{the life} My First Unofficial Non-Beginners Yoga Class

by Rachel on February 8, 2012

I have to say, I really love Wednesdays. Typically Eric and I both work out, which makes for kind of a late dinner, but one that feels totally earned after such a long day. And not like “burned so many calories” earned, but “worked up a legit appetite at work and at play” earned. It was my night to cook and I’ve got some glorious-smelling BBQ beer chicken in the slow cooker that I am really excited to go eat in a little while.

Tonight I’m in an even better mood than usual because I just got home from a great yoga class. It was great because, well, it’s my favorite class (Iyengar) with my favorite instructor, but I’m especially happy about tonight because it was my first unofficial non-beginners class.

Allow me to explain.

The studio where I’ve been taking classes since the end of August offers a few classes for beginners, as well as a formal series of classes. When I decided to start doing yoga regularly, I felt OK going to regular classes, as they are meant for all levels and I had some yoga experience. I also felt OK going to beginners classes when they made more sense with my schedule, because sometimes it’s nice to go at a slow pace and make sure you’re doing everything correctly.

But no matter what the classes are officially called, I’ve been treating myself like a beginner since August, turning every class into an unofficial beginners class.

I finally realized I was doing this last week. It hit me in a few different ways.

First, I caught myself using a strap for a pose that I’ve needed a strap for for months. For the past month or so, I’ve realized after about two seconds that I don’t need the strap and I let it fall. So why do I keep getting the strap anyway? It’s like every time I think, This is going to be the day when I need that strap again. I think because yoga still feels so foreign to me, so “activity other people who are not me do,” it’s just hard to believe the progress I’m making.

Later that week, the instructor was explaining how to take a dolphin pose to the next level, which I had no intention of doing. I’ll stick to my level one version, thankyouverymuch. She was saying to the  class that you might not be ready to go to this level just yet, but, she said, we might be in a month or two if we kept practicing the first level. Uh. I’d been practicing the first level for months. Was I ready to up level? I realized I had no idea because I was still thinking of myself as a newbie. I realized that even though it’s nice that I don’t feel very competitive when it comes to yoga, perhaps that was hindering my progress. when I did a pose for the third class in a row and used a strap.

A few days later, I was in a vinyasa class that was filled with an unusual number of beginners. As the instructor spent more time helping the beginners understand the new poses, I realized she was paying me less attention. It wasn’t that she was neglecting me; it’s that when she was explaining the way to do poses, she just wasn’t directing her comments toward me. I realized this has happened a few times lately. The instructors still correct me, of course, but when they are explaining the basics to the whole class, they give me that “go ahead and get started now” nod that I saw other people getting for the first couple months.

And of course, there is the fact that I’ve had to take a front-row spot in class more often (thanks to the lovely Resolutionaries). The first couple times this happened, I felt really anxious about it, but now I’m just doing it without really thinking twice. I don’t care if other students see what I’m doing. I’m by no means the model student, but I at least feel like I know my ass from my elbow. (You don’t need to know your ass from your elbow to be in the front row during a class, of course. But I’ll admit that I still like knowing the difference when I’m in front.)

All of these little occurrences gave me the push I needed to choose tonight as the night when I’d finally stop treating myself like a beginner! When I got to class this evening, I set up my mat in the front row and didn’t take a strap for the pose for which I’d been thinking I needed it. Unsurprisingly, I was totally fine without the strap. And I pushed myself a little bit harder all throughout the class too. When I think of myself as a beginner, it’s so easy to take breaks because I want to, not because I need to. Oh, I’m the new girl, I tell myself. I can’t. As long as I’m a beginner in my mind, I will totally play the victim and get lazy without even realizing it.

I still have a long way to go with yoga, but I finally feel like I’m to a point where I don’t think of it as some thing other people do. It’s something I do. And Im thinking I’ll do it a hell of a lot better now that I can see that.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Elina (Healthy and Sane) February 8, 2012 at 9:06 pm

Love this! Our minds are so strong – it’s great when you set your mind to something better and are able to achieve it.


2 Amanda @ Click. The Good News February 9, 2012 at 5:50 am

I hear ya- I’ve officially been a regular at yoga for a year and finally feel the confidence that i know the poses and look have decent doing them too. It also gives me the courage to listen to my body a little more, move this way or to that side if it feels better, to enjoy the stretch and lengthening where I know it is supposed to be happening.


3 Ariel February 9, 2012 at 7:37 am

I went to my first real yoga class last night, too (by accident, because there was a sub). I didn’t know what all of the poses were but I think I held my own and pushed myself out of my comfort zone a bit. I liked it a lot and I’m going to be sad when my groupon class pass runs out! Yoga is challenging for me because while my strength is okay, I’m horribly inflexible. Sometimes it can be hard to look around and see that no one else is struggling to get into a pose, but that helps me focus inwards and really try to concentrate only on my own practice.


4 Rachel February 9, 2012 at 9:55 am

I’ve actually read a few articles recently in which instructors point out that being overly flexible actually isn’t a good thing for people who are new to yoga! They basically said that being too flexible can make it easy to over-extend/go past your limits and that it’s hard to get flexible people to realize they need to really focus on strength and not how far they can bend. With that in mind, I’ve been looking at my lack of flexibility as a bonus!


5 Dallas February 9, 2012 at 9:51 am

A couple of months ago, as part of my new fitness regimen, I went to a yoga class at a new studio. It was called a beginner class, but what I discovered is that *I* had a VERY DIFFERENT definition of beginner than they did.

As I literally sat in the class crying out of humiliation (my chubby body was not going to be able to do THAT pose! or THAT ONE!) the instructor came over to me and squatted in front of me and said in a supposed-to-be-gentle-but-just-turned-out-to-be-condescending tone: “there’s something here for everyone.”

Yeah… I bolted as soon as the class was over. I need to go to a different studio, maybe a gentle or super beginner class, but I’m scared now!


6 Eszter February 9, 2012 at 11:37 am

Haha, I’m in the exact same boat, though I only got started last May. And yeah, Iyengar is the best!! :)


7 Whitney February 15, 2012 at 5:42 pm

Love this post. I’ve been doing yoga since I was in high school and even taught kids but still feel like a beginner sometimes since I don’t practice daily or am still working on basic poses. I’ve definitely gained confidence on the mat & learned to not compare myself to others (or at least try not to) but there’s times when I’ve realized that I’m in that beginner mindset and maybe I really can take it to the next level …or at least try.


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