​Reality Check: 5 Mindful Ways to Approach Your First (or 20th) Yoga Class

  • Persiana Burns
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My first experience taking a yoga class was a complete disaster. I went in looking to get that blissed out feeling I had heard some of my friends rave about, and yet, I left overwhelmed and achy. During Savasana when everyone seemingly relaxed on their mats effortlessly, I felt so flustered with my racing mind that I almost got up and left. Now, six years later, I am a yoga teacher.

First times of any kind can be both exhilarating and intimidating, and your first yoga class is no different. 

Here are some things to be mindful of during your first or 20th yoga class:

1. Check your expectations at the door. You might be a natural at this yoga thing but if not, it’s totally OK. Remember the first time you tried to ride a bike or learn a new dance move? Embrace the awkward.

2. Nobody is looking at you – except the teacher who is there to guide you and make sure you’re practicing safely. No, really! Everyone is focused on their own practice and making sure they don’t fall while they keep up with the breath. And you should too.

3. Be where you are. You’re a beginner. Own it. Don’t worry about keeping up with the rest of class and stay true to where you are instead. Let the teacher know you’re new to the practice and focus on big breaths, pausing at your edge.

4. Hold on lightly. Literally. Check in with your body during practice. Are you gripping your mat or clenching your fingers and toes? Are your shoulders tense? Easing up will allow for more space for you to feel and move with comfort. Take a moment to send your breath to those parts of you that need some ease and your body will eventually follow.

5. Remember that yoga is practice. It is a practice of being kind to you, your body and those around you.Some days you’ll be able to reach your toes and other days you may need to bend your knees a little or a lot deeper in your forward fold. Allow yourself to do so. Do not push and force yourself into poses. While it may be exhilarating to nail a handstand or the perfect pigeon, it’s not about the end result but how we treat ourselves while we get there.

You may be wondering why I went back to another class after my first experience. When class was finished, the teacher came up to check on me. When I told her disappointedly how I wasn’t able to relax the entire time, she shared, to my surprise, that it happened to her sometimes too. I had expected the teacher to give me tips on how to get closer to her “advanced” level. What I encountered instead was a refreshing dose of realness and a desire to go back to practice with people who were just like me.

About the Author: Passionate about connecting with people, Persiana has led yoga classes all over the world – from the exotic beaches of SE Asia & the Caribbean, to the urban jungle of NYC and the alkaline soil of Burning Man. She specializes in pranayama & trauma sensitive yoga and spends the majority of her time covered in fur from her three pets. You can find out more about Persiana at www.electricbreath.com and check out her photos on Instagram.