The thing that no one likes to admit is that at some point in our lives: we were all beginners. People love to walk around and act like they have it all together, but everyone had to start somewhere. When you’re a novice at something, it can be the most overwhelming, vulnerable feeling in the world. This is a truth that’s especially applicable in yoga.

As a beginner yogi, I’ve gone through this experience very recently. About 3 months ago I decided I wanted to make a change in my lifestyle and start to actually look up yoga studios in my area. But where do you even start? I took classes at two different studios before I found the one I attend now.

So how did I know these two studios were not a great fit? It was a gut feeling and something I observed in the atmosphere. I knew that since I was starting from scratch, I needed an environment where I wouldn’t feel self-conscious or judged. Where my teacher was patient, helpful, and approachable.

Unfortunately, I didn’t find that in the first few classes I attended. I found the studios stiff, unfriendly, and almost competitive. It felt like everyone was attending the class I was in to mark it off their checklist for the week; as if there was a competition for who was wearing the cutest sports bra or Lululemon apparel. As I glanced down at my oversized tshirt and plain leggings, I felt people staring at me so hard I started sweating.

After a few weeks of online searching and after heeding the advice of a close friend, I found what I was looking for at my current studio in Boston. I started going to their “Fundamentals” class every Tuesday, and I love it. Like many instructors, my teacher runs class like a workshop, so we focus on requests every week. It’s great to get a variation in poses and stretch different body parts. What I love most is that there are people from all walks of life and of all ages in my class. Most importantly, my instructor also has an extremely calming vibe about her. It’s helped me relax and enjoy class so much more.

So if you’re a beginner yogi, or looking for a new studio because yours didn’t feel quite right, I have some tips for you.

1. Trust Your Gut

It’s easy to say, but much harder to practice. Don’t feel as if you have to fit into a certain ‘mold’ of yogi. You’ll know if your experience feels forced (and it’s probably a good indicator that there’s a better studio out there for you).

2. Do Your Own Thang

This applies to everything from your outfit to the poses you complete. You don’t have to dress a certain way, or copy what you see others doing in class. Go at your own pace, do what poses make you feel most comfortable, wear what you want, and make your practice your own.

3. Be Adventurous

You’ve got to push yourself or you’ll never reach your goals. To be quite honest, I talked about joining a yoga studio for almost a year. I kept telling my boyfriend, “Yes, I’m going to do it.” I never did until recently. Hold yourself accountable and lay the groundwork with classes you enjoy attending. It can be one easy class a week for as long as you feel happy with that. Then maybe you want to try a vinyasa class, or a class that may seem more advanced.  You can start to take on more per week, and you’ll probably want to. You’ll never know what you can do if you don’t step outside of your comfort zone. Is it scary? Hell yeah. Awkward? Maybe. But I guarantee you can handle it.

4. Embrace Community

The great thing about yoga is that while it’s an individual practice, you don’t have to be alone. There is so much community that can be found. Maybe you see the same person next to you in class every week, and decide to say hi and strike up a conversation. Stay after class and talk with your instructor, form a relationship. Trying different classes and meeting different people is only an option if you make it become one. It’s all up to you.

Being a beginner at something just isn’t fun. It’s awkward and makes you doubt yourself (why did I insist that I had to exercise?!) but it exposes you to new opportunities and new people. Community can make or break any experience. Don’t stop searching until you find the people and studio that make you feel at home; trust me, you’ll know when one feels just right.