Many thoughts will come to mind when you start doing yoga for the first time. As you stand in the back of a class, or unfurl a yoga mat at home, it can all seem like a lot of wobbling on one foot as you struggle to figure out a pose. But even if you're exhausted, overwhelmed, or confused at first, there are still all sorts of positive benefits to be had.
Right away, "you'll likely feel more space and a lightness in your body after your class," Caroline Baumgartner, a yoga instructor who is certified in the vinyasa style, tells Bustle. "Yoga focuses on creating space in the mind and body so not only should you walk away feeling less stressed and more relaxed but you should feel less tension in your muscles."
This is due not only to stretching, but to deep breathing. "Yoga helps your brain generate wave patterns that leave you feeling calmer, and it affects the production of hormones that can leave you feeling more at ease," Jodi Rose Gonzales, ATR, NCC, RYT-200, a credentialed yoga instructor and author, tells Bustle. "Your entire body will be oxygenated from the result of deeper breathing and increased circulation, and this will help you feel present and awake, as well."
This loose, light feeling can stick around the rest of the day — which is one reason why folks turn to yoga as a way to de-stress — and it can even impact how you sleep. "After you do yoga for the first time, you may sleep really well and find you wake up refreshed and rejuvenated," Katie Ziskind, LMFT, RYT500, a therapist and registered yoga teacher, tells Bustle. Or, at the very least, you might be able to see how you'll feel that way in the future, once yoga is a regular part of your routine.
That said, if you aren't used to moving or exercising in such a way, you might notice that you feel a bit sore after doing yoga, too. "Holding a yoga pose not only requires core strength, it also requires endurance," Dr. Alex Tauberg, DC, CSCS, CCSP®, EMR, a board-certified sports chiropractor and certified strength and condition specialist, tells Bustle. "The day after yoga you are very likely to be sore throughout your whole body."
While delayed onset muscle soreness is actually a good thing, he says, as it shows you've worked out muscles that haven't been used in a while, you can alleviate it by performing a warmup before yoga, which will get the blood flowing to your muscles before going through the workout, and then following up with traditional cool down stretches, like you might do after a run. "Even though yoga can feel like a stretch it's important to perform traditional static stretches afterwards," Tauberg says. "These positions allow your muscles to relax more and can help to keep the amount of soreness you feel down."
Physical symptoms aside, yoga can also tap into emotions more than you might realize, so don't be surprised if some unexpected feelings bubble up during your class, Heather Dressler, E-RYT 200, a yoga instructor, personal trainer, and owner of BodyLift Fitness, tell Bustle. "We tend to hold our stress, worries, and tension not only in our brains, but throughout our body physically, mainly in our hips and jaw," she says. "When people try yoga, it might be their first time practicing breathing exercises or what we call Yogi breath, and it may be the first time they allow themselves to release that stress through intentional breathing and practicing the poses."
If you're new to yoga, it can be a big release, Dressler says, especially if you haven't given yourself permission to let go of that tension before. But it can be yet another sign yoga is worth a try — and that you're doing something good for yourself.
If you weigh all the changes that occur in the body when starting yoga, and decide it's worth it to continue on, there are plenty of ways to make the transition a little easier. And rule number one is to always take a class at your own pace.
"Yoga is for everyone and no matter what type of yoga you're trying out, you should feel comfortable exploring different poses that make sense for your body," Baumgartner says. You won't want to force yourself into a new position, or try to copy the person next to you. Instead, take it slow and figure out what works best for you.
It can also help to remember that every yoga practice will be different, whether you're new to it or not. "What felt good in your body one day may not feel good the next," Baumgartner says, "so you want to be mindful and listen to what your body is telling you as you move from pose to pose." It's all about keeping an open mind, as well as trying different classes and styles of yoga until you land on one that feels right.
Once you do, "you'll notice the physical and emotional benefits immediately, and they will far outweigh the things you think you're not good at or can't do," Gonzales says. "The first step is to find a studio or class environment that you feel comfortable in. The second step is to make a connection with the teacher. These things will help ease your mind so you can focus on doing the poses."
From there, "commit to practicing at least three times a week for a month before you decide if you do or don't like yoga," Baumgartner says. If you hate it, that's fine. But don't let the early adjustment phase turn you away, if it's something you've always wanted to do.
Caroline Baumgartner, yoga instructor
Jodi Rose Gonzales, ATR, NCC, RYT-200, credentialed yoga instructor and author
Katie Ziskind, LMFT, RYT500, therapist and registered yoga teacher
Dr. Alex Tauberg, DC, CSCS, CCSP®, EMR, board-certified sports chiropractor and certified strength and condition specialist
Heather Dressler, E-RYT 200, yoga instructor, personal trainer, and owner of BodyLift Fitness