Sunday, May 4, 2008

10 Tips for First-Timers

Being a beginner at anything can be exhilarating and terrifying, intimidating as well as inspiring. First-time experiences spawn new hobbies, loves, and habits; however, they also send us scurrying back to the safety of routine if we're too unsettled or confounded by the new task at hand. Yoga classes confound people all the time. Lack of preparation, unrealistic expectations, and the occasional wave of nausea because no one told you to forgo the nachos before class can all throw your foray into yogic bliss waaaay off course, which is why I'm here to help.

The Top Ten Tips for First-Time Yogis

1. Know before you go. Is the class heated? How long is it? Can you rent a mat onsite, or do you need to bring your own? You don't need to play 20 questions with the studio manager over the phone before your first visit, but you do need to have a vague idea of what you're getting into. Studios and styles of yoga vary greatly. Some rules of the road are only learned through experience- like the social gaffe of wearing fur or leather to Jivamukti in NYC- but lots of information is available up front. Just keep reading . . .

2. Hydrate. Most unpleasant first-time yoga experiences and plenty subsequent unpleasant yoga experiences result from lack of preparation, particularly as it relates to nutrition. If you're venturing into a heated class, this point is especially important: drink lots of water. Similarly, watch what you eat. Yoga aids digestion; however, it can't do so if it has to compete with a latte, a burrito, two Red Bulls, and an afternoon vending machine raid.

3. Skip the mayhem; arrive early. A common foible among beginners is to arrive just on time or, even, a little late. This isn't a restaurant opening party, people. Get there early so that you can acquaint yourself with your surroundings and, perhaps, the teacher. The goal here is to beat the rush, so that the studio's staff can spend enough time helping you get situated before being overrun by throngs of yogi veterans.

4. Back row is best. As previously stated, it's not a swanky restaurant opening, nor is it a Black Eyed Peas concert. The front row is no place for first-timers. The back row is much better, as you'll get the gist of what to do by watching those around you (please note: this should not be confused with looking around the room and staring at others, see #8).

5. Dress the part. Skip the gossamer tank tops, booty shorts, and baggy mesh jerseys. Yoga poses demand a lot from your body and attire. You'll be up, down, upside down, and backwards. Make sure your clothes can comply.

6. Guys, this is important . . . Doff your hats. Sox cap, Yankees lid, Kevin Federline-inspired fedora- doesn't matter what it is- take it off. It's impractical and, frankly, embarrassing for all involved. Don't ask questions; just trust me, here.

7. Shhhh. Some things are sacred. You don't gab in church or chatter during your buddy's back-swing. Similarly, don't talk in yoga class. Yoga is the experience of reconnecting to yourself. If you want to catch up with a pal, it's better for everyone if the two of you did so at Starbucks.

8. Keep your eyes on the prize. Glimpsing around the room, initially, is somewhat necessary because you don't know the lingo yet so newbies need a visual point of reference. Looking around for interesting outfits, dating prospects, or a distraction from your practice is counter-productive. For more insight on the power and energy of your gaze, see a past post relating to "drishti" and snowboarding.

9. Experience gratitude. You can practice yoga for the rest of your life, so there's no need to conquer it all on the first try. Instead of fretting if you fumble with poses, be grateful that you have a healthy body that allows you to try new things, express yourself, and unwind.

10. Rest. Deep, meaningful rest is one of the greatest gifts that yoga practice gives us. Relish this from the start.


deep roots said...

if I might be bold enough to offer an 11th postulate - not necessarily for first timers but definitely for those at the start of this journey.

Remember the joy/amazement/bliss of these first classes and their aftermath as the mind, body and soul discover this new union. It's not instant enlightenment but for some there's a certain moment when you go "wow" and you realize that you're going to be doing yoga for the rest of your life and it brings a smile to your face.

As Shunryu Suzuki aptly put it, "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few."

Your first days on your mat are the days when any and every change is possible.

Fanny Barry said...

I love these and would like to add that although many are not first timers we are all beginners. Om Peace Om Love