1. Don't worry about what people will think: Yoga is not a competitive sport. Everyone started as a brand spankin' new beginner at some point, and they all know it takes a bit of courage to even show up to class. You're there for you. If you feel judged or uncomfortable, check with yourself - it might be all in your head.
2. You don't need to be flexible to do yoga: This is one of the biggest excuses I hear, "I can't do yoga, I'm not flexible." It's an understandable misconception, but it's groundless. Yoga allows you to work at your own level, and you will gain flexibility with time and practice. Sure, it's challenging, but the benefits are worth it, and you start getting the benefits immediately.
3. Find a skilled teacher that you like: The range of training yoga teachers have is VAST. You can think of it like the difference between someone going to Harvard or taking an online weekend workshop. Some teachers have studied for years with the world's top instructors and have honed their teaching skills to a point of mastery.
4. Listen to your body: Ultimately it is your responsibility to keep yourself safe in yoga class. Even the best teacher doesn't know exactly what you're feeling. Yes, there will be a bit of discomfort when you stretch, but it should be a sensation that is spread out over an area of the body. If you feel sharp, acute pain, back out of the pose and re-align.
5. Take it one practice at a time: Think of yoga like the process of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. It happens over time, yet a great metamorphosis occurs. Your own transformation is a continual process, and it won't help to rush it. Enjoy the journey, one breath at a time.
6. Stay hydrated: Drink lots of water after class, and during the day before class. Not right before or during class though, as that can be uncomfortable. One of the benefits of yoga is detoxification, so you want to be sure to stay hydrated so the toxins are flushed out of your body.
7. Be prepared: Some logistics you should know. You want to do yoga on an empty stomach. If you need a snack before hand, try to give yourself at least an hour, and eat food that you can digest quickly and easily. Wear fitted clothes - a loose t-shirt might end up over your head when you're in a forward bend.
8. Lighten up: You can have fun! Sure, yoga can be deeply profound and sometimes intense, but it can also be playful and humorous, especially if you have a teacher who agrees with this attitude. Don't let yourself get stressed out about yoga - it defeats the purpose. When in doubt, just smile and breathe.
9. Stick with it: Chances are you'll be surprised at how hard the first class is. Don't let that scare you, it's SO worth it! Keep going to class, and create a consistent yoga practice that becomes part of your life. You'll be rewarded by the many health benefits, and you'll learn to stay centered and create more happiness in life.
10. Consider private or semi-private classes: If you're still feeling intimidated and the only thing keeping you from going to yoga is fear of the public class, or if you have an injury or condition that you want to know how to work with, a private class is a great idea. You might even want to get a few friends together and have a semi-private class. Getting started one on one with a skilled instructor will give you the confidence you need to then go to a public class.