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How to Do Yoga Without Feeling Self-Conscious

how to do yoga

Are you worried about looking like a fish out of water in your yoga class? Some people feel anxious about working out in public, especially in exercise classes like yoga or aerobics that have fixed moves (basically, your instructor will KNOW when you’re doing it wrong!). Have no fear! We’ve got the most effective strategy to make sure you look amazing at every yoga studio, even if this is your first Child’s Pose!

Don’t Panic - It’s Just Yoga!

The biggest thing to remember is that yoga is for relaxing.  Being anxious about performing properly defeats the purpose of yoga, so removing some of those anxieties ahead of time can help a lot.  However, yoga is called “practice” for a reason.  It’s not something people, even the greatest yogis, are born doing well.  A class has experienced teachers that are there specifically to guide you.  They sometimes go around the class and adjust people’s postures.  They are there to perfect your practice, and not singling anyone out.

Know Before You Go

As noted, there are several different types of yoga out there.  Bikram, for example, takes place in a room that is heated to 105 degrees and 40% humidity, so you might need a towel and clothing that will let you sweat.  Hatha is kind of a generic term and can include a variety of poses.  Iyengar requires props like incline boards, straps, and blocks.  Ashtanga is strenuous muscle training.  Know which type of yoga your studio teaches, so you know what you’re getting into.  Don’t hesitate to ask someone--yoga is also about harmony with nature and one another, and teachers are naturally friendly as a result of their training.

how to do yoga

Get a Preview

Before you even enter the studio, watch some videos about the style you’ve chosen.  At worst, you may not like it or find it too strenuous for you, in which case look around for videos of other styles.  The ideal result is that it gives you a chance to study the poses before you go to the class, sort of like you were taking a dance class.  

In fact, it’s even more important to do this with yoga, in part to avoid straining your muscles at the first try.  There are yoga videos and books all over the internet, as well as for purchase online and in stores.  Yoga books or videos cannot replace an experienced teacher, but they can certainly give you a preview of what you’re going to learn.

Get There Early (and Set Up in the Back)

If you’re used to the front of the class being the place to  get the best lessons, think again with yoga!  Being in the back of the room means you can watch the other people in the class, some of whom may be more experienced.  To ensure this, get to the studio early--many studios have waivers and other paperwork that needs to be signed before you start your class.  Many classes open with a meditation or pose (such as Bikram’s Pranayama asana), so be mindful of this if you are running late--you don’t want to interrupt!  Another advantage of being in the back is that everyone is in front of you, with eyes on the instructor, so the odds of being seen before your practice is optimized are lower.

how to do yoga

Watch What You Bring

Yoga is practiced barefoot, so a sure sign of a beginner is when someone wears socks or shoes to a yoga class.  Cellular phones ringing are also not welcome at yoga class--if you can’t leave it in the locker room then keep it silent.  It’s rude to the instructor and all the students if you’re on your phone, disrupting the class.  

A third thing to be wary of is bringing drinks into class.  Most classes prohibit all but bottled water, and some don’t even allow that.  Cups without lids are definitely not a good idea, as spilling one can disrupt the whole class.  There’s nothing less amazing than calling attention to yourself by committing a blunder like spilling your Starbuck’s all over your mat!

No One Else is Perfect at Yoga, Either!

Yoga is practiced, not perfected.  Even seasoned yoga practitioners have bad days at it.  Sometimes concentration might not be optimal, and other times it might be a tummy-ache or a pulled muscle that holds a practitioner back.  Some days, your heart just might not be in it--and that’s okay!  

The point is, yoga is about relaxation through stretching.  It’s about paying objective attention to your body and your muscles, and learning how to merge all of it together for your everyday health.  Even an advanced yoga class is going to have people who don’t look perfect at it.  So give yourself a break if you think you are looking dumb or uncoordinated, because in yoga, there is no such thing!

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