By Debbie Burton
Can you remember the first time you went to a yoga class?
Mine was back in the UK at a big gym which ran yoga-pilates hybrid classes set to music. The emphasis was on pain and 'feeling the burn!' and the teacher would frequently accompany her commentary with what each movement equated to food-wise: 'just think, this is at least a chocolate bar' she would holler over Nickelback (no offense to any fans out there).
There was a savasana of sorts, but - and I can't believe I used to do this - I would leave before savasana. I know, I know. I viewed it as a waste of my time; my aim was to be in and out of that gym as quickly as possible and I could lie about on the floor in the comfort of my own home, thank you very much.
I realize now it wasn't the best introduction to yoga.
Fast forward six or so years, and I was reminded of that 'new' feeling when we recently moved neighborhoods and I started going to a new studio. I'm the new kid on the block again.
I'm happy to report that I've come a bit further than the days when I was out the door quicker than greased lightening when the teacher mentioned lying down. Now I'm pretty much snoring before the second to last pose.
But in other ways, I'm reminded that I haven't come that far. I still have to bring a big stick with me mentally to beat my brain whenever it gets competitive (I'm not sure that mental self-flagellation is the ideal solution but I'm working on it). Some classes are easier than others in this respect and I've learned that the path is winding when it comes to my practice.
If you'd have told me six years ago I'd still be doing yoga today, I'd have begged you to tell me how many seconds I could hold a headstand for (told you I was competitive). Surely I was a wizened yogi now with much positivity and light to spread? And killer abs, obvs.
The truth is, I'm still a beginner. And I think that's a good thing. There's a quote, and it's a bit cheesy so bear with me: 'the day you stop learning is the day you stop living'. For me, that's what it's all about: the journey, the path.
Woah, maybe I am a wizened old yogi after all.
Anyway, when I'm feeling my usual mere mortal self, there are a few things I try to do to ease that new-kid-at-school feeling. If you're joining a new studio, or new to yoga entirely, I hope they help:
Find a studio that suits your style
Love intense hot yoga with pumping tunes to set you up for the day? Love a spiritual practice? Shop around if you can, most studios offer a taster package at a reduced fee. You will find your tribe!
Get to know the person on reception
It's a small thing, but it's always nice to be greeted warmly and by name by someone you know.
Survey the scene
When I'm going to a new studio, I like to get there early to get a good vantage point towards the back of the room so I can subtly copy what's going on. It avoids the awkwardness when you settle in to a nice corpse pose at the beginning of class, only to open your eyes and find everyone else is standing up. To be fair, I do have a lot of years of missing savasana to make up for...
What was your first class like? Do you have any tips for being the new kid? Let me know in the comments below!
About Debbie Burton
Debbie Burton took a career break from her job as a civil servant in London to join her fiance Edd in San Francisco. She told her boss she'd be back by now and is hoping he hasn't noticed her empty desk yet. She loves hiking, running, cycling and pretending she knows what she's doing at yoga classes.