Updated: May 16
Ah the good ol' yoga nerves, the bane of any new to yoga student's journey. The intrusive and unhelpful "are people going to judge me?", "I won't be any good at it", "I'm going to look silly because I won't know what I'm doing" thoughts, the saying you're going to book in, then never following it through, actually booking in for class and not turning up...
I've seen all the different iterations of yoga nerves over the years and have a bunch of helpful advice and background to help you get on the road to your yoga journey and why the nerves and narratives you're telling yourself aren't serving your best interests.
Nerves = Nature's protection.
It doesn't mean we're nervous, it's we're trying something new.
It's worth learning a little about what nervousness and anxiety actually are - this is the sympathetic part of your nervous system sounding a little alarm saying "hey, this is new - I don't know about this, I don't like it".
Simply put, the unknown (going to a yoga class, in this case) can be threatening. We don't know if we're gonna get a warm hug or chased by a bear... primally speaking, that's why we have our fight or flight response i.e. your sympathetic nervous system and the feeling of nerves or anxiety. We are all in a heightened state of threat in our bodies after a couple of years of Covid uncertainty, cost of living crisis, Ukraine and all the other things we've been through collectively.
When confronted with something new, even if it is something we really want to do - our brain is going to sound alarms about more things, way more frequently, and way sooner too.
We really need to understand that this isn't a bad thing. It's a response to keep us "safe".
The way to take this threat down is through acknowledgement, and then doing the thing anyway - so those alarm bells come up less frequently. Our bodies and brains learn then that new things and the unknown doesn't automatically warrant feeling nervous or anxious.
Applying this to our yoga scenario, we go "ok thanks for that, I'm going to go to that class anyway" and get started. Then by the second class - hey presto, the nerves are gone!
(Plus, if your nervous and in this threatened state... a yoga practice will really help down regulate your nervous system and you will feel a lot better!)
The best way to get started is... to *ACTUALLY* get started and get to class 🤷♀️
Putting it simply (and with typical honesty), you are responsible for your actions. If you want to go to a yoga class, you need to actually go to the yoga class.
I'm not going to make you come - that part is down to you. Self awareness (and by extension, self responsibility) are key yoga philosophy lessons.
My job is to hold space and inspire the students in the room to learn through their movement practice, pass on my know-how and take that into their lives off the mat. If you want to experience that too, that's up to you to book in and be there.
By not going and doing something you want to do, you're actively standing in your own way and not making a commitment to a transformation for yourself. You're stopping your growth, evolution and potentially stopping you developing ways to cope with things that are bothering you - whether that's stress, your sore back or whatever else.
This is the same advice I give to new teachers too - the longer you leave it, the more you build it up in your head and it gets harder to start.
So, you're best off ripping the plaster off, making that commitment to yourself, booking in and catching that class as soon as you can!
It's also important to say if you want classes available to go to, you need to go to classes and support them. Watching, saying you want to go, then not doing anything about it, and being surprised, upset, angry or annoyed when the teacher has had to take the class off because of lack of support isn't good for anyone involved. Seriously - we can't stay open on the off chance you might want to come. If you want to come and practice, come and practice, please. That's the reality of the yoga space.
If you're nervous - reach out to the teacher and tell them how you're feeling.
I always think it's great when people get in touch with me via email or book a consultation with me to chat about their yoga practice. It's a great way to put people's minds at ease, and give them the support they need to make that commitment to themselves.
Tell your teacher you're nervous, ask the questions you need to ask and take it all in.
(A small don't here though - don't email with questions where the answer is on the teacher's website. Yoga teachers don't get paid for answering emails, and most will tell you they spend 2-3 hours a week dealing with queries like this. You'll get a short reply sending you straight back to the website, and not get the help you need. It's far better for everyone involved if you're honest and share how you're feeling - then you can get the support you're after.)
No good teacher is ever going to be annoyed at you or judge you for being nervous. We get it, we've been beginner yogis ourselves and many of us are beginners in other areas of our lives too.
It's totally okay and joyful to be a beginner
I'm a new climber, surfer and skateboarder. I get nervous, I had a panic attack on a bouldering route not too long ago. And I love being new at things and learning.
There's nothing wrong with not knowing anything and learning for the sheer joy of it and enjoying that learning process.
Society has a lot to answer for in the sense that achievement is always highlighted and learning something or doing things for the joy of it isn't highlighted. We're human, we're here once - so surely enjoyment and the joy of learning something new at any age is something to celebrate?
It's about removing your ego from the process *cough cough - yoga philosophy incoming* and learning to be present, accepting and finding joy in the process and your skill on that given day. That's why yoga is a practice, not a sport. Some days asana are there, others they aren't. Some days you're soaring strong, others you're dropping yourself on the floor (deffo done that many times). All those things are okay.
Know that all yoga classes and spaces aren't equal and some will be more supportive and suitable than others
Some studios and independent classes are tailored to more experienced students, therefore the teaching style and environment assumes prior yoga experience. Some studios and independent classes are tailored to newer students and offer a range of choice of asana options and are designed assuming that we're teaching people with limited or no yoga experience.
As an independent teacher, my thing is making yoga more widely available so I really clearly label my classes accordingly with what is suitable for who and make that clear - but again, not all teachers or studios do this, it's individual discretion. If you're in the Bicester area, check out my classes here.
Again, it's worth a chat with who you are interested in going to and seeing what their vibe is -and go with your gut. Book in, if you like it, great, if you don't, try someone else.
Still nervous? consider a 1:1 to get you started
In my experience working with clients with anxiety and nerves, a one-off 1:1 is a great way to ease into a yoga practice.
1:1s are totally bespoke to the student's needs - in my case, if it is for a client who is nervous about a group class space, I explain what to expect, what the space is set up like, the class format and I teach the first part of the sequence we're working with or some common poses so there's some asana (poses) that are familiar.
So, nervous peeps - know that it's okay, and go and do it anyway!
Want to chat about your yoga experiences? Drop me a comment!