Nowadays, it seems like everybody and their best friend is doing yoga. From in-person group classes at a gym to DVDs and online tutorials, Hatha and Bikram to Vinyasa and Kundalini (and more), the prevalence of Western yoga practices has taken off. People turn to yoga for all different reasons. Some begin practicing to gain greater flexibility, others to build strength, and more for peace of mind. Whatever leads you to yoga, it can be fairly easy to make at least one of the many beginner yoga mistakes almost all newbies make.
To be honest, there are even days when the most veteran yogi decides to hit a last-minute heated class and hadn't properly hydrated or wears their new yoga gear to class before realizing that it is not going to work. But those are mistakes that you'll be much more likely to make when you're first starting out and haven't figured out what works for you in your practice (like how hydrated you really need to be before stepping in that room — can you tell I've made this mistake before?). Being are of the following common beginner mistakes will help you feel more confident and at ease when you step on the mat.
1. They Don’t Pick the Right Yoga to Start
With so many different yoga and yoga-style classes available, it can be difficult for beginners to know where to start and how to find the class that they're looking for. "So many new yoga students walk into power yoga or hot yoga classes only to be discouraged by the experience and get 'turned off' by yoga," yoga instructor Miriam Amselem says in an email exchange with Romper. "The best yoga style to start with is Hatha/Raja, which focuses on simple stretching poses with proper breathing techniques and light meditation." If, however, you're looking for a power yoga class, read up on it and know what to expect when you walk in the door. It'll be quite a bit different than some of the other styles.
2. They Ignore Their Breath
Breathing is so key each time you step on the mat to practice. To best honest, breathing is still hard for me sometimes, even five or so years into practice. "Don't hold your breath in yoga, unless you're doing pranayam," yoga instructor Katharine Bierce tells Rompervia email. "Conscious breathing is a part of the practice and many beginners miss out on the benefits of yoga by focusing on how it looks and not on how it feels." It can be hard to remember when you're focusing so intently on alignment and other things, but yoga relies on the breath, so cultivate that each time you practice.
3. They Don’t Use Props
Props like blocks, bolsters, and straps are meant to help add ease to your practice. It's not cheating to use them, but sometimes beginners worry that it's a sign they can't do something without help. "Props should be your best friend," yoga instructor Brittany Szafran tells Romper by email. "Newbies tend to either be intimidated by the equipment or embarrassed to use it and look like a beginner." If you aren't sure if you're using a prop correctly or want to know how you can better incorporate them into your practice, talk to your teacher after class. They'll know what to do.
4. They Overcommit
If you're new to yoga, don't try to do too much too soon. "Starting off two to three times a week is better than jumping into a 30 day challenge after being a serious couch potato," Bierce says. "Work up to a daily practice, but I wouldn't recommend it immediately."
5. They Only Focus on the Poses
Yes, the postures and your alignment and body mechanics are very important when practicing yoga, but it's about more than just that. "Physical yoga is not the goal of yoga, it's just one of the tools for learning to ultimately better control the mind," Szafan says. "The experience of getting into the pose and the awareness of your body and mind that you cultivate along the physical journey is much more important than the pose itself. Handstands don't make you a better yogi." Remember that yoga is about more that just your flexibility or muscle tone.
6. They Don’t Listen to Cues
This can be especially difficult if the instructor is using terms with which you aren't familiar, but listening to vocal cues that your teacher provides will help you adjust your alignment to practice safely and successfully. "New students are overwhelmed. The poses are unfamiliar, breathing seem to be a foreign request, and listening is the last thing they can do, as their senses are simultaneously being stimulated," yoga instructor Parinaz Samimi says in an email exchange with Romper. "My suggestion to all new students is to slow down and listen." When in doubt, take a deep breath, look to your instructor (if you can), and focus on what she's saying.
7. They Don’t Know Yoga Etiquette
Yoga isn't like a typical group fitness class. Removing your shoes and socks before you enter the yoga room, silencing your phone, and speaking very softly, if at all, are all important things you need to know before your first class. "Most studios have frequently asked questions posted on their website or they might have rules posted up above the asana room," yoga instructor Gretchen Lightfoot. She adds that this will help you figure out what you need to be ready for when you get to the studio.
8. They Don’t Leave Time to Ease In
Rushing into a class that's supposed to help with mindfulness isn't the best way to get the most from your practice. Lightfoot recommends arriving with enough time to find somewhere to park, sign in, get the lay of the land, and set up in the room so that you don't have to hurry or get yourself all worked up unnecessarily.
9. They Only Try One Style
As you probably know by now, there are many different styles of yoga. If one style isn't right for you, another one might be. "New yogis tend to get caught up in the more mainstream styles such as Vinyasa Flow," Szafan says. "But there is a whole universe of other styles that may better fit their needs if they were to open up to discovering them. Within these styles there are many techniques other than asana such as pranayama, mantra, and meditation to also expose yourself to." It's supposed to be enjoyable, so if you don't like the pace or tenets of one, there are plenty other for you to try.
10. They Don’t Take Advantage of Beginner Specials
Many yoga studios offer beginner specials. Sometimes it's free yoga for a week, sometimes it's a reduced fee for a month, it varies from studio to studio. Lightfoot recommends taking full advantage of that offer and take a wide variety of classes with different teachers and at different times. That way, once you have to pay more for classes, you'll know exactly which are right for you.
11.They’re Hard On Themselves
It's hard not to compare yourself to everyone else in the room or even your own abilities the last time you were on the mat. "If you make mistakes, embrace them because this is how we learn," Lightfoot tells Romper. "Have a little fun with it and have a little fun with yourself because it’s meant to be kind of creating awareness for yourself and awareness of your body and human bodies and humans are funny. Every day is different, so just embrace it and have fun with it." Some days you nail crow pose and other days you stumble out of downward-facing dog.
Additionally, feeling bad that you can't do the same pose as someone else because it's uncomfortable or painful is unnecessary (though understandable, I know). "There’s a chronic fear people have of posing incorrectly, especially when starting off," yoga instructor Jessamyn Stanley tells Romper by email. "Copying a pose to look just like someone else’s won’t be comfortable or feel natural and could end up just hurting you or straining your muscles."
This article originally ran on Romper on Friday, May 19, 2017. Romper is a site for a new generation of women figuring out what motherhood means for us.