We spoke to yoga expert and celebrity trainer, Charlotte Holmes, to find out where we’ve all been going wrong.
Are you new to the enlightening, relaxing world of yoga? If so, you may have found that – to your immense surprise – there’s not being much enlightenment or relaxation just yet. Yes, grappling with this practice can be a difficult and stressful task. At least, at first.
Avoiding some of the most common yoga mistakes is a smart way to start truly enjoying the practice. Luckily, we’ve got the inside scoop. We’ve enlisted the help of our fantastic brand ambassador, Charlotte Holmes, to help us pinpoint those niggling yoga beginners mistakes and rectify them once and for all.
1. Forgetting to breathe
While you’re in the midst of a yoga flow, you may forget even the most basic of human functions – like breathing. One of the serious yoga mistakes to avoid has to be losing control of your breath or, worse, holding it. As the pranayama breathing practice is at the heart of yoga, you have to get it right before you progress.
“That’s what differentiates yoga from any other exercise is that it’s a breath-work practice. It’s the idea of using the breath to connect your body and movement,” explains Charlotte.
“Unless you’re really trying to focus on that breathing and getting that right, you’re not doing yoga at all. It’s something that’s hard to harness. It took me a good few classes to get to grips with. I guess the most common mistake is just not breathing and losing control of it. Breathing gets lost quite a lot of time transitionally between poses.”
2. Guessing how poses should look
Are you an Instagram addict? Or do you love watching YouTube? Looking at yoga poses online can be fun but it’s often somewhat misleading. Believing that you know how to get into a particular pose before you try it is one of the most obvious yoga beginner mistakes.
“People get this idea in their head of what they think something should look like,” says Charlotte. It’s that idea that often leads to problems down the line. “They have their eyes wide open and they’re trying to get themselves into a shape that they think is the correct shape based on what they’ve seen on Instagram or another class.”
3. Straightening your legs in Downward Dog
Everybody from fully-blown yogis to newcomers should be familiar with this pose. The Downward Dog is one of the first positions that people tend to learn. However, it also happens to be one which many beginners accidentally get wrong. Spoiler: If you’re trying to straighten your legs to get in position, you’re probably making this mistake.
“There tends to be a lot of focus on getting your legs straight and getting your heels on the floor. Actually that throws most people’s alignment off because their hamstrings aren’t very long,” explains Charlotte. “The idea is that it’s a chest and a heart-opener so your shoulders are pushing straight through and the straight line needs to be from the back of the wrists all the way down to the top of the tailbone. So, the legs are actually bent.”
4. Rushing your flow
Are you guilty of racing from position to position? Slow down. Breathe. Take your time. “There’s a real haste to feel that they have to get from one thing to the next as quickly as possible. Actually, in yoga, it’s quite the opposite. The idea is that you’ve got this control and stability whilst you’re transitioning through,” says Charlotte.
When you first start practising yoga, the common positions may not be too hard to get right. Despite this, you need to pay attention to the transitional moments between them. These should be controlled and stable. In theory, you should be able to stop at any given moment. If you’re lacking that level of control because you’re rushing, your flow will be off.
5. Trying to progress too quickly
Let’s not beat around the bush – learning anything for the first time can be infuriating. Sure, we’d all love to take to yoga like a duck to water, but that’s never the reality of the situation. If you’re serious about becoming a yogi, it’s going to take time, effort, and a whole load of practise as well.
“Don’t be put off by not liking the first class that you go to. It’s a new practice, you’re not going to be good at it. Why would you be when you’ve never done it before?” says Charlotte. “Don’t beat yourself up about the fact that you can’t do anything. It’s like walking into an Olympic lifting gym and being upset that you can’t lift overhead squat 100KG.”
6. Assuming you will love every class
Struggling to pick a yoga session? We hear you. Without a doubt, one of the biggest yoga mistakes to avoid is the assumption that every class is the same. There is a wide variety of yoga styles and practices out there. Finding one that suits your unique style is a journey.
“Lose the expectation that in the first class you’re going to get it and you’re going to love it,” advises Charlotte. “More likely than often, you’re not. That might be anything to do with the fact that you’re restricted by not being able to do something. Maybe you didn’t like the teacher. Maybe it was too quick, maybe it was too slow.” The answer is simple. Try out various classes and see what works for you.
7. Failing to practise enough
If you’re under the misguided impression that yoga is going to be plain sailing, it might be time to change your mind completely. As far as common yoga mistakes go, there are few worse than failing to practise enough. Dipping your toe in is not an option. No, you have to jump wholeheartedly into the ocean, instead.
“Yoga is not a sport. It’s called a practice for a reason. The idea is that you practise and practise and practise. You never actually get to an end point,” says Charlotte. “So, give yourself the time to go and practise. It’s the learning experience around that that then becomes the thing that you love.” Simple.
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