Even smart people make mistakes that keep them from getting the most from their time in yoga class. Here are some mistakes that you might not have considered. Pass them on to your (smart) friends who are just starting out.

#3. Attend the wrong class.

“Well, I know it’s a level 3 Hot Vinyasa, but it fits in with my schedule and I can get my cardio out of the way while I’m at it.” As a recent article in the New York Times pointed out, yoga is not without risk. It’s an incredibly worthwhile practice, but it needs to be approached with respect.

Many people take classes based on price, time, and location rather than the level and style of the class. This is understandable since smart people are busy and the names of classes can be confusing and even misleading. However attending the wrong class can sometimes be worse than doing no yoga at all.

If you are out of shape and you start out with a class that leaves you feeling out of your league, you may give up entirely thinking that yoga is not for you and even worse you could injure yourself. However if you are an adrenaline junkie, starting out with a gentle beginner class may actually wind up working against you. If you don’t yet know how to slow down then the pace of the class may leave you bored and unmotivated to come back for more. If you have serious physical impairments, then spending time working with a skilled instructor one-on-one can give you the confidence to be able to modify a public class safely. Yoga can benefit any and every person, but public classes are very specific. A little time spent researching the right class(es) will go a long way towards helping you get the most out of your time and effort.

Don’t jump into advanced classes right away, even if you are physically fit. It is easy to be fooled into thinking that you are ready for a class just because you can keep up. Many yoga related injuries occur over time to very fit people who never had the motivation to develop good habits because yoga seemed to come so easily to them. There are classes and teachers that are more physically intense and also teach the basics of safe alignment. Seek out a “yoga for athletes” class. “Open” or “All Levels” classes can also be physically intense while still teaching the basics of safe alignment – this will depend on the teacher.

Use your smarts to do some research and try lots of different classes to make sure you find the right class for you. Call around to several local studios and describe yourself and your experience level. If you don’t have local studios, attend some classes and ask the teachers and students who look like they know what they are doing.

#2. Turn it into a competition

I’m not one of those teachers who cautions people to keep their eyes on their own mat. There is a lot to learn from looking at other people: both as inspiration and what not to do. But that pesky urge to compare yourself to the person next to you is one of the first and most common ways that your ego will knock on the door during yoga class. Whether your comparison leaves you shining or lacking is a good thing to notice, but dwelling on it will distract you from the real benefit of yoga: getting to know yourself better.

No yoga pose is ever perfect. No two people will do the same pose exactly alike. So let go of trying to do it “right” or “better than” and start seeing what you can learn from the pose, from the teacher, and from the other students. Let swadyaya or “self-study” be your goal. Only when you’ve made some headway with that does it make sense to push yourself physically. In order to play your edge, you first need to know where it is.

#1. Don’t ask questions.

If something hurts or feels wrong, there’s a good chance that your teacher can help you. But it probably won’t happen if you don’t ask about it. Usually when one person has a question, other people have the same one too. But everyone is afraid to interrupt the flow of class to ask it. When you are confused or a pose isn’t working for you it is almost always helpful to others in the class to ask the question. If you are pretty sure that it applies only to you, most teachers are happy to take a few minutes after class to discuss your questions. This also goes for letting a teacher know that you are new to yoga, if you have any injuries or quirks with your body, or are pregnant.

A great way to avoid these mistakes is to attend a beginner series. A series class offers a progressive knowledge base – so you can be sure that you are learning the key safety precautions and essential skills. In a room full of other beginners you will feel more comfortable asking the questions that come up for you and you will be less likely to compare yourself to someone who has been doing yoga for decades.

Have you made any of these mistakes?  What was the result?  Have you made any other mistakes that knowing about could help a newbie out?  Please comment below and share your experience.

Want to get a great start to yoga by taking a beginner series? I will teach you the essential alignment basics you need to keep yourself safe, how to modify poses based on your unique needs, and answer all your burning yoga questions. With a maximum of 14 students to ensure plenty of individual attention, space is limited. Click here to register.