There’s a lot that goes on in a yoga class—concentration, breathing, bending, twisting, and inverting—it requires complete engagement of the mind, body, and heart. For beginners and experienced yogis alike, this complexity means mistakes are bound to happen. While some yoga mistakes might just make you feel uncomfortable and hold you back from progressing, others can actually compromise your safety. Don’t worry, though—most yoga mistakes are easy to correct!
Over my many years of teaching and practicing yoga, I’ve seen and made plenty of yoga mistakes. So that you can learn from my experience, I’ve put together this extensive list of 24 common yoga mistakes to avoid for a more successful practice.
Don’t worry about fixing many mistakes at once—just bookmark this list and come back to it now and again to help refine your practice. Most of all, do not judge yourself if you’ve made these mistakes! Instead, consider them your initiation into the yoga “tribe” and work on becoming more aware for next time.
24 Common Yoga Mistakes
1. Arriving late for class
Giving yourself ample time to park, check in, and set up for your yoga practice will promote a calm and relaxed mindset and allow you to leave the stress of the day at the door. Arriving 5-15 minutes early shows respect for your teacher and fellow students and will give you time to bond with your yoga studio community before class.
If you do happen to be late, it’s usually best to wait after the opening meditation to come into the classroom—but every yoga studio will have different policies around tardiness. Try not to bring in too many belongings, choose a spot close to the door, and be as quiet as possible as you unroll your yoga mat and join in.
2. Rushing to yoga class
Give yourself plenty of time to get ready for and travel to your yoga class. If you arrive flustered and rushed, it will be harder to transition into a calm and relaxed yoga experience. Rushing to class can also make you forget to bring what you need and prevent you from being 100% ready for your practice.
3. Wearing inappropriate clothing
It can certainly take some trial and error to find the yoga clothing that works best for your body and the type of yoga class you want to attend. If your clothes are too tight, restrictive, scratchy, or sweaty, you’ll be distracted from focusing on your breath and the yoga poses.
Wear clothes you can easily move around in and that are made with materials that feel good on your skin. For hot yoga, you’ll want moisture-wicking, minimal clothes. For vinyasa and ashtanga classes you will want compression and support. For gentle classes, loose fitting and comfy clothes are the way to go. If you need a little help deciding how to dress for class, you can always ask the studio’s front desk staff for recommendations.
4. Showing up stinky
A major tenet of yoga is the practice of shaucha or cleanliness. Be aware of your personal hygiene as you prepare for class and try to have a neutral and clean smell. Arriving to class strongly perfumed or smelling of body odor will be distracting to your fellow yogis.
5. Not cleaning your mat
Your yoga mat needs regular cleaning to keep it smelling good and functioning properly. A dirty yoga mat, especially if used for hot yoga, will eventually start to smell and become a distraction from your practice. You also risk injury by using a dirty mat—it can lose its stickiness, making your hands and feet slip and slide and compromising your stability.
6. Refusing props
It is easy to view props as unnecessary and a sign of weakness, but yoga blocks, straps and blankets are meant to enhance, support and deepen your practice. While you may need to spend a minute or two gathering props and putting them away, having them by your side will make you fully prepared for any yoga pose that is taught during class. Many teachers integrate props into their teaching, so if you see props by your yoga teacher’s mat when you enter the classroom, you should gather the same props. Having to get props in the middle of the class will throw off your flow and be distracting to others.
7. Using a cheap mat
When first starting yoga, there’s nothing wrong with purchasing an inexpensive beginner’s mat. While no one truly needs the Cadillac of yoga mats, clinging on to a cheap mat can hold you back as you grow in your practice because they can slip, bunch up, and not stay flat. Mat issues like these can distract you, prevent your fullest poses, and even cause injury. As you shop for a yoga mat, choose one that provides enough cushioning for your knees and wrists and has good grip to prevent slips.
8. Practicing with a full stomach
It can be a bit tricky to time your meals around your yoga schedule but believe me—if you try to practice yoga with a full stomach, you’ll instantly regret it. Having too much food or liquids in your belly will be uncomfortable, slow you down, and even prevent you from achieving certain poses…but feeling like you’re starving isn’t good either. Avoid the distractions of fullness and hunger by having a light snack an hour or two before your yoga session begins.
9. Bringing your phone with you
Our smartphones are huge sources of distraction in our lives, which is the complete opposite goal of yoga. Do yourself and your fellow yogis a huge favor and leave your phone in your car, or even consider leaving it at home. If you must bring it into the studio, be sure to turn the ringer off, and definitely don’t bring it into the classroom unless you are a medical professional on call.
10. Not using a towel in hot yoga
If you go to a hot yoga class, you need to be prepared to sweat. Most yoga mats get super slippery when moist, so bring a towel to prevent slippage from distracting you and making your practice miserable. While you can purchase a dedicated yoga mat towel, any towel you have handy at home will work. If you are prone to excessive sweating then bring more than one!
