So you've finally got the nerve up to attend your first yoga class in a studio. Even if you're not suffering from social anxiety or alike, entering a room full of strangers can be a heart-pounding experience.
What to wear, how to prepare, and what to expect might be just some of the questions swirling in your head.
Don't worry, dear aspiring yogi.
This article will share with you all the essential tips so you could rock on your mat even if it's your first time doing yoga ever.
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That's the first thing you have to do except for picking a yoga studio. I can't stress enough how important it is to know what type of class you'll be joining.
You probably heard that there are lots of different yoga styles. Technically, they all fall under the definition of Hatha yoga. That said, some types of yoga are more beginner-friendly than the others.
What makes a beginner-friendly class? Well, the pacing is generally slower, the poses are more accessible, and you won't feel out of place even if you've never worked out.
Unless you've been an active yogi-at-home for a while, I suggest that you start easy. Search for Beginner or Foundational yoga classes. They are geared towards absolute beginners and will introduce you to common physical postures, simple breathing, relaxation techniques as well as meditation.
Yoga classes for beginners might feel a bit too boring and slow, especially if you're in good physical shape. In return, you'll learn the basics and have plenty of opportunities to ask questions – things that will pay off immediately once you step into a more advanced class or choose to practice at home.
If beginner yoga classes are not available, you might also want to try Gentle yoga, Iyengar, Anusara, or Yin Yoga.
Be careful when the class is labeled as Hatha yoga. There's no way to know what to expect as the class structure depends on the instructor. If that's the case, be sure to call the studio beforehand and ask whether the class is suitable for beginners.
Don't know what the above words mean? Check this guide to the most common yoga styles and what to expect from each.
If you've enrolled in a naked yoga class, then luckily you don't have to worry about the clothes (And it's good for your mental health too! Read more about naked yoga here). Otherwise, wear comfortable, activewear that won't restrict your movements.
I hope that it's needless to say that jeans and yoga are incompatible. There's gonna be lots of movement, so athletic leggings or yoga pants are the best choices for both men and women. You can read how to choose a good pair of yoga bottoms here.
I wouldn't recommend cotton sports pants. Simply because they're heavy and usually too loose. As a beginner, you probably want to get alignment cues from your teacher. If you're wearing shapeless, wide-legged bottoms, it's gonna be tough for the instructor to see your form and offer you any advice.
Longer shorts are a possible alternative for hot summer months. Some men also prefer wearing cycling shorts under regular ones to keep everything in place.
There's a great choice of athletic tops, tees, and tanks for men and women alike. Anything light, comfy, and moderately form-fitting will do. Choose moisture-wicking fabric if you're a heavy sweater. Definitely, avoid loose cotton T-shirts with wide necklines. These will drape over your head every time you fold down and annoyingly droop even in simple Plank.
Many people advice against tops that are too tight. I partially agree if tight means restricting to you. Personally, I can't think of anything more comfortable than a tight-fitting racerback tank. So go for the clothes that work for you.
My only advice would be to put on the top and bottoms that you're planning to wear to the class beforehand and try them in action. Squat, hold a plank, raise your arms. Feels unrestricted and comfy? Then you're good to go.
Yoga is a low-impact exercise. Although you might want to wear a sports bra or a compression vest depending on how much support you need. I personally wore a regular bra to yoga for at least a year. Can't say it hindered my practice, but I surely felt the difference when I invested in a bra designed for sports.
You might want to grab a long sleeve during colder months. Your body will heat up during the practice, but it often gets cold at the end of the class.
Yoga is traditionally practiced barefoot. It helps with stability, balance, grip, as well as the general feeling of grounding. Besides, many yoga poses work to strengthen tiny muscles in your feet and toes – the ones you didn't even know existed because you're wearing shoes for most of your life.
If you have a particular medical condition that makes practice barefoot painful, then try to check with your yoga studio or instructor beforehand about the possible solutions. For example, some people use footless arch supports during yoga.
There's also a variety of yoga socks available now. They not only offer you extra traction with the mat, but you can put thin orthotics in them. Yoga socks are also a great option if you have cosmetic issues with your feet and don't feel like flashing your bare feet in front of strangers.
Find the right gear for your practice with this ultimate guide to yoga wear and equipment.
The essentials would be yourself and a positive mindset.
I'm not joking. That's literally what you need during your first class. The rest is details.
Under details I include:
Whether you're planning to sweat or not, it's always a good idea to have a small bottle of water with you.
This will come in handy for a hot yoga class. Those who tend to sweat buckets before the class even starts will also appreciate this small accessory.
Yoga mat, a block, and a strap – if you own those. Most of the yoga studios will offer either free or rental yoga props. Don't be afraid to call them beforehand and ask.
Just so you know, the mats and props won't be of the best quality and probably have been used by many people before so don't have high expectations.
As you start practicing more often (and hopefully you do), you will want to invest in your own yoga props.
Check the essential yoga props you might want to get at the start of your yoga journey.
If sporting your new workout outfit doesn't feel appropriate at a dinner with friends, or you tend to sweat a lot, then a clean change of clothes can save the day.
You might want to bring a protein bar, a banana, or a handful of nuts that you can snack on after your intensive workout.
If you're new to the practice, it's always a good idea to check some basic yoga postures in advance.
There's no way to know what is waiting for you in the beginner class unless you're attending Bikram, Ashtanga, etc. - yoga styles that follow the exact same order of poses every time. Otherwise, getting a visual image of what might be expected from you can help with initial anxiety of posing in a room with strangers.
