Yoga: it can be an intimidating thing. The tricky poses, the tight pants, and the spooky Enya music can be a lot for one's budding third eye to take in. (Not to mention my fear of tangling myself into a human slipknot.) But luckily, Tough Love Yoga is not your typical yoga class, and Neda Honarvar isn't your typical yogi. Neda first started practicing yoga a little over twelve years ago—and just like everyone else, she had no idea what she was doing when she started.

After diving in, seeing and feeling the benefits, and eventually becoming a teacher, Neda started Tough Love Yoga with her former partner Durgaya in April of 2010, purposely choosing Young Blood Gallery as an alternative studio space (and choosing a pretty sweet soundtrack for their Metal Yoga classes, too). "My mission has always been to try to make yoga accessible, especially to those people who might not feel comfortable in a traditional studio setting," says Neda. With a mission statement like that, we couldn't help but beg Neda for a couple tips on how to get one's feet wet. Here are her thoughts:

"Keep in mind that yoga is a practice, and that it’s completely normal to have no idea what you’re doing the first few times you come to class. Be patient and know that every time you practice, you’ll pick up another piece of the puzzle. Try to be open, whether you’re doing something that’s easy for you or something that challenges you. If you’re worried about feeling scrutinized, know that yoga class is a judgement-free and competition-free zone. There’s an amazing sense of support in the room. I love watching my students step up and help and encourage each other. Speaking of help, I always tell my students to feel free to ask questions if they have them and to ask for help if they need it. That’s what the teacher is there for: for you, to be your guide."

A few more quick tips for the yoga newbies from the tattooed yogi herself:
  • Have fun! It’s ok to laugh and have a good time, but also know when to go inward and focus on your practice.
  • Grab a friend! Practicing next to someone you’re comfortable around might help you relax.
  • Worried about making weird noises during class? Find a class that incorporates music! Your groans will fly under the radar if there’s metal playing in the background.
  • Do some research on the studios and teachers around you. No matter who you are or what your background is, there is a time or a class that will work for you and your schedule.
  • If you’re not ready to jump into a regular group class, start with a beginner’s workshop to learn the basics or consider a private yoga session to get some one-on-one help.

And if you're asking why you should even consider yoga at all, chew on some of these thoughts from Neda:
  • Yoga is an integrated, whole-body workout that teaches you how to create and improve strength, stability, mobility, flexibility, and balance in your body.
  • Whether you’re an athlete, you sit in a desk all day, or are somewhere in between, yoga is a great way to balance and work out all your kinks, knots, or tension.
  • You get to take a moment out of your day just for you. It helps relieve anxiety, improves focus and patience, and teaches you how to calm the endless chatter of your mind. You begin to learn about yourself, your strengths and your challenges equally, in an honest and aware way. And you learn how to use your breath to bring you back to your center in any moment. It’s pretty wild.
  • You get the opportunity to move yourself out of your comfort zone. My favorite moments are when someone is convinced that he or she isn’t strong or flexible enough to get into a pose, or is afraid to try something and then all of sudden, with a combination of courage, skillful alignment, and support, the overcome that doubt or fear and do something they never thought they could do. You learn that the capacity of your body, mind, and heart is endless and begin to find that with practice you have the ability to do what you used to think was impossible. Pretty rad.
  • Yoga class is a great way to meet new people and it’s fun! Not only is there a great sense of camaraderie in class but you often get to partner with people you might not meet at the bar or coffee shop. Where else would you have the chance to help a complete stranger into a headstand?
  • For the men out there: yoga is not just for the ladies. We have a ton of men in our classes; more than you would think, especially in Metal Yoga. It helps that we’re not listening to Enya...
  • Also, it’s not the goal by any means, but you’ll be able to wow your friends with cool party tricks! Arm balances on the dance floor, anyone?

Party tricks? Sold. Sign me up. In fact, sign me up for Tough Love's upcoming Bare Bones Beginner's Workshop, which aims to "make sure our students have a supportive, intimidation-free environment to help them build a strong foundation for their yoga practice," says Neda. "We wanted to offer our students the opportunity to slow it down, ask questions, and learn the basics of the poses and the breath." The next workshop is Saturday, March 17, at Condition Kettlebell Gym inside Studioplex. Bring an open mind, $10 (which will go to charity), and your favorite pair of tight pants. Okay, kidding about that last part.