One of the best things about living in Hoboken and Jersey City is the access to great yoga classes right in our own neighborhood. For me, one of the key things about making sure I get on my mat is convenience, and being able to hop into a class around the corner rather than crossing the Hudson to take a class in NYC leaves little room for excuses to not go to yoga.

I still vividly remember my first yoga class, which wasn’t in a Hoboken yoga studio but rather a north-Jersey gym. I had literally no idea what to expect and truthfully, was pretty intimidated when I sat down on my mat and saw people warming up by practicing their headstands or deep forward folds. I left that class feeling like I’d found something special that could definitely help me reduce stress and increase strength and flexibility, but I also felt embarrassed because I couldn’t keep up with the rest of the class. So, I went home and bought a yoga video and practiced it every day for 2 months until I could touch my toes and hold a plank pose and then I went back to class. The problem with that was I developed some bad habits without the guidance of a teacher.

Flash forward almost 10 years later and now not only am I able to do those headstands, but also teach them to other students for a living. If I could go back and give my beginner-yogi self advice I would tell her a few things that would hopefully get her back on her mat more quickly following that first class. Read on below for some tips on getting started with a yoga class in Hoboken.

Do some research ahead of time.
Hoboken has a variety of yoga studios who specialize in different styles of yoga. It’s important to get a bit of an understanding of what type feels right for you. For example, there’s a big different between a yoga class in a hot yoga studio whose practice room is purposely heated to 95+ degrees and one in a regular studio where the room is temperate.

At the HYP we focus completely on vinyasa yoga which his a style the joins continuous movement with the breath. Even within vinyasa studios, the teaching style can change. All of our teachers are trained in the same style and lineage and create classes focused on both opening and strengthening the body through intentionally creative sequences that prepare the body to practice a “peak pose” or more challenging pose at the end of class.

Get an idea of the style of yoga and overall vibe that you’re looking for and you’ll be more likely to be happy with your experience. And, don’t be afraid to call, email, or even stop by the studio ahead of time to ask some questions before signing up for class.

Choose the right class level.
When I walked into that {terrifying} first yoga class and saw people doing headstands I was completely freaked out. In hindsight, I should have read the description and realized this class was recommended for an intermediate level student.

It’s important to understand what level the class you’re choosing is meant for so that you set your expectations accordingly If you’ve already been practicing yoga for a while, you’ll want to find a class that feels challenging to you. But, If you’re brand new to yoga, it’s a good idea to sign up for a beginner of level 1 class to get some foundational tips.

One of the things I hear people say most often is “I’m athletic so I think a beginner class would be too easy.” To me, that’s the same as saying I’m really good at speaking English so I think a beginner level Chinese class might be too easy. While it may be true that a beginner class won’t feel like a “work out” for everyone, it’s still extremely important to start from the beginning and learn the safest way to do the poses. Then, once you feel like you have that foundation in place you can move on to other level classes.

One of the reasons I love teaching level 1 classes at the HYP is because we are passionate about offering inspiring, fun, accessible and beginner-friendly yoga classes to the Mile Square. It’s so much fun to see students start from the beginning and then learn and grow as the practice more and more. I also highly recommend doing our 3-week Beginner’s Series. This series is a workshop-style environment that breaks down how to do the most common yoga poses and leaves time for Q&A. Plus, it comes with a free month of unlimited yoga so students can learn the poses and then practice them in class.

Borrow a mat.
This might sound crazy, but I highly recommend NOT purchasing a yoga mat for your first class. Most studios have mats available for you to use. Some studios offer them complimentary and some studios may have a small rental fee.

Buying a quality yoga mat can make all the difference in your practice— and i know this because I resisted giving up my 5 Below mat for like 3 years and then immediately regretted not switching sooner once I invested in my Jade mat. But seriously, a higher quality at will help you avoid slipping around in your down dog and will help keep you safe during your practice. But, a quality mat can cost anywhere from $55-200, which is a big investment to make before trying out a class.

