tips for yoga beginners (and not so beginners!)

tips for yoga beginners (and not so beginners!)

I’m just finding out that some people (read: a lot of people) have never tried a yoga class because they are too scared: they don’t know what to expect!  These beginners are imagining that every person in the class will be able to stand upside down on one hand, or something equally as crazy intimidating.  Since I spend more than half of my waking hours in a yoga studio, I forget that there exists a large majority of people in this world who aren’t familiar with yoga… and they are nervous to be a beginner!

Here’s the good news: All of it Begins at the Beginning.  

“The grace to be a beginner is always the best prayer for any artist.  The beginner’s humility and openness lead to exploration.  Exploration leads to accomplishment.  All of it begins at the beginning… with the first small step.”


So, Beginners, and Not So Beginners… this article is for you!

Our guest blogger is Yoga Teacher Gretchen Robinson, owner of Mark Blanchard’s Progressive Power Yoga in Overland Park, Kansas.  Gretchen has been teaching yoga for over fifteen years and has a wealth of expertise to share.


Gretchen Robinson

She says, “My teaching is an honest and true expression of what I feel and learn in my own personal
practice, combined with what I have learned (and will continue to learn) from others. The greatest teacher we all have resides inside ourselves.”   Gretchen truly believes that yoga is for everybody and every body.  She works with yoga students who are nearing 80 years old and yoga students who are barely 8 years old.  She works with yoga students who have physical impairments such as a prosthetic limb and yoga students who are marathon runners.  If you need physical healing or are interested in learning the deepest alignment of Power Yoga poses, Gretchen is for you!   You can find a full bio here and the full class schedule here.

Enjoy Gretchen’s article entitled:  Tips for Beginners (and not so beginners)

Tip #1:  Don’t Give Up
It usually takes at least 3 times of doing yoga before you feel like you are ‘in the flow.’ The first time, you may spend more time trying to figure out just what it is you are doing, the second time is easier, and by the third time, you are ‘in the flow’ so Don’t Give Up!
Tip #2:  Don’t Give Up
You are doing so much more than your realize! You are working on deep internal muscles, your endocrine system and glands, and using both sides of the brain. It’s a lot to take in and may be more than your body is used to doing. You may be more sore than you have ever been in your life… BUT get back to class as quickly as possible and we promise, you won’t be so sore the next time so Don’t Give Up!
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Tip #3:  Don’t Give Up!
Allow yourself to take your time to become strong and flexible. Practice non-attachment to the poses. Let yourself fall in love with the process. You might work on a particular pose for years before coming into what some would consider the full expression of the pose. Some poses might not ever come. Or some come today, but not tomorrow. And that is fine! Create an intention and work with it with patience without being attached to a goal or end result. Life is better that way. Practice and all is coming, we promise, so Don’t Give Up!
Tip #4  Don’t Give Up!
Come to the mat without having expectations of what you can do.  Please don’t put limitations on yourself; you may be surprised to learn you can do more than you thought. Relax and breathe! Allow your breath to be your guide. It is ok to be challenged to keep your breath but if you cannot control it, you are working too hard! Take child’s pose or simply back out of a posture until you can be in a place that allows you to control your breath. The word asana means ‘comfortable seat.’ Find the place in the posture where you can be in it comfortably. Just breathe and Don’t Give Up!”-
-Gretchen Robinson.
Do you remember being a ‘yoga beginner?’  What did that experience teach you about how you learn?  If you are a seasoned practitioner, do you have the strength to approach the mat as if you were a beginner?  
“The grace to be a beginner is always the best prayer for any artist.  The beginner’s humility and openness lead to exploration.  Exploration leads to accomplishment.  All of it begins at the beginning… with the first small step.”



I firmly believe that the most powerful way to deepen your yoga practice is to confidently set an intention before the class begins.  In the Ashtanga tradition, we set this intention while standing in samastitihi (equal attention pose) which grounds us in the space before we begin moving.  Standing tall, pressing equally into the four corners of our feet, we listen for the sound of our breath to experience present moment awareness.  Your intention, or sankalpa, can be set while you are seated, while you are lying down, or while you are parking your car on the street before even entering the studio.  It is important to set an intention for each practice that is deeper than ‘I’d like to tone my inner thighs, please,’ or ‘Today I will master handstands.’

The Buddha is attributed with saying, “Our life is shaped by our mind; we become what we think.”  This is meant to remind us that our bodies are a physical manifestation of our thought energy.  Your practice is only as deep as your intention for it.  If your mind is busy planning your grocery shopping list (like mine often is on Thursday mornings before I head to Trader Joe’s that evening) then your practice will be superficial as well.  If all it took was a strong handstand to achieve enlightenment, then every college mascot would be living the high life.  My undergrad mascot happened to be played by a very close friend of mine, and I would absolutely attribute Zac as being (top 10) one of the funniest people I know, but perhaps his ability to walk down a flight of stairs on his hands (true story) didn’t ultimately lead him to a state of blissful Union.  In other words: our practice is intimately influenced by the quality of our thoughts. 

I ask students to choose one word that represents a quality they would like to cultivate in their lives.  Patience.  Kindness.  Healing.  Energy.  Strength.  This thought can be your intention.  After a few months of practicing with me, my friend Adelaide confided in me that her recent move back to the Midwest and recent job change in the competitive world of advertising had resulted in a sense of insecurity.  For several years she’d practiced yoga on and off, but now had re-committed to daily practice, and this had changed everything.  She sent me this e-mail:

“You have honestly made a difference in my life and helped me restore confidence and self-acceptance that I had let wane during recent tense life moments.

 I feel immensely better about myself and my surroundings since I’ve chosen to incorporate yoga and your teachings into the flow of how I live.”

 The movement of your practice is not what is special: what is special is your intention behind the movement.  Yoga designed to develop faith, grace, and reconciliation with your own body.  Yoga is designed to heal. 


Set an intention at the beginning of every class.  Every practice.  Every time.  It may be helpful to repeat a personal script that firmly sets an intention.  You can write your own, or you can just use mine.  I think it works pretty well.  (I mean, I’m not enlightened yet, but I’m working on it!)

“With my breath, I set my intention for this practice.  I renew my commitment to practice with integrity and with passion.

With my breath, I set aside this time for me.  Everything that happened before this practice and everything that will happen after this practice can wait outside.  I dedicate this time to healing myself so that I can bring healing and hope to my community. 

May I breathe for myself and also for my neighbors.  May I be a vessel of Divine Love and Grace.  May this practice be a blessing of health, happiness, and wholeness.”


Happy practicing,  with love,