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Are you interested in becoming one of the 36 million people in America who practice yoga? If so, you can look forward to many benefits. People start practicing yoga to relieve stress and become more flexible, but these are just two of the numerous advantages.

Yoga has been helping people improve mentally, physically and spiritually for thousands of years. Now it can start helping you thrive in these areas as well.

Benefits of Yoga

Other than improving your flexibility and reducing stress, yoga can improve your posture, increase your energy, as well as your concentration and focus.

Yoga has been shown to improve mental health too. Some report a reduction in anxiety and depression symptoms and cognitive well-being. Additional benefits include improved sleep, boosted immune system, and reduced chronic inflammation.

It’s obvious yoga can help you. But before you buy your yoga mat, there are things you need to know before you start posing and stretching.

One of the most important things is to join a yoga class with an instructor who has mastered the practice of yoga. It is not something you want to learn from a YouTube video because yoga is so much more than how you stretch.

Joining a yoga class gives you access to expert advice and guidance. And it does this at the level that meets your beginner needs.

Below are a few more tips on what you need to know before you practice yoga.

Yoga Class Etiquette

Don’t stumble into the yoga classroom talking to your best friend who is on speaker on your cell phone. In fact, don’t take your phone with you into the yoga studio, which needs to be a peaceful, welcoming space for everyone.

Don’t bring items into the studio that could get in the way, including your shoes, car keys, or bags. Most yoga studios have lockers or safe storage space where you can leave these items while you are in class. It is a good idea to leave your children at home too, unless they are practicing yoga too.

Be on time, don’t leave early, and pay attention to the instructor. Be respectful of those around you in the class and avoid getting into their space.

Finally, stay focused and avoid distractions. If you become distracted, this may trigger others to become distracted. Relax, and enjoy the process.

Don’t Expect Perfection

You are a beginner in practicing yoga. It’s important your expectations are realistic and beginner level oriented. Do not expect yourself to be a master of all poses after a few classes. It can take months, even years, for some people to become experts.

Work with your instructor to learn a pose you can fall back into if you are unable to hold a more difficult pose. Over time, and with practice, it will get easier.

Pay attention to your body’s limits and respect those limits. If you body says no, stop what you are doing. Gradual progress is much better than forcing your body, possibly causing trauma to your muscles. Don’t try to keep up with the more experienced class members either.

You are all moving forward at a different, individualized pace.

Don’t Worry What Others Are Thinking

A common fear among new yoga class members is that others in the group will laugh at them or judge them in some way. This may be true, and it may not be true. You can’t control what others think, feel or do.

What you can control is what you think, feel and do. The fact that you are starting yoga says you are a person who wants to feel good and live a good life. Be proud that you are taking charge of your life and joining a program to help you improve mentally and physically.

Focus on all the positive outcomes you will have as a result of practicing yoga and ignore negative thoughts. You can do this, you can make positive changes, and you can become a great yoga student.

Know the Type of Yoga Class to Attend

There are many different types of yoga being practiced around the world. Each of these class have their own expert levels, as well as their own purpose. Some classes focus mostly on stretching, using only your body and a mat.

Other classes may focus on building strength and use mats, blocks and bands.

It’s important you read the class descriptions and pick the class that helps beginners and focuses on the goals you wish to reach.

Pay Attention to Breathing

Oxygen flowing properly throughout the body helps your body function at its best. Yoga helps oxygen enter and exit the body through breathing techniques.

Deep breathing is something you can begin learning and practicing before starting a class. There are books, articles and even cell phone Apps to help you breath better.

When you attend yoga class, your breathing will be an important part of each exercise. Understand the meaning of a yoga breath, when you inhale but not forcibly. The air slowly flows to the lungs and makes your abdomen rise.

Once your lungs are full, begin your slow exhale. Simple techniques like that will help you in learning to properly stretch your body.

Know the Terminology

Most yoga instructors are happy to teach you the many terms associated with yoga. But this is also something you can do on your own, before you begin your classes.

Researching the terminology of yoga can be fun and can give you a boost of confidence as a beginner. In your first class you will already know what the instructor means when using each term.

In addition to terms, you can research the history of yoga and the purpose behind the practice. Begin practicing mindfulness and listening to your body. You can even figure out how practicing yoga can influence positive changes in your professional and personal lives.

Afterall, this journey is about you. It is about transforming your life mentally, physically and spiritually.