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5 Tips for Beginner Yogis

Whenever we start anything new, we have the chance to lay down a firm foundation to build on in the future.

Think about starting a new yoga practice the same way you would think about building a house – if you build a house on sand, one big wave will wash the whole thing away. But if you take your time to build your house on firm bedrock, you’re more likely to have something that lasts a lifetime. Interested in learning more? Here are 5 tips for beginner yogis to help you build your yoga practice on bedrock.

1. Take Your Time. Seriously

I don’t know how many times I have watched people rushing through pose after pose after pose. It’s not a race – your yoga practice is YOUR time to slow down, breathe, move into your body, and connect.

It’s ironic, really. We spend all day rushing around from place to place, moving through tasks at what feels like a whirlwind pace, only to get in the car (or on your bike or on the train) and zoom to yoga class. Then we change our clothes, roll out our mat, and move right into our practice.
Whew! This is where we need to practice that mindfulness thing, right? Take a few deep breaths, don’t worry so much about keeping up with the rest of the class. Let yourself flow into your practice at your own pace, and most importantly, enjoy it!

2. Don’t force yourself into a pose.


I know, it’s so easy to look around the studio and see someone else in a totally fabulous Eagle pose or sitting serenely in Lotus pose with both feet tucked up nicely. You start to think, my body should be able to do that! And then you try to force your poor arms and legs into a pose that they’re just not ready for.

Working your way into some of those advanced poses takes months or years or practice. Remember what I said before about taking your time? Take your time. Enjoy your practice. Let yourself feel good in every pose, no matter where you are. Forcing yourself into a pose is a prescription for injury.

3. Don’t let a yoga teacher force you into a pose.

I have tight hamstrings, probably from years of sitting. In fact, I think they’re the tightest hamstrings of any yoga teacher in North America. One morning, I found myself in an advanced yoga class at an ashram where the teacher had us hanging out in a standing forward fold. I felt great right where I was – with my knees bent to protect my low back and my hamstrings.

Well, the teacher thought I had to have my knees straight. So he kept coming over to me and telling me to straighten my knees. What the hell, I thought, I’ll give it a shot – so I straightened them just the tiniest but, but ow. So I bent my knees. When he came over a second time to tell me to straighten my knees, I spoke up: nope, I said, my knees need to stay right where they are.

Yoga teachers mean well, really. But you know your body better than anyone else, so don’t feel like you always have to do everything the teacher suggests. You want to walk out of yoga feeling better than you did walking in, so that means modifying where you need to in order to avoid injury.

4. Don’t be afraid to use props!


Avoiding injury is paramount for beginner yogis. An injury can set you back weeks, months, or make you give up yoga altogether. As both a yoga teacher and yoga practitioner, I can honestly say that using yoga props is one of the best ways to avoid injury and learn the poses of yoga. Yoga props like blocks, straps, blankets, and bolsters give our bodies much-needed support as we’re building strength and developing flexibility.

Using yoga props is not cheating! There is no such thing as cheating in yoga. It’s not a test. You’re not going to fail if you need to use a block in trikonasana to help stabilize your bottom arm and keep your core from collapsing. Use the block!

5. Honor your commitment to yourself.

Whether you’re going to one yoga class a week or four classes a week, honor that commitment to yourself. Write it in your planner – in ink. (Does anybody still use paper planners?) You honor your commitments to your friends, your spouse, your boss…now it’s time for you to practice that same commitment for you. If it helps, find a yoga buddy who can hold your feet to the fire and remind you why you wanted to start practicing yoga in the first place!
Let’s hear from you – what tips would you offer a beginner yogi? Leave a comment and share your insights with us!

Love, Light, and Namaste