Is taking a yoga class is on your to-do list this year? Are you curious, but also cautious, because you hear its all chanting and handstands? Scared you’re “not flexible enough”? In this post we’ll discuss some common fears associated with yoga, and what to expect for your first yoga class.
Choosing your first yoga class
Don’t be fooled into thinking yoga is just stretching. It can be, and it can be so much more depending on the type of class you’re attending and WHERE you’re going to class. We’ll dive into these distinctions first.
What kind of yoga style?
Image you ask your friend to buy you a chocolate bar. They buy a snickers, but you prefer a Twix. Just like chocolate bars, there are many varieties of yoga class. I could write a whole post about all the different types. They include stretch, yin, flow, vinyasa, hot yoga, ashtanga, kundalini, meditation, sun salutations, power yoga, arial yoga, goat yoga, restorative and more. If you’re unsure, I suggest picking one and just trying it. However, don’t be put off if you don’t like it. Try a few styles, and see which you prefer.
Where to attend a class
I could write a whole post on this topic but in short, I’d always recommend a yoga studio class over a gym yoga class. So many reasons why. Firstly, the caliber of teacher is typically more qualified and experienced. Not always. But typically. Secondly, the environment is more conducive to relaxation. Thirdly, a yoga studio will have a ton of props at your disposal during class. This will make the poses more accessible, or more challenging, or more relaxing. Gym yoga however is a great entry level into yoga. And a great way to add yoga into a fitness program. Just know that it may be a little more challenging to unwind. Of course you can take classes online, from the comfort of your own home. I offer full classes on Patreon. The photos in this post are from one of my classes.
Choose the appropriate class level
The most important thing for your first class, is to make sure it’s for beginners. Even if you’re used to exercise, it’s always wise to invest in some beginners classes to get used to the techniques and terminology. As the saying goes: don’t run before you can walk. This is where yoga studios again get the top marks as most organize classes by level from beginners too advanced. Most gym classes are multi level so many not be geared towards beginners.
Prepping for your first yoga class
So you’ve picked your location, style, and you found a suitable class level for your first yoga class. Brilliant. Now we need to prep you for the yoga class. Here’s a few things to consider.
Dress for comfort
Magazines and marketing will tell you that you need the latest and greatest gear. But, you really just need comfortable clothes you can move well in. Leggings or shorts, and a top. A t-shirt is fine. Form fitting is best as you may be upside down during some of the class and don’t want the hem of your pants around your thighs. Or the Hem of your t-shirt around your armpits. If your top is baggy or flowing, then tuck your top into your pants. There are no special shoes are required. Most yogi’s prefer to be barefoot.
Arrive early for your yoga class
Being late in a yoga class can be disruptive for the class participants. If you’re new or not, arriving early is just good etiquette for any situation. This is especially important if you’re new to the studio and need to pay a fee, or fill out a waiver. Plus you need to know where to go, use the lockers, bathrooms etc. These things take time. Some studios have “no late entry” policies so arrive early. This will also allow time for our next tip for your first yoga class.
Introduce yourself to the teacher
For your first time, make sure to arrive early. This gives you ample time to introduce yourself to the teacher. Most of us can spot new people in the crowd, and will approach you. But we see a TON of people in a week. Sometimes the faces all merge into one and we aren’t sure if you’re new or just haven’t been for a while. Take the time to say hi, and inform us of any injuries or limitations you may have. Then we can advise you of poses to avoid, or modifications to make during your practice. Personally I’ll also check in with newbies after class to make sure they’re ok, and ask if they have questions.
Don’t eat large meal immediately before class
There is a LOT of movement in yoga. Bending, extending and twisting can suddenly make the chili cheese fries you had before class try to reappear! Leave at least 2 hours between mealtime and yoga. A small snack is fine, but big meals and yoga do not mix. You can hydrate, but avoid LARGE quantities of fluid. Sip don’t chug!
Things to know for your first yoga class
Find out if you need to bring your own mat, or you can borrow one. I’d always recommend getting your own mat. Especially at a gym. You can buy a cheap one on Amazon or at Target that will suffice. If you borrow a mat, just know you’re gonna be lying in someone else sweat. I’d also suggest a water bottle, and towel (especially for hot/power yoga).
There are some ‘rules’ in yoga studios that I wish were implemented in gyms (again another post for another day). It’s what is politely called Yoga etiquette. Otherwise known as manners.
- Phones and personal belongings stay OUTSIDE the yoga room. I admit that I’ve been the person who’s phone has gone off in class and I was mortified. It happened once. Not a call. I had the day off and I forgot my alarm was set as a reminder for me to go to work. Lesson learned. Phones stay outside the studio.
- Don’t step on someone else’s mat. Think of mats as an extension of personal space. You feet don’t belong on another persons mat. This is another reason to arrive early so you don’t have to step over a sea of mats.
- Please be mindful of wearing a lot of cologne or perfumes. You’re in close proximity to others who may be sensitive, especially considering the deep breathing involved in yoga.
What to expect in your first yoga class
So you’re all set with what to do before your first yoga class, now let’s talk about the actual class. While each class will be slightly different depending on the style, most will follow the same format as other movement classes. They have a warm up, a movement section, and a cool down. In yoga we also typically have grounding, breath work and maybe even meditation. Here are some tips for the actual class
- The teacher will usually announce what props are needed for the class, or it could be written on the board outside the studio. Don’t be afraid to ask others for assistance. Yogi’s are a helpful bunch.
- Expect to experience new things, be ok with getting outside your comfort zone. There may be chanting. Your teacher may use words from a foreign language (it’s called Sanskrit). Go with an open heart and mind.
- The teacher should ASK before touching you. But if you’re uncomfortable being touched, please say “no adjustments, thank you”. Some studios may even have flip chip indicating your preference.
- Never push through pain. Only you know how your body feels. If something feels painful, especially in the joints then please stop.
- At any point take a break in Childs pose. Personally, I typically cue this towards the end of the warm up, by getting people into Childs pose and reminding them to listen to their body at all times.
- The lying down at the end, it’s called Savasana and it’s necessary. Don’t skip out early. Honestly it’s the best part of the class.
So that about sums up everything you need to know for your first yoga class. Basically use your manners, attend with an open mind, open heart, and listen to your body. If you have any questions, ask away in the comments!
- Have you ever been to a yoga class?
- Do you prefer yoga studio or gym setting? Why?
- Which one of these tips helped you the most?
- Are there any other questions you have about yoga?