When I started practicing yoga, I didn’t know anyone else who was practicing either. I didn’t have a yoga buddy in town to meet up at a class. My husband didn’t practice yoga at the time, so I was going to class on my own among strangers.
I’ll admit that it was awkward to walk into a space, trying to decide where to set up my mat. It was very junior-high-cafeteria-esque, where you stand there with your lunch tray, surveying the room for someone who wouldn’t reject your sitting at their table. And then once I unrolled my mat, I found the 5 minutes of silence before the teacher arrived to be so unsettling. I don’t handle uncomfortable silences well!!!
I could see it on other people’s faces too… ya know, while I tried to avoid eye contact since no one was saying a word. Some yogis started stretching a little or did a little seated meditation. Some yogis lied down on their backs, trying to catch a little cat nap. Some yogis stared at their feet, tapping their toes, waiting for time to pass.
I finally got over my shyness, and now I have some lovely yoga friends who I’m happy to see when I can make it to class. Here are some ideas for how.
- Find a class you can attend regularly. You’ll start to see the same people make that class too. Extra points for setting up your mat near those other “regulars” to position yourself for some chit chat. Eventually, you’ll become one of those regulars that other newbies know is friendly enough to talk to. That’s good!
- Smile. It’s a pretty universal sign of friendliness. When you see another regular in class, just give a little smile as you set up as to say hello without actually having to say anything yet. It’s an easy starting point.
- Break the silence with friendly conversation. Believe it or not, there are other yogis who loathe uncomfortable silences like you do, and they’re waiting for someone else to make the first move. Typical ice breakers like the weather or traffic or where they bought their mat/pants/bag are easy ways to start a conversation.
- Negotiate mat space verbally. This is a real conversation I had that I believe started a fine friendship. Me: Sorry, I sweat a lot so hopefully I gave you enough space so you don’t end up in my puddle. New friend: Oh, don’t worry. I sweat a lot too. The rest is history.
- Make reference to something that happened last class. “I hope we get a break from hip openers this week. Were you as sore as I was last week?” Everyone likes to commiserate in a shared experience.
- Get to know your teachers. Great friendly conversations happen after class as people ask teachers questions or thank them for working on certain areas. Facebooking your teachers (if they’re into that thing) can also lead to becoming Facebook friends with other students, which can lead to having IRL (in-real-life) yoga friends. Social networking FTW!
- Turn your friends into yoga friends. Invite a not-yet-yogi friend to come to class with you, and once they realize how awesome yoga is, you now have a new yoga friend. Or you can do what I do and throw yourself a yoga party for your birthday. 🙂 A classroom of your favorite yoga friends!
I still go to classes where I don’t know anyone, especially when I’m trying something new and out of my routine. But what I find is there are lots of friendly yogis out there, and you do end up crossing paths with a lot of the same people at workshops and events. Starting the friend-making process in a regular class means you’ll always have friendly faces no matter what yoga-related thing you attend.