Every once in a while, you think of that yoga mat in the back of your closet that your well-intentioned woo-woo sister bought you for Christmas, and you feel a pang of guilt. Work has been stressful – maybe one class wouldn’t hurt? And then the memory comes flooding back of that god-forsaken Zumba class you took a year ago. The instructor was shouting instructions like a crazed banshee. Your feet turned into the proverbial two left ones. At one point the overzealous woman next to you tripped you and you did a faceplant on the floor. Well, don’t worry, you’re not alone. If you’ve ever felt this way, this next blog on hatha yoga (the yoga of twisting yourself into a pretzel-like formation while trying to maintain a peaceful zen-like feeling) is for you.

And while there are many different types of yoga, such as: Dhyana (what most folks would describe as sitting meditation . . . can you say ommmmmmm?), Karma yoga (the yoga of action and unselfishly doing good for others), Jnana yoga (the yoga of wisdom, e.g. is that chair real? – am I really here? – will the Texans ever make it to the Super Bowl?) and many more yogas, for the purposes of this blog we’re going to focus on hatha yoga for three reasons.

Why?  First of all, it’s more common than Starbucks, seeing as how you can’t go more than ten feet before tripping over another new studio these days. Second, it’s what most Westerners associate the word yoga with. And, finally, it’s quite often misunderstood.

So with all that said, here are my 5 tips for yoga beginners guaranteed to make you dust off that ratty mat that’s lurking in the depths of your musty closet.

Tips for Yoga Beginners

Yoga Beginner Tip #1:  Try a Few Different Yoga Styles

Which of the following are types of hatha yoga?

Vinyasa                                                                                                                                             Kundalini

Ashtanga                                                                                                                                           Bikram

Hot yoga                                                                                                                                            Restorative

Iyengar                                                                                                                                               Yin

Yes, it was a little bit of a trick. (Sorry!) These are all forms of hatha yoga. Be aware, some studios nowadays even have another type specifically called hatha yoga (just to make things really complicated), but at the end of the day it’s all just hatha yoga. Which leads me to the first tip for starting your yoga practice.

Maybe you try a class, and it’s too fast. Try another. Maybe you try one, and it’s too slow. Try another. All of these different styles have their unique advantages. No style is better than another, despite what some studios will tell you. Most studios have introductory offers that are dirt cheap that last for a week or so where you have the opportunity to try a number of different classes. Make the most of it.

Yoga Beginner Tip #2:  Go at Least Twice a Week

In order for the yoga to really be effective, you need to find a rhythm with it. If you’re going sporadically, it’s hard to get into the groove, so to speak. I recommend 2-3 times a week for a student who’s just starting out. If you can do more than that, yay for you.

Yoga Beginner Tip #3:  No Expectations – Just Do Your Best!

Some classes you’ll feel like you’re completely in the zone, the stars are aligning, and you’ve got that posture nailed. Other classes you’ll feel like crap. Literally. It happens no matter how long you’ve been practicing. The other day, Moi – the long time practitioner that I am, got winded and had to sit down and take a break during one of the postures. Your body is different every day.

Yoga Beginner Tip #4:  Try Every Yoga Posture

Your mind will always come up with a million reasons why you can’t do something if you let it. Your body is always stronger than you think it is. As a yoga teacher I have noticed in class that some students will often sit out a particular posture. They do this consistently every class. I know they can do it. I also know they really don’t like to do it. I’m here to tell you that the posture that you hate the most is the posture that your body needs the most. Sorry, but that’s just the way it works.

Yoga Beginner Tip #5:  If You Need to Take a Break, Take One

            You’re not Superman or Superwoman. Let go of the judgment. If you need to take a break during Downward Dog, take it. The only person that will be judging you is you. Everyone else is too busy trying to balance anyway.