My first yoga class was a result of boredom in a new city and a Groupon. Five years later, I’m still balancing on my hands and attempting to contort like a circus act. Are you new to yoga? A little daunted, maybe? Take a breath, relax—we’ve all been there.

1. Ignore the Yoga Unicorns

You know the ones: the love child of Barbie and Stretch Armstrong, fully decked out in brand name yoga pants, matching bra, hair always up in the “messy” bun that never seems to move. Never fret, little yogi. Block them from your mind’s eye. Your ability to do the headstands and stretchy dancer poses will come with practice, and I guarantee you it has nothing to do with your leggings matching your tank.

2. We breathe, stretch, and om for a reason

Coming from a weight lifting background, it was always “go hard or go home.” Who has time for stretching and breathing!? Giving the body time to acclimate at it’s own pace and properly warm up the muscles and tendons gives you a better chance at avoiding injury as well as getting into the pose to the best of your ability. Not to mention it’s a perfect chance to clear your mind from the busy chatter, dedicate that 60-75 minutes to focusing on your breath and just BE YOU.

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3. Invest in a GOOD mat

I’ll let you in on a little secret. Not all yoga mats are created equal. (Shhh, don’t tell the mats that though.) A quality yoga mat will make all the difference in your down dogs, and avoiding the “oh sh*t” moment when your hands slip out and you become a broken dog. I started with a cheap mat bought on Amazon and a bath towel laid on top. I spent my classes slowly…awkwardly… slipping…. just praying that the teacher would cue us out of down dog and into anything less precarious for my sweaty palms. Spend that extra dough. Removing the slip and slide effect allows you to fully explore the pose and enjoy it.

4. Try different classes

It’s easy to get hooked on one class or get turned off of a bad one, but the beauty of yoga is that there’s a range of styles that promote anything from deep stretching to fast-paced sweat-inducing flows. Sometimes that high intensity cardio-like class is too much for where you’re at physically or mentally. Try a slow moving flow and see if that’s what you need. You’ll find your glass slipper class.

5. Don’t be shy about public yoga

I’ll admit. I’m that person that will flip upside down anywhere scenic, but I didn’t start off that way. I started doing headstands while traveling about 3 years ago, but would only go inverted if it wasn’t crowded, or windy, or an inconvenience, yaddah, yaddah, yaddah. I missed out on plenty of awesome opportunities because I felt I would embarrass my friends or worse, fall over and embarrass myself. I was surprised to learn that: a) strangers think its super cool, (I got a free shot for it once) and sometimes photo bomb or join in, and b) it gets easier. If you can do a headstand on shifting sand, why can’t you do it in a stable environment?

6. Not all pain is good

One of the key limbs of yoga philosophy is ahimsa: the avoidance of self harm. More important than getting your heel down in Warrior I, is learning the difference between pushing too hard and causing injury versus finding your limit and not crossing it. There’s no benefit to grabbing your toes in mermaid pose if you injure your low back and can’t sit down without pain.

7. “I’m not flexible, so I can’t do yoga” is a lie

Saying you can’t do yoga because you aren’t flexible is like saying you shouldn’t eat because you’re hungry. I took 3 months of gymnastics when I was 8 and my career as a gymnast ended. My first yoga class I couldn’t touch my toes in forward fold, and let me tell ya, friend… your body is smart, it will adapt.

8. #Justdoit

You might shy away from standing splits or lizard pose because your hamstrings or hips are laughing at you, but channel your inner Shia LeBeouf and just do it. No matter how many blocks you need to prop yourself up, be Beyonce and you work that leg. The poses that you don’t naturally exceed at are the ones you need to attempt at every chance.

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Over to you: What’s one thing you wish you had known as a new yogi? Sound off in the comments!

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