It always makes me so happy when I meet someone who is brand new to the yoga practice. I get the biggest thrill out of teaching beginners because I get to discover yoga anew and see it through a newbie’s eyes. It’s very important for someone embarking on a yoga practice to learn how to do the postures correctly and with proper form and alignment. Yoga is a lifelong practice and there is no race to get to the end. Here are some common mistakes I see beginners make when they start yoga.
1. Taking the wrong class
I’m always shocked at the end of my level 2/3 classes when someone comes up to me to say it was their first class. I love it when people are ambitious and want to jump into yoga, but taking an advanced class right away is like diving in to the deep end of the pool without knowing how to swim. You won’t be able to breathe! Look for a basics, beginner’s, or intro class at your yoga studio or gym, or invest in a beginner’s yoga DVD. If you have the money to splurge on a few private sessions, it’s well worth it. You can have an instructor show you the poses and correct your alignment.
2. Being too shy
If you’re going to a class, make sure to get there early enough to talk to the teacher in advance. Let him or her know that you’re a beginner and mention any injuries or limitations you may have so they can show you how to make modifications. It’s great to introduce yourself to the teacher because this way they can pay close attention to you and you’ll get the most out of the class. Don’t be shy! I love it when people come up to say hello and ask me questions before class begins.
3. Standing in the wrong spot
It’s best not to stand in the front of the class if you’re brand new to yoga—but you also don’t want to hide in the very back. Choose a spot right in the middle row so you can watch the more advanced students in front of you without getting lost or passed over by the instructor.
4. Wearing the wrong clothes
I often see people who are new to yoga wearing baggy T-shirts or loose shorts. It’s best to wear form-fitting, supportive clothing that isn’t too restrictive so you can still breathe. Loose clothes fly up in your face in downward dog and forward bends and can reveal more than you want to expose!
5. Being insecure
No one is judging you in yoga class. Your yoga practice is for you and yoga isn’t one-size-fits-all. Everyone is different and the poses can and should be modified to work for you so you can get the most benefits. Yoga isn’t about being super bendy or performing crazy stunts, it’s about connecting your mind with your body through your breath. The most important thing to remember in yoga is to breathe and let the breath be your guide.
Kristin McGee is a leading yoga and Pilates instructor and healthy lifestyle expert based in New York City. She is an ACE certified personal trainer who regularly trains celebrity clients in New York and Los Angeles. She serves as Health’s contributing fitness editor and is frequently seen on national TV. Her latest in a large collection of fitness DVDs is YogaSlim. Follow her on Twitter @KristinMcGee and like her page on Facebook.