Dear First-time Yoga Student, I Promise it Gets Better
Stepping onto the yoga mat for the first time is an act of courage- especially if you find yourself in a studio surrounded by crystals and prAna-clad yogis when all you've got is a mat you borrowed from a friend and stretchy leggings that are probably see through in all the wrong places (which is why they were probably on sale at Target).
Not to mention the friend who lent you the mat probably raves ad-nauseum about yoga class and how she fell in love with it immediately did 10 years of dance- or cheer, or gymnastics, or any other discipline that makes her body much more receptive to the crazy pretzel postures you see on IG than yours. But alas, here you are, see-through Target leggings and all, and there is no turning back.
I will even admit that after my very first yoga class, the thought running through my mind was, 'Well, I'm glad that's over! I tried it, and now I never have to do it again.'
I get it. I've been there. When I first came to yoga I was a runner. I was tight and impatient with the idea of a workout that used words in a language I didn't understand to describe shapes and movements I was pretty sure my body couldn't do. I will even admit that after my very first yoga class, the thought running through my mind was, 'Well, I'm glad that's over! I tried it, and now I never have to do it again.'
Everything about my first yoga class was awkward, uncomfortable, challenging, and just downright unpleasant. I mean, I was an athletic 18-year-old who was used to looking good and being capable at pretty much anything physical. But in that yoga cave (yes, my first yoga experience, was in a a "yoga cave"), I looked uncoordinated, weak, and like a total newb (which to be fair, I was). I looked around me and saw women in their 60s moving through gracefully and effortlessly through postures that made me feel like I was going to die. It was not fun, and I did not feel "blissed out" or that I had "cleansed my energy"- I couldn't even touch my toes!
I did, however, feel like I had gathered enough evidence to decide that yoga just wasn't for me.
So I didn't go back. Well, I didn't go back for about six months. And I didn't go back willingly. At the time, I was running about 4-6 miles a day and not really doing any form of tension release. I got hurt, tendinitis in my right hip and excruciating shin splints to be exact. I was told by a medical professional that I should do yoga.
My reaction to said advice was simply nope, I tried that, it was horrible, and you can't make me. But the pain was even more horrible. Only because the pain was so bad, and I felt like I had tried everything, I put on my Target leggings that were definitely see-through and went to an Iyengar yoga class. And it still sucked. It still felt like the most unpleasant hour of the day.
But my shin splints were all but gone, and only after going to class three times a week for about a month. That may not seem like a quick fix, but it was the quickest fix I had experienced thus far.
There are still some days (and they aren't all that rare) when I don't enjoy my yoga practice.
After three months, I could touch my toes. I still dreaded going to class and struggling my way through each and every posture, but I couldn't deny it was helping with my pain. And it kept helping with my pain. It took me about a year and a half of consistent practice to actually enjoy going to yoga class.
There are still some days (and they aren't all that rare) when I don't enjoy my yoga practice. I have days when my body feels heavy, tight, and lethargic- but I am happy to report that I also do have days where my body feels capable, powerful, energized, and even blissed out. It took some time, but it was- and still is- worth it. The fact that I am a full-time yoga teacher aside, yoga has become not only an amazing practice for my body, but has become my main source of mental clarity and emotional stability.
So for all the first-time yogis out there who don't even feel comfortable with the term "yogi," with the heels that don't come anywhere close to the ground in Downward Dog, the cheap, slippery, and barely-padded yoga mat- I see you. I was you, and in more ways than you know, I still am you.
If it wasn't for the fact that I had major pain, and that pain was dissolving at a rate I could measure, I might have given up on yoga the second time, too.
I just want to take the this time to tell you that it gets better.
I also must tell you that it takes some time, and many moments of doubting your sanity to get better. At least for me it did. If it wasn't for the fact that I had major pain, and that pain was dissolving at a rate I could measure, I might have given up on yoga the second time, too. So for those of you who just don't think this yoga thing is for you, I would like to offer a few words of encouragement, from one skeptic to another:
(1) Just keep coming.
Come as often as you can. I would recommend 3x/week if that's possible for you so you can begin to see some real results and it does't feel like the first time every time. The first time is always hard, so make it easier on yourself by committing to a schedule that can help you progress.
(2) Do at least one private session with a teacher you connect with.
Yoga is not a one-size fits all discipline. Doing just one private session with a knowledgeable teacher (i.e someone who has been teaching for about 5+ years, has more than the minimum amount of training, and who you find communicates in a way you understand) can help you understand how to practice yoga in the way that is most beneficial for you.
(3) It's okay if you don't get everything at first.
Yoga is a vast and deep practice. It's supposed to be challenging and difficult, that's why it's a discipline. Yoga is designed to be a lifelong endeavor, so allow yourself to move at your own pace when it comes to learning various aspects of the practice. If something doesn't make sense, don't dwell on it. If you keep coming, most likely things will start to make sense over time. If things still don't make sense, reach out to a teacher after class or schedule a private session.
I see you courage, and I commend it. I am inspired by it, and I hope that we can meet on the mat someday.
So if you began reading this blog poised to throw out your mat and Target leggings, I hope you think twice- well, about the mat at least. Because if we're being real, you weren't living your best life when you bought those leggings.
I would like to personally invite you to come take class with me, either when I'm teaching, or as a fellow student. I see you courage, and I commend it. I am inspired by it, and I hope that we can meet on the mat someday.
With love, Daniela
Hello, I’m Daniela
I’m 30-year-old literature and philosophy geek turned full-time yoga teacher. I am passionate about living a wholehearted life that honors and allows me to enjoy the gift that is the human body, the power that is the human mind, and the beauty that is the human spirit. That’s how and why I practice and teach Yoga. I’m into making awkward jokes and being radically honest all in the hopes to bring light to truth, and connect. I aim show up in the world, both as a teacher and a human being, in a way that empowers us all to be the best versions of ourselves (most of the time). When I’m not in class, leading Yoga Teacher Training, or traveling, you can find me catching a Chargers game, binge-watching Survivor, or dancing and singing alone in my room to One Direction albums.