Deciding that you want to start doing yoga is the first step. It’s easy to get stuck here, though.
It might be nice to know that you aren’t alone in your desire to try yoga – a survey collected by Ipsos Public Affairs on behalf of Yoga Alliance and Yoga Journal found that thirty-four percent of Americans, or 80 million people, say they are likely to try yoga for the first time in the next 12 months.
So how can you set yourself apart from the masses? By taking that first step of course!
And yet, we all know that starting something new can be challenging…After all, I don’t think I know anyone that relishes feeling like a dodo, or enjoys worrying that everyone else is going to more adept or that everyone but “me” is going to know what’s going on…and yet, let me assure you that no one and I mean no one – not even the seemingly ever present 20-year-old skinny and super bendy Whitey McWhiterton female that you are afraid of being one mat over from you pops out of the womb knowing all the alignment cues for ardhachandrasana (whatever the hell that is, right?)…and while this may sound like a pat saying, it’s true…there is nothing to fear in a yoga class, other than fear itself.
So in the effort to help you navigate beyond the fear about being a beginner and to help you to return to the open, eager and curious space of beginner’s mind I thought I would give you a quick outline of what you can expect when you go to a yoga studio and a class for the first time. Here’s a quick list of tips:
Do a little homework before heading to you chosen studio or gym.
1. Pick a Yoga Type
A little research will be required on your part. There are many types yoga classes out there, and you may be turned off if you pick one that does not suit your personality and/or current state of physical fitness.
Take a few minutes to read this overview of yoga styles. Decide whether you want a heated or unheated class. For most beginners, an unheated hatha (next week’s blog will explore what hatha is…) or beginner’s level 1 vinyasa class will be most appropriate, depending on whether you want a slow or fast-paced class. These are basic styles, and you can always try something fancier later.
2. Find a Class
Pick a studio that is convenient to your home or work so getting to class will be easy. You can check our schedule out here. Make sure you start with a basic level class. Finding a good teacher will help you stick with it. If you don’t click with the first teacher you go to, keep trying until you find one you like – teachers can be a lot like clothing – something that fits your friend beautifully might be horrible for you. Find what makes you feel beautiful…
3. Know What to Bring
On the first day, you will not need to bring much except yourself and some comfortable, breathable clothing. Most studios have yoga mats that can be rented or borrowed, if you don’t want to make an investment in a mat just yet. Good ones
4. Know What to Expect
Once you have picked your starting point, it’s advisable to arrive at the studio about 15 minutes early. This will give you ample time to orient yourself and:
- Fill out the requisite liability waiver
- Provide the studio with your contact information and make payment
- Change into your “workout” gear
- Get your mat down in the right room
- Grab a couple blocks and maybe a strap
- Make a trip to the bathroom to empty what needs to be emptied
- Fill what needs to be filled – most studios have a water fountain or water bottle filling station – having water on hand is always a good idea
In a typical yoga class, the students place their mats facing the front of the room (often identifiable by a small altar or by the teacher’s mat) in a loose grid. It’s best not to line up your mat exactly with the one next to it because you and your neighbor will need some space in certain poses.
The students often sit in a cross-legged position waiting for class to start or do some gentle stretching.
The teacher may start class by leading the class in chanting “om” three times (blog on this sound coming soon…keep your eyes peeled…). Depending on the teacher, there may be a breathing exercise or short meditation or they may take some time to “set” an intention for the class.
This is most often followed by warm-up poses, more vigorous poses, then stretches and final relaxation. At any time, take child’s pose if you need some rest. Know that you may be a little sore the day after your first class.Yoga is meant to be guided by non-violence so there shouldn’t be an burning, tearing or searing pain in a class…only you know your body’s limits. Honor them.
Sometimes the teacher will go around to each student during final relaxation and give him or her a little massage. Most teachers close a class with another round of oms.
5. What if I Have No Access to Yoga Classes?
While many great yoga books and videos are available, there is no substitute from learning directly from a good teacher in a yoga class. That said, if you cannot get to a yoga class, I recommend starting with any youtube beginner’s video, as this will give you more visuals to follow than a book.
Finally, here’s a quick list of some Dos and Don’ts to help you feel fully prepared to head into a studio:
- have a big meal right before class. Try eating lightly a few hours before class starts.
- drink water during most classes, but have some before and after.
- wear shoes or socks during class.
- review our yoga etiquette blog, so you feel very comfortable entering an unfamiliar situation.
- tell the teacher it’s your first class (you won’t be the only one).
- ask the teacher for help if you need it.
- familiarize yourself with some beginners’ yoga poses before you take your first class.
- arrange to do a yoga private if you’re really uncomfortable with not knowing the poses. It’s a great investment in you!
- come back in a few days for your next class!
See you on the mat!