Updated: Jul 15
If you’re a brand new yoga student or a beginner - at first it can feel really overwhelming! You're learning new physical postures, you're hearing new terminology, and you're immersed in a new environment…not to mention that your body is probably not accustomed to getting into those shapes! So it’s a lot! Beginners Mind originates from a Zen Buddhist philosophy where the practitioner displays an attitude of openness, eagerness and without preconception.
The most important thing to remember is to keep breathing and stay focused on yourself rather than those around you. Everything will become easier with time, so do your best and keep these tips in mind:
Function over Form: Alignment refers to the precise way the body lines up in each posture, and while you may be familiar with what a yoga pose LOOKS like, with asana we want to emphasize how a pose FEELS rather than get attached to looking a certain way. Safe alignment is very important to maximize each pose's benefits and minimize the chance of injury. So
Look and Listen: When you're first learning the poses, it's okay to glance around the room to see what everyone else is doing, but look to the teacher for your primary instruction. Also, listen for verbal cues as they describe how to do each pose. There are some instructions you may not be able to visually differentiate, but by listening and making micro-adjustments to your body, the alignment and benefit of the pose can improve significantly. Learning how to self-adjust takes time and with practice will become more intuitive. When you’re in a posture, find a Drishti that you can use to maintain focus and feel into what’s happening.
Positive Feedback + Props: It’s not uncommon to be given assistance in a yoga class - sometimes the teacher may hand you a block or suggest a shift somehow - you’re doing anything wrong, the teacher is simply trying to make your practice even better! Assists can be incredibly helpful for increasing body awareness and illicit self-inquiry. Try not to judge yourself harshly in comparison to what others are doing on their mats. Yoga is a personal practice, and everyone's body and ability are different. Stay light-hearted and keep your sense of humor. Laugh if you fall out of a pose, and smile when things get difficult. It's also ok to say no to an adjustment if the teacher's hands-on approach isn't what you want. Enjoy yourself.
Trust Your Judgement: Remember that your practice is your own. No one else is inside your body, so defer to your own judgment about what you can and cannot do. Over time, you'll learn to discern the difference between something you may be afraid of or think you can't do and something that is actually painful or possibly dangerous for you. There is no hurry to get into any particular pose. One asana has many variations - so feel what works best for you! Listen to your body and respect what it tells you about how to practice.
Ask Questions: Perhaps the most important tip is to always ask questions when you don't understand something. If it's about diving deeper into the yoga community, and culture, students at the studio are almost always happy to share their expertise. Questions about specific physical postures are best directed toward your teacher, either during or after class. We are passionate about what we do, so are always happy to answer questions!
Make it a Habit: Consistency is key to your yoga program. Through this consistency, you develop greater body awareness and you notice changing dynamics in your body. There WILL be days you don’t FEEL like it, and honestly, this is the HARDEST part of asana practice - staying committed. You will ALWAYS feel better when you leave - remember that on the days you can’t be bothered! Positive change requires regular application and patience. Time is on your side when focused intention and harmony are brought into your yoga practice.