I’ve had numerous starts and stops with yoga. I vaguely remember trying out short instructional videos in the early 2000s when yoga was barely a thing in the Philippines, where I lived at the time. It wasn’t until a yoga space opened near my apartment and workplace (I walked to work like I used to walk to university) that I really began my first exploration of yoga.
It has been about 5 or so years since then and while it’s an irrevocable part of my life, things can easily get in the way of a consistent practice. Though I’ve come to accept brief pauses as par for the course, I feel more like myself when I am able to focus on my practice (on and off my mat). As a result, and as funny as it sounds, I’ve made many life decisions around yoga – where to live, my default leisure/lounge clothes, my work schedule, my fitness routine, etc.
But still, the biggest hurdle in your yoga life cycle will probably be finding the initial momentum to keep getting on your mat. I get it! There are many mental, emotional, financial and physical (mostly unfounded) blocks to getting started. I’ve learned a few tips and tricks along the way that I think are helpful to those finding or re-finding yoga.
- Take advantage of as many beginner deals as you can. Most studios have beginner discounts or deals (usually structured as an unlimited week or month for the price of 1-2 classes) to get you in the door. If you are completely new, this is a great way to get yourself into the habit. When I first moved from Manila to Washington DC, I tried a bunch of studios and teachers as a way to save but also explore what the city had to offer. It was a great way to get to know the different neighborhoods as well.
- The first time you try anything, go at least two days in a row. The first time I did Bikram (or Ashtanga, or power vinyasa or… ) yoga, I was sore for hours. It’s not unlike running 3 miles after a month or more hiatus. I felt instantly better when I stepped into the hot room again and did the same poses. Each type of exercise, and even yoga at times, works different things in your body. For yoga, this often means engaging or extending parts of your body you never even thought you had. The more you use it, the less pain you eventually feel. And while you probably won’t jump into a handstand or achieve perfect stillness and clarity in meditation in that second class, you’re 100% closer to it than you were the class before.
- Find a teacher you can easily talk/relate to. Take a moment before and after class to talk to your teacher. Ask questions about your own practice and their practice. If you feel compelled, share your yoga journey or ask them about theirs. Afterwards, on your way home, ask yourself – “What did I enjoy about her class? What new thing did I learn from listening or talking to her?” The teachers that resonate with me are often the ones that are accurate and passionate about sharing new knowledge, which is consistent with my behavior as a constant learner.
- Go with a friend, or make a friend. Go with your classmates, roommate or workmate. Make plans in advance. Big cities often have free community classes – from teachers-in-training or yoga activists who want to share their knowledge. This is a good way to convince someone to try it out. Check if your workplace sponsors or hosts yoga classes for employees. I teach a community class where I work; there are about 8-10 of us who regularly volunteer for the daily classes.
- Don’t buy an “expensive” mat – yet. Some yogis would go so far as to say don’t buy an expensive mat ever. I have tried many mats at different price points and find a concrete difference with those that are priced slightly higher but this is just my experience. Mat preference is an extremely personal thing. Some go years without having to change their mats. When I started, I bought a cheap mat but often used studio-supplied mats when I practiced in a class setting. From this baseline, I crafted a wish list of the perfect mat for me: sticky/non-slip, padded, easy to clean. It’s easier to shop around for a mat once you’ve found built up this list.
- Talk to a “friend-vocate”. That friend of yours who is obsessed with it? Talk to her/him! Yoga, which literally means “to unite”, is great at inspiring generosity within people. People like me who enjoy yoga as a practice and way of life love to share insights. It doesn’t matter if your question is all about a pose – keep checking in with that friend. I have a friend who recently moved to the West Coast and started going to yoga classes and while I’ve known her since we were 6 and 7, yoga is one of the new topics we now frequently check in with each other on.
Let me know in the comments if you have other tips!