For years, I’ve turned down plenty of invitations to join friends at Bikram and hip-hop yoga classes because I felt once I made the jump to yoga, I’d become a pretentious L.A. hipster who prides themselves on drinking organic beer. I stuck to my exercise regimen that consisted of cardio and weight-lifting at the gym during the warm months and sporadic crunches every few weeks when it was cold.
Fast forward to last week and I was in the middle of a packed class; my feet pointed towards the ceiling, my butt cheeks clenching for dear life, my hands trembling to support myself, and my sweat droplets fleeing towards my mat. Once my limbs had finally won the “mind over body” fight I moved back into my down dog and let out a huge breathe of accomplishment. I surrendered. I let my guard down. I had converted.
I’m not recommending we all run to our nearest yoga studio and jump into a handstand and land in the splits, but I definitely think everyone owes it to themselves to give yoga a try. It’s great practice towards letting things go and being in the moment. Also, think about how many times a day you stop to do something solely for your well being besides eating food, that’s survival.
With that being said, here are a few tips that I wish someone had mentioned to me before I walked into my first yoga class. Especially the leggings one.
- SURRENDER. I have a very hard time letting my guard down, however, if you don’t surrender the second you hit your first down dog, you might as well go home. When the instructor starts class with deep breathing, truly focus on forgetting about what happened that day and be present.
- Leave your ego at the door. The instructor at one of the classes I went to said this several times and it didn’t really sink in until we got to our 3rd warrior one pose and my thighs starting shaking in distress. Instead of giving myself a break and stopping my legs from looking like I was trying to hit an awkward twerk, I powered through it and probably burned a few extra calories. This goes both ways. If your body is telling you that a stretch is too much, you have to listen to it and not worry about keeping up with everyone else.
- Invest in a good pair of leggings. Seriously. I wore my favorite Nike leggings to class and it was humbling. To the credit of the leggings, I knew they were on the thinner side before I went to class but I figured the lighting and everyone being in the zone would take care of things. It didn’t. Therefore, invest in a pair of yoga pants or leggings that are thick and high-waist. The high-waist cut will make it easier to maneuver and you won’t have to worry about pulling them up throughout the class.
- Go alone. The first time is okay to take a friend, but it’s really important to experience yoga with zero inhibitions. Even if you have the most supportive friends in the world, going without worrying about anyone else is crucial so you can really let loose.
- Practice outside of the studio. What I’ve learned so far is that yoga is not only about the physical exercise, but the mental as well. During the closing meditation at a class I attended, the instructor reminded us to be thoughtful of others and take note of our intentions. When you’re treating yourself with love, you’re more likely to do the same to others. Therefore, when you take a few minutes to strengthen your body or meditate or just lay there thinking about nothing your’e doing everyone a favor and producing positive energy.