask your yoga teacher questions. Maybe not in the middle of class though—save them till the end of class, or email works great, too. Regardless, ask your questions. You should feel comfortable with your yoga practice, so if you need more guidance, ask.
Now, I may not have all the answers, and most questions about health concerns and injuries are out of what we call our scope of practice as a yoga teacher. But even if we don’t have an answer for you, we might be able to point you toward someone who does. You’ll never know if you don’t ask!
Tip #3: Have fun
I guess this tip should go at the top as Number One! Yoga is many different things to many different people. Some practice for the spiritual aspects (the world “yoga” translates to “yoke,” or unification of mind and body, or individual and universal consciousness), some people practice purely for the physical benefits. Others love yoga because of the increased level of self-awareness it promotes, and still others practice to enhance other forms of physical activity.
Regardless of why you practice, I’m a firm believer that it should be an enjoyable practice. If you do anything in a state of resistance, it will not be beneficial to you. Align your intention with your action, and bingo! You’ve done yourself a huge favor. Whether we’re talking about a yoga class or running an errand.
When I say “have fun,” I’m using the term loosely, but the gist is the same. Enjoy your practice. Some days, I don’t enjoy my personal practice until it’s done! Okay, that’s not entirely true. I enjoy it while I practice, and especially so when I’m done, because I have a sense of satisfaction in having completed my objective. And I always feel great afterward.
I understand that people come to yoga for very serious reasons—to heal trauma, for example, or recover from an injury. But I’m a firm believer in lightening up a little. Have some fun. Laugh a little bit. There are still plenty of quiet moments in a yoga class for serious self-reflection and growth. Along with a lightness in heart and spirit.
Tip #4: Start a journal
“Tracking your progress” in yoga could be charting weight loss, or graduating from beginner classes to intermediate or advanced ones. But the changes that might occur in you could be much more subtle than your weight or mastery of poses. You might find a greater sense of clarity, relaxation, and confidence. Why not explore these things in a journal?
You could journal before and/or after each class, or start a daily journal, whatever works for your schedule. But keeping track of your physical, emotional, and perhaps even spiritual growth might be an interesting project.
Practicing yoga allows us to observe our bodies—how we’re feeling, how we move through space, how we react to certain things. We can observe the mind in the same way. Perhaps you’ll have an “aha moment” or two in class. Perhaps discoveries in yoga class lead to new breakthroughs in observation of your own behavior toward yourself and others. It’s worth investigating.
I hope these yoga tips for beginners helps you feel more confident in giving a yoga class a try. Remember, you can try out some short yoga videos on my YouTube Channel! Do you have questions about starting your practice? Contact me or post them below—I’d love to hear them, and to see if I could answer them for you. And if you’re not new to yoga but read this post, what kinds of tips might you have for someone just starting out on their yoga journey?