Many yoga instructors will use Sanskrit during the yoga class to some extent. It's okay if you haven't got a clue what these words mean – you'll get a hold of it after a while. Yet if you want to be in the know right away, check on some general yoga terms before stepping into the studio.
Avoid heavy and big meals at least one and a half hour before the class. Your body may respond with nausea, sleepiness, bloating, farting, and god knows only what. Try to steer clear from pungent foods. Your studio mates will thank you for that.
But not too much.
Stay hydrated but don't gulp a liter of water before the class. It's no fun having a stomach full of water when exercising plus you'll probably miss some crucial bits when rushing to the toilet every fifteen minutes.
Try to get to the studio at least 10-15 minutes before the class starts. This will give you some time to show yourself around the studio, maybe meet the yoga instructor, pick a good spot for the yoga mat, and relax.
It varies from one studio to another. Some have a strict no-shoe policy. Others are okay with shoes, but require you to switch off your devices, and it's considered bad taste to surf the web before class.
Don't be afraid to ask questions at the reception or people who arrived earlier than you.
If there's a chance, of course. If the yoga instructor is late and rushing into the room to start, then it's better to put off the introduction until the end of the class.
Why do you even have to bother? Well, firstly, because it's nice to say hi if you're new in the class. Secondly, you can share with the instructor the information about your past injuries, or current pains, pregnancy, and anything else that can be related to you exercising. Thirdly, you can inform the teacher whether you're okay or not with hands-on adjustments.
If you brought a yoga mat, pick a place in the room from which you can clearly see the instructor. The front or back of the room – your choice. If you don't have a mat, check either with the reception, instructor, or your classmates about where you can get one.
Read more: Choosing A Yoga Mat Doesn’t Have To Be Hard
If you arrived early, probably you have some spare time before the class. Don't be shy to join in the chat with other people.
If that's your first time, I'd suggest waiting until someone starts talking. I've been to studios where chatting before the class was considered bad manners (which personally I consider to be total bs and advise you to run away from this kind of studios).
If you don't want to talk to anyone, just settle on your mat. Lie down, sit up, focus on your breath, close your eyes – just try to get comfortable.
And try to have fun in your first yoga class!
While yoga instructors will show you the pose and cue you into it, there can be times when you either can't see them or simply don't fully understand the instructions. Watch people around you for visual hints.
I've been to yoga classes in different countries and often didn't even speak the language of instruction. Though I have years of experience behind my back, I still had to look at people in the class to see what the teacher was instructing us to do.
Yoga instructors will often demonstrate a full expression of the pose. It doesn't mean that you have to look like that and it certainly doesn't mean that you have to do the pose in the first place. Remember that it's okay to modify, just as it's fine just to sit and rest. Don't try to get your body into the form that feels bad or painful in any way.
You can't be perfect in your poses at your first class. In fact, nobody can no matter how long they've been practicing because there's no such thing as perfect alignment.
Our bodies come in so many shapes and sizes that everyone looks different in the same pose. Besides, the perfect pose is not the goal of yoga at all. But that's a different story already.
Don't get discouraged if you get corrected, or if many poses seem unattainable. Trust me, the strongest and the most flexible yogis you know were just like you when they started.
This one is easier said than done. But I'll repeat what you already know – nobody is looking at you. Nobody really cares whether you're the only male in a female group; nobody couldn't care less how old you are and whether you can touch your toes; nobody thinks about how much you weight while holding their Plank. So why do you bother?
Sure, there are toxic people. Pretending that they don't exist in a yoga studio would be unrealistic. But believe me, our fears are usually unsubstantiated. In confirmation, just read what people are writing on forums such as Reddit or Quora.
Including that dreadful pose you're holding right now. Remember, if it's too much for you – take the time to rest, drink water and catch your breath. Nobody will judge you.
As a beginner, do give more focus and effort to breath than alignment. Notice whether you can keep your breathing under control when you get into a full pose. Back out and modify if you can’t.
Talking during the class is not common in some studios. You'll probably feel the vibe right away. If everyone is really uptight in the process, you can ask questions and share your concerns after the class.
If you experience a problem during a class, you can wave to the instructor to catch their attention not to distract other students.
And if it's not in the class you're attending, then change it!
I mean, how can you stay serious when trying Lion's Breath for the first time (check the video tutorial below)? I definitely couldn't, just as half of my classmates. Or when you lose balance at least three times in a Tree pose.
Laughter releases stress and makes us happier. So does yoga. Why not combine the two? (now that 'I'm writing this, I realize that they did – check out laughter yoga).
It's not only about the quality of instructions and style of teaching. Yoga teachers create a vibe in the class. They are ordinary people and can't be loved by everyone. Just like trying different styles of yoga, try different instructors to find the one you like most.
Hygiene is one of the reasons people get their own yoga mats in the first place. Some can find it annoying that you're stepping all over the place with your feet. Besides, a yoga mat is a kind of personal space. Avoid invading this space unless you've been invited.
If you're in a hot yoga class or just tend to sweat a lot, it's common courtesy to clean up the floor after yourself.
This is an awesome relaxation pose, and you probably need it more than you think. It's also considered rude to make noise leaving the room while other people are trying to meditate.
Better don't be late, but if you are, try to be as quiet as possible. Make sure you're not violating the studio's policy. If you do, consider skipping the session and instead practice on your own at home.
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