11. Holding your breath
Establishing and maintaining a slow deep yogic breath throughout a yoga practice can be difficult if you’ve spent a lifetime not paying attention to your breathing patterns. While many yoga movements are timed with the breath, do not hold your breath to keep pace with the teacher. Add in extra breaths when needed, allowing yourself to breathe fully and easily at all times. If you find yourself huffing and puffing or breathing through your mouth, consider starting out with a slower paced class.
12. Comparing yourself with others
It is easy to bring our culture’s competitive nature into our yoga practice, but comparing yourself to the person next to you in class will do more harm than good. Trying to keep pace with another student will distract you from the real goal of yoga and could potentially cause you to push yourself too hard and get injured. When you find yourself having comparative thoughts, remind yourself that we were all born with different bodies and are all in different places in our yoga journey.
13. Letting your eyes wander around the room
Drishti is the yogic practice of establishing and maintaining a “focused gaze.” If you find yourself constantly scanning the room with your eyes during yoga, you’re feeding your mind with unnecessary distraction. Try to keep your eyes focused on one spot to promote presence, balance, power, and concentration.
14. Focusing too much on perfection
It is important to find a balance between practice and surrender in yoga. If you create too much effort and push yourself to achieve the “perfect” pose, you can get caught up in ego. Pushing too hard can cause your emotions to run wild based on your fluctuating levels of achievement and therefore result in injury.
Conversely, if you don’t put enough effort into your practice, you won’t make any progress. Do your best to achieve the right alignment in each pose, then try to return your focus to your breath and being in the present moment.
15. Not asking for help
If you are struggling or have difficulty with a pose, ask the teacher for advice or a variation. Not everyone’s body is the same, so not every pose will be right for your specific anatomy. In addition, if the teacher says something confusing or unclear, there’s no shame in asking them after class to explain.
16. Forcing yourself into a pose
The phrase ‘no pain, no gain’ does not apply in yoga. Accept that gains in yoga happen very slowly and do not force your body into the full expression of any yoga pose before you’re ready. Move into each pose slowly and mindfully to find your “edge”—the place where you feel a good stretch but no pain. Instead of pushing past the edge, try to relax into it.
17. Not engaging your core or bandhas
Having a relaxed Buddha belly is helpful for poses that focus on flexibility, but other poses require strong core engagement. When you perform strength building poses without core engagement, you can put undue pressure on your lower back and hips and create discomfort, pain, and injury. Avoid this by drawing your navel in towards your back to engage your core muscles as you perform strenuous asanas. Once you are comfortable engaging your core, add additional support to your yoga poses by also engaging the root lock and belly lock.
18. Practicing inconsistently
Our busy and distracted lives make it challenging to maintain a regular yoga practice. Not only will an inconsistent yoga practice make it difficult to progress, it will also reduce the beneficial effects of yoga on your body, mind, and heart. Our work, social life, and family responsibilities all compete with our time and focus, and to dedicate yourself to a regular yoga schedule no doubt requires some tough choices and firm priorities. To make progress in your yoga practice, commit to practicing yoga at least twice a week. If necessary, make your practices shorter to fit better with your schedule.
19. Negative self-talk
We have a conditional bias to think more negative than positive thoughts. Additionally, if we have a strong yoga practice we are likely at some point to bump up against our shadow self which can invoke further negative self-talk. Work towards removing these destructive negative thoughts by keeping your focus on the breath and practicing gratitude and kindness when negativity arises.
20. Forgetting to smile
Yoga can be quite challenging and require a lot of focus and effort, but taking yourself too seriously is counterproductive. Too much seriousness creates unnecessary tension, tightness, and frustration that can drag you down. Do your best, but remember to give yourself permission to laugh at your mistakes and imperfections. Smiling in the face of adversity as you practice yoga will translate into a more relaxed and soft perspective toward challenging situations in your day-to-day life.
21. Putting your teacher on a pedestal
It’s a great feeling to love your yoga teacher and be able to surrender your trust to them. But remember that your teacher, no matter how awesome they are, is still human and fallible and thus bound to make mistakes. Be mindful of the power dynamics in your yoga class and be careful about surrendering your personal power to your teacher if it makes you uncomfortable. If something feels odd or strange during class, examine these feelings and do not hesitate to talk to the studio’s management about your concerns.
22. Thinking your teacher has all the answers
Sometimes yoga teachers can get caught up in the philosophy or yoga and become dogmatic in their approach. Don’t allow yourself to think your yoga teacher has all the answers. Give yourself permission to question and fact check them. Find and confirm your own truths through reading, research, and experimentation.
23. Not communicating with your teacher
If you have an injury or any concerns about practicing yoga, take a moment before class to let the yoga instructor know. This is especially important if your teacher provides hands-on assists to students. Talking to your teacher about your experience level and limitations is also a great way to introduce yourself and bond with them.
24. Skipping Shavasana
Shavasana, the final relaxation pose, is the icing on the yoga cake. If you do not allow yourself to sink into and relish Shavasana pose, you miss out on integrating and fully absorbing all of the work you have done in the class. If you need to leave class early, spend the last 5-8 minutes in Shavasana regardless of what the teacher is doing. If that feels awkward, a short seated meditation is another way to conclude and integrate your yoga practice.