My college friends and I made the summer resolution that, when we see one another in the fall, we’ll have fun new skills to teach one another. Mine is yoga! I’ve always wanted to try it, and I have a mat and a number of good stretchy outfits, but no idea where to begin. Yoga seems like something that people are always in the middle of, never the edges. How do I get there? —Cait, 18, Cincinnati, OH
What a great idea! You made a fine choice to start yoga. It’s healthy, fun, and super stress-relieving. I started last summer, and I was in the same exact spot as you! I had the mat and the outfits, but I was super-intimidated—because, yeah, like, everyone seems to already be doing headstands and balances, and literally all I knew was child’s pose.
When it comes to classes, you need to make a choice based on your learning style—do you learn better with live, in-person instruction, or can you learn from a video and would that make you feel more comfortable? When I am learning a new skill, I need a live person to teach me and also to keep me pushing myself. Expect it to be challenging, and that you will have to build your strength and flexibility to do certain poses—and especially to do them as well as the person in your class who has been doing yoga forever. If you go in with this mindset, you are less likely to become frustrated. Remember that the person who is balancing on their toe with their other foot wrapped around their shoulders or whatever did start exactly where you are! The thing that really helped me get past my big worry that everyone was way better than me was having instructors who always reminded us that everyone’s practice is their own. Don’t worry about other people looking at you—they are focused on their breath and balance. I am totally in my own zone the entire time.
I started out with Hatha-style classes at the university where I work (many colleges offer courses—check in your area, too). It’s slow-paced, gentle, and a great place to learn basic poses. After my first couple of Hatha sessions, I started supplementing my routine with Vinyasa. This is a bit more challenging and athletic, but I found a teacher who offered plenty of modifications so I could advance at a pace that was good for me.
If you are looking for classes and aren’t a member of a gym that offers them, I recommend community centers. They are usually affordable and tend to draw people from all skill levels, especially beginners. If there are studios in your area that are affordable—especially if you can get some sort of Groupon or class pass to try them—look for places that offer a variety of class types, with at least a couple catered toward novices. The teacher makes a HUGE difference in yoga, so it’s great if you can take classes with different instructors so you can see who you click with.
I also suggest going up to the instructor at the beginning of your first class and letting them know you are new to the practice. Then they will know to offer more detailed instructions and modifications. Finally, if going to a class fits the way you learn, but it makes you anxious to walk into a brand-new class all alone, rope in a buddy! That always helps me.
If you feel you learn better from videos, or are nervous about starting something new in a big group, WiiFit is a totally legitimate way to test out yoga. If you don’t have a Wii, check out YogaGlo. Another friend of mine has been using it since her beginner days; it’s got videos for all levels. It costs $18/month (the price of a single class at some of the more expensive studios!) and offers a free 15-day trial. Sportskool, provides a number of online options at various prices. One of the instructors, Nancy Goodstein, has some free introductory pose videos on YouTube that you can use to try out the basics before you subscribe to a service or go to a class, too. —Stephanie
I’m flying alone to a different country in a few days. While I’m really excited, I’m also pretty nervous about what’s coming: I haven’t traveled out of the country since I was eight, and all I remember about it was that there were a lot of long lines. That being said, I have traveled domestically a lot recently and am grateful to live in a major city, so I don’t have to make any transfers. Also, I’m pretty sure I have a good dose of common sense (though my mother might disagree). What do I need to know to make it to my destination alive? —Katrina, 17, New York, NY
I have no concern that you won’t make it in one piece, especially because you have a straightforward route without gnarly layovers, but there are definitely ways you can enhance your travel experience, ease some stress, and feel like the bad-ass solo traveler that you are! I think your main anxieties will come from the timing and logistics involved in getting where you need to be at the right time. Preparation will ease a lot of stress on your day of travel. Make a packing checklist so you don’t forget to bring something important, charge your phone’s battery so you have it in case of emergency, set two alarms to remind you when to leave, and arrive at the airport three hours before your departure.
Consider safety. I’ve always been the sort of person who is naturally inclined to befriend every person I sit next to on a bus/train/airplane, but when a few men I briefly chatted with on the train followed my 12-year-old self to ballet, I realized the sad truth that I couldn’t treat everyone with kindness. Unless I come across some incredible character who personifies good vibes, I keep socializing to a minimum and focus on my mission—enjoying myself, soaking in my surroundings, and staying safe.
Whenever I’m traveling, whether it’s by Greyhound or airplane, I like wearing things that make me feel TUFF, like I’m a woman on a mission who can’t be messed with. This usually includes bright red lipstick and clunky boots. I also strongly recommend creating a playlist that suits your travel vibes. It will get your mind in the travel zone it needs to be in. Traveling alone as a young woman (or as a person of any age or gender, for that matter!) can be incredibly anxiety-arousing, but if you plan, prepare, and remind yourself to be street savvy, I have no doubt you’ll be fine. The trip over alone will be unforgettable! —Mads ♦
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