If you don't feel comfortable with your body, that first visit to a yoga studio can be intimidating. But it's worth the angst. "The best thing you can do is something physical," says recovered bulimic Ana Forrest, the owner of Forrest Yoga Institute in Santa Monica, California. "It helps you stay connected to the here and now." Here are some tips for getting started.
Research and interview teachers until you find someone experienced in modifying poses for all body types. "You need to go to a studio where people are willing to help you work with whatever your challenges are," says Forrest. "You do not need to be ashamed or humiliated any more than you have been."
Those trendy spandex yoga outfits are useful—they let teachers examine a student's alignment—but they can expose more skin than you're comfortable showing. Most important is to choose clothes you feel good in, made from material that can stretch in all directions.
TALK TO THE TEACHER
If you can, talk privately with your instructor about your body-image issues and your beginner status, so she can help you modify poses.
Notice how your body feels in asana, and pay attention to the emotions that may arise in class. Yoga may bring up hidden feelings from abuse or trauma.
Give yourself a month of basic and restorative classes to get past the discomfort of practicing with people you don't know. Expect to feel awkward; it's part of learning. "All you have to do is show up," Forrest says.
Mending your relationship with your body isn't easy, and at some point you'll hit your limits. "Frustration is going to come up," Forrest says. "Recognize it and keep going."