Take advantage of the studio provided mats. We offer a free Jade yoga mat rental to any student who comes in for class. Plus, then you don’t have to worry about carrying a yoga mat around town or throughout your workday.

Arrive 15 minutes before class starts.
One thing thing that was an adjustment for me when I first started going to yoga in Hoboken was how crowded the classes can be. I was used to a gym where I could basically do a cartwheel without being in the way of someone else’s mat.

Classes in Hoboken, especially at a peak time, can be pretty full. By getting to class early you’ll be sure to give yourself enough time to check in, take your shoes off, grab your mat and a glass of water all before choosing your spot in the studio. If you’re newer to yoga, try to get a spot more towards the back of the room so you can follow other students if you get confused about what the teacher is asking you to do.

Just know that you may put your mat down, grab your blocks and blankets, and still need to move around a bit as other students come in. Don’t get too attached to your “spot”. It’s yoga— no stress— there’s room for everyone so be willing to make spaces for your neighbor.

Introduce yourself to the instructor (and maybe your neighbor).
Yoga teachers want to meet their students and get an idea of how they can best help you during class. A good yoga teacher is able to adjust the class/poses to fit the needs of the students in class.

Ask the front desk staff who the teacher is and make it a point to introduce yourself. Let the teacher know you’re new to the studio and/or his or her class and fill them in on any injuries you have that could affect your yoga practice. Trust me, I so appreciate when a student tells me their name and that they just had knee surgery, back surgery, a sprained ankle etc. That way I know to look out for certain poses that may be uncomfortable and can offer a way to make it feel better in your body. So for real, if you come to my class come say hi because I can’t wait to meet you!

It’s also totally acceptable (though admittedly a bit awkward) to introduce yourself to the person next to you. Let’s be real, you may end up forward folding in their face and it’s always a little less awkward if you know your neighbor’s name. Plus, it’s generally hard to find a friendlier group of people than those coming to yoga and introducing yourself is a great way to make friends at your local studio and around town.

Don’t take yoga too seriously.
As someone who very seriously loves yoga, I mean this from the bottom of my heart.

Yoga is amazing and can offer you an innumerable amount of physical, mental, and emotional benefits. But, it’s also really hard on a physical, mental, and emotional level. It’s so important to allow yourself room to make mistakes and play.

I’ve been doing yoga for almost ten years and legitimately still face plant like once per month. There’s a reason that yoga is referred to as a “practice” rather than a “workout” and it’s because there’s always something new to try and you’re never going to be perfect. The second you let go of the need to be as good as the person next to you or that teacher you saw on Instagram, is when you get into the good stuff.

Literally every single person that comes to yoga is going to have a different experience on the mat. Our bodies are made differently which means that some poses that feel incredibly easy for you might be extremely challenging for someone else, and vice-versa.

Be willing to laugh at yourself and if you “mess up” know that it’s part of the journey and maybe you’ll learn to do it right next time. Keep coming to class and keep practicing.

Be open.
Sometimes, when there’s an established yoga community like there is in Hoboken, it can feel like you’re surrounded by a whole bunch of people who can effortlessly do a split or handstand and who all know each other and gather together chanting OM all while looking like they could be on the cover of Yoga Journal. And while that may be true to an extent, it’s important to note that all of those people found the sense of community through the simple task of showing up on the mat and practicing each day. Also know that they are always hoping for that community to grow and are open to anyone being a part of it.

I didn’t have a single friend in town when I first moved to Hoboken, and I’m grateful every day that I continuously stepped foot on my yoga mat and surrounded myself with the amazing people in this community. As a teacher and student at the HYP I can guarantee you that we’re always excited, open, and happy to meet new students and friends around town and on the mat.

Interested in trying out a yoga class in the Hoboken/Jersey City area? Sign up now for a free week at the Hudson Yoga Project.

Be sure to follow @katelombardoyoga and @hudsonyogaproject on Instagram for more info on what’s happening with Kate and the HYP around town!