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Credit: Flickr / lululemon athletica

Attending your first yoga class can be intimidating, but your body will thank you

Everyone knows yoga is good for you, but in a province crawling with yoga studios, it's not uncommon to hear as much resistance to yoga as there is in the constant stream of tight hamstrings running the seawall. It's time to get past the excuses and get thee into downward dog formation

If you live in BC you likely fall into one of three categories when it comes to yoga: devoted yogi, occasional attendee, or determined holdout. Those in the latter category tend to avoid yoga not necessarily because they hate the thought of stretching (who doesn't love a good stretch?) but because the idea of getting involved in an activity as seemingly trendy as yoga is as off-putting as contorting one's stiff limbs into pretzel formation.

And fair enough. Just because yoga is an ancient practice that boasts endless benefits for both body and mind, doesn't mean stepping foot in your first class isn't intimidating for even the most lithe British Columbians. If you're still squarely stuck in holdout territory, here are six reasons it's time to get over your hangups.

Yoga Hangup #1: Hatha, Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Iyengar, what? I don’t have a clue what any of this means 

There are many different types of yoga, and most classes offered are suitable for all levels (unless specified). Make it easy on yourself and just pick a class that works with your schedule. If you still can't decide, a foundation class like Hatha is a good place to start. This will allow you to explore the different poses and get comfortable. If a certain class does not work for you, try something different; relax your mind in a Yin class or challenge yourself with a Power Vinyasa!

Yoga Hangup #2: I don't have time for a class on something I learned to do at birth

Yes, everyone knows how to breath and stretch, but an instructor will show you how to do it consciously and to full benefit. Plus, with a million and one yoga studios around the province, surely there's a class that will fit your busy schedule. If not, you can practice yoga at home – all you need is a mat and an online guide to the basic poses. It is not necessary to practice every day, but aim for 3 to 4 times a week to reap the most benefits.

Yoga Hangup #3: Yoga classes are expensive

Yes they can be, but so are caramel lattes, and you manage to find budget for those when the craving hits, right? Most yoga studios have a special offer for newcomers: YYoga in Vancouver offers a 2-week pass for $35 for first-timers, which includes mat and towel service. This will allow you to get your feet wet, understand the basics, and then determine whether you want to proceed with a membership. To avoid paying big monthly fees, commit to at least six months and bring your own mat. Also, check daily deal sites like Groupon, which frequently offer deals on yoga classes.

Yoga Hangup #4: I am not spiritual

No problem, you don’t have to be. Many yogis practice yoga for the sake of a workout and a little peace of mind. And even if you happen to encounter a teacher who chants a few "Oms" to start the class, don't fret, you won't be forced to join in. While yoga was developed around the concept of mental, physical and emotional unity through exercise, breathing and meditation, most teachers maintain the premise that it's your practice, and you can decide exactly how you want to spend that time.

Yoga Hangup #5: I don't have yoga clothes

Well come on, this is BC, get thee to a Lululemon! Ok, we're kidding. It's perfectly acceptable to go to class wearing something you would wear to the gym, even if that is just a pair of sweatpants and a T-shirt. As long as you can move comfortably without inadvertantly flashing your classmates, you're good to go.

Yoga Hangup #6: I'm not flexible

And that's exactly why you need yoga! Each pose can be modified to accommodate your level, and you'll have access to props like blocks and elastic bands if you can't quite make it into a pose on your own. You'll be amazed at how quickly your flexibility improves when you maintain a regular practice. Be sure to let your instructor know you're new and inform them of any injuries you have so they can help you modify postures during class. If you feel any pain or discomfort, take a step back or request a modification for the pose.

And remember, this is your practice. Rest whenever you need to and don't treat it like a competition. You may not learn how to do a headstand in your first class, and it is okay to fall over; even dedicated yogis lose their balance sometimes! Most importantly, don’t forget to breathe. You might have learned to do it at birth, but you probably never noticed just how often you neglect to do it right.