You might be heading to your first yoga classes and worrying about whether you are making some common mistakes that other yoga beginners often make. It can be a bit overwhelming especially when surrounded by more advanced students who seem to know exactly what they are doing. We reached out to 12 Seattle-area yoga teachers and asked for their advice on some of the common mistakes they often see yoga beginners making. Here is what they had to say:


I often see beginners holding their breath, or pushing themselves to practice at a level of intensity that doesn’t allow for smooth, easy breathing. This habit can lead to dizziness and activate the sympathetic nervous system, triggering a fight-or-flight response and ramping up anxiety and stress—not exactly the intended effect of practicing yoga! Our breathing communicates so much; if yours is labored or shallow or intermittent as you move through your practice, that’s a sign that it might be time to rest in child’s pose or otherwise back off from your edge instead of plowing right past it.Jennifer Ball


Trying to do it all. It’s often the newest students, following a “more is better” mindset, that go after advanced binds, balances and variations. Yoga practice will noticeably transform your brain and the body, but it takes practice. It’s better to build a strong foundation than skip to the end, risk injury, and miss all the exploration along the way. Enid Rosalyn Spitz


Going for the perfect pose instead of the perfect feeling. I often see beginner students with a tense face, quivering breath, and shaking body trying to replicate a posture the teacher is demonstrating. This isn’t the right goal. There’s a perfect feeling in every pose that you get when applying full effort but still enjoying it. This is the right goal, and physical form of the posture has little to do with achieving it. So relax and focus on the feeling instead of the pose!Pavel Dmitriev


The most important aspect of a yoga practice is the breath. Ironically, beginners often forget to breathe. If you let your breath carry you through your pose then the practice will feel like a joy instead of like a struggle.Gabriella Horowitz


The most common mistake I see beginners making is to do downward-facing dog in more of a plank position, which means they’re making it a lot harder on their arms! Think of downward-facing dog as more of an upside-down V shape, and bend your knees so you can allow your head to come back in between your arms. You’ll allow your legs to take more of your body weight in that way, so it won’t feel quite so challenging to hold the pose. Eventually, you’ll be able to straighten your legs more.Kat Selvocki


They try too hard to make postures look a certain way and they lose their breath and calmness, which can lead to the discomfort of the physical body and the loss of mental peace and focus. Doing this may potentially lead them to injure themselves by going beyond their limitation. They need to start by understanding that every body is different and unique and no two people look the same in each posture.Saiko Malae Shima

Laura Humpf-yoga-seattle

I don’t necessarily see common mistakes that beginners make, but I do see common thoughts that beginners have. The thought I most commonly hear is: “I’m not good at this.” It is helpful to become aware of the thoughts that limit us, and it is also helpful to not buy into these thoughts. This in itself is a huge yoga practice. One of my teachers talks about being competent where we are. We can be competent beginners! When we are competent beginners we are not supposed to know all the poses or be able to meditate for very long. The practice is supposed to be challenging, and because it is challenging does not mean you are not good at it. It simply means you are being challenged by it.Laura Humpf


Doing too much too soon. As Americans, we want to be in the hardest version of the pose right away. But yoga is meant to be a lifelong Practice. You aren’t supposed to do headstand in your first class ever. You likely will not be able to bind your arms behind you the first week. My mantra is ‘ Take the most modified pose you can do correctly.’ That way you gain strength, proper alignment, don’t create bad habits and are actually experiencing the energetic effect intended from the pose.Jenniferlyn Chiemingo


Trying to go to higher levels and depth of a pose when the body is already at its natural depth. They see other students around them and they think they have to be there! Listen to your body and don’t provoke. Go to where it feels good and natural!Alexis Zurdo


A common mistake is not disclosing any medical conditions or physical issues that they have or had. Know that yoga is therapeutic, a knowledgeable teacher will be able to aid in helping you overcome or deal with your issue. Arundhati Baitmangalkar


I don’t really think that beginners make mistakes. Beginners are defined by their newness to the practice. What I see a lot of are teachers making mistakes with beginner students — pushing too hard, over-adjusting, and making them feel out of place. The purpose for a beginner is to let their practice and their process with yoga unfold. It is the teacher’s purpose to foster that process.Anna Holden

We hope you enjoyed reading the advice shared by this group of local yoga teachers. This article is part of a series of articles focused on yoga for beginners. Make sure to read the first article focused on yoga for beginners advice for your first yoga class.

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