Yoga can seem intimidating, especially in today’s modern world. Thin women contort themselves into pretzel-like shapes and handstands on social media, and yoga seems to be all about expensive leggings and mats.
I promise – it’s not.
Going to your first yoga class is one of the best decisions you can ever make.
No pretzel-like shapes or expensive leggings required.
Just bring an open mind and a positive attitude…and a few other things, too. But if you stay open and nonjudgmental towards yourself, you’ll have a great experience. You will leave the class feeling calm, centered, grounded, and relaxed.
Who wouldn’t want that?
Here’s what to know before you go to your first yoga class.
1. Yoga classes come in all different shapes and sizes. Generally, the more physically demanding classes are power, astanga, or vinyasa yoga. Gentler classes are hatha, yinyasa, yoga therapy, and yin yoga. But studios often develop their own names for classes, so check out the descriptions before you go. Some studios even offer a yoga for beginners class, which is a great (but not necessary!) option.
2. Wear comfortable clothes. The idea is that the clothes help your practice without distracting you. That’s why light, fitted clothing, such as a tank and leggings, are best. You won’t be fussing with a tank falling down and showing your stomach during inversions, and your instructor will be able to help you better with alignment because they can see your body more clearly. The other important thing to note about yoga attire? Yoga is practiced with bare feet, so leave the socks and shoes in your bag!
3. Bring your yoga mat, water, and a small towel (for a heated class) into the yoga room. You’ll want to leave your other belongings, including your shoes and phone, outside the room. It’s particularly important to leave your phone outside because yoga is about slowing down and reconnecting with the self, not connecting to your technology. When in doubt, watch what everyone else is doing or simply ask the person at the front desk.
4. Come with an empty stomach. Try not to have a heavy meal 2 hours before practicing yoga. It’s highly uncomfortable to have a full belly when you’re trying to do a series of lunges and downward-facing dogs! However, depending on your body, you can probably have a light snack an hour before class with no problem. Try a handful of nuts or a simple fruit plus protein combination, such as an apple with nut butter. Definitely avoid anything greasy or fried!
5. Try to arrive 15 minutes early. There’s nothing worse than feeling rushed and stressed as you start a yoga class. You’ll likely need to fill out some paperwork at the front desk, so give yourself some time to fill everything out and get settled before the class starts. When you enter the yoga room, most people will probably be relaxing quietly in a gentle pose on their backs or a comfortable seated position. Roll out your mat, sit or lay however feels comfortable, and take a few quiet moments to center yourself.
6. You can always come to child’s pose. Child’s pose is a resting pose you can take at any point throughout the class when you need a physical or mental break. From tabletop position (where you come to the floor on your hands and knees) bring your knees to the width of your mat and sink your hips down to your heels, relaxing onto the chest and extending the arms long in front of you. Feel free to take this pose at any time. If you feel discomfort in the knees while practicing the child’s pose, use a folded blanket under the knees and/or a pillow under your buttocks.
7. Use props. Most yoga studios will have plenty of props available for you to use, including blocks, blankets, and straps. At the beginning of the class, grab 2 blocks, 2 blankets, and 1 strap so you have everything you need next to you. You can use the props to support you in any pose, especially if you have an injury. There is no shame in modifying a pose! EveryBODY is different, and if you’re new to yoga or have an injury, you may need extra support.
8. You may feel discomfort, but you shouldn’t feel pain. As a beginner, it can be hard to know which uncomfortable sensations are dangerous and which are just uncomfortable. Let’s define pain as sharp, like a pinching sensation. If you feel pain, move out of the pose immediately! Discomfort should be quieter and may change if you breathe into it or simply focus on your breath. The key to yoga is to listen to your own body. A good rule of thumb is to push yourself in strength-building poses, like plank, but not in flexibility poses, like pigeon.
9. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Again, that’s what the teacher is there for! If a pose is too difficult, feel free to ask for a modification to make the pose more comfortable for your body. Remember to stay within the pain-free range.
10. The final pose in a yoga class is “Savasana.” Savasana is known as the final resting pose. One of my younger clients calls it “The Quiet Pose.” The teacher will invite you to lie down on your back and completely relax for a few moments. Don’t worry if you can’t get your mind to stop racing! Like all things, this will come with practice.
11. The teacher will traditionally end the class with “Namaste.” At the end of the class, the teacher will invite you to bring your palms together at your heart center and bow your head, saying “Namaste.” This means “I bow to the divine in you” or “I honor the light in you.” I normally close the class with “Shalom,” “Namaste,” and “Salaam.”
12. It’s okay not to know what you’re doing. That’s what the teacher is there for— to guide you on your yoga journey, wherever you are. Try not to focus on what others are doing around you, just center in on your breath and the teacher’s voice.
If you find yourself struggling to hold a plank or focusing on the movements of more experienced yogis next to you, remember this: you are exactly where you are supposed to be. Everything in its own time, and as it should be.
Every yogi started somewhere. Taking the first step and attending your first yoga class is an amazing accomplishment, and you should be proud of yourself!
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Info about Me
I’m Chi. I’ve always been passionate about healing and empowerment.
I work as a catalyst for personal transformation. I help you explore the best version of yourself, and yoga is a fantastic tool to accomplish that goal. I am a certified yoga therapist and a classically trained jazz vocalist, and I hold a Ph.D. in Communications. I look forward to practicing with you!