So, you’ve decided to take a yoga class. You buy all your yoga-gear: yoga mat, yoga pants, sports bra, a cool reusable water bottle, and then you walk into the studio and you realize… you have no idea what to expect! Everyone’s always going on and on about how yoga is amazing, it’ll change your life, it’ll help reduce stress, it’ll help with your back pain, etc. However, when it all comes down to it, the whole idea of yoga is a completely foreign concept to how you’re use to living your life or even how you’re use to working out, and it’s all just a little bit scary.
Does this at all sound familiar to you? Well, the truth is that it happens to all of us in one form or another when we start something new, and starting a yoga practice (or even just trying out a class for the first time) is no different. So, just to get you feeling a bit more comfortable about trying a yoga class for the first time, whether it’s at home with a video or in a live class, I’m going to give you a few tips on how to survive it, benefit from it, and maybe even begin to like it!
How To Survive Your First Yoga Class
Choose The Right Class For You
Odds are, if this is your very first yoga class, you need to take a beginner’s class. Try looking for classes that have the actual word, “beginner” in the title, and if there are none available at your studio, go for a gentle yoga class or a level 1 class. I highly advise against going for a more advanced class as your very first one because you’re likely to get discouraged and not want continue. Trust me, it’s best to start out at the beginning instead of trying to start in the middle when you have no foundation to build upon. Also, try to avoid an open level class as your very first class since you may feel somewhat "pressured" to go into a posture that you're not quite ready for yet, which may ultimately lead you to get discouraged. Whichever class you take, make sure that you tell your teacher that this is your first class so she or he can help you out when needed.
Remember: The Teacher Isn’t “Picking On You” She’s Helping You
Yoga teachers are taught to walk around the room and adjust the students individually if needed. So, when a teacher comes up to you during class and gives you a correction, it’s not because she wants to draw attention to you or make you feel badly about yourself. It’s because she is doing her job, which is to make sure that you are gaining the best possible experience from your yoga practice in a safe and healthy way. Try not to resist or be self-conscious about it, and if she or he assists you into a position that is uncomfortable or painful, just quietly let her or him know and then discuss it with her or him after class.
As The Boy Scouts Say, “Always Be Prepared!”
It always feels great when you’re prepared and you know you have everything you need, right? Well, the same goes for your yoga class! My advice is that you’ll need: 1. A yoga mat, 2. A water bottle, 3. A small towel to wipe the sweat off your face, 4. Coins and/or a small lock for the lockers in the changing room, and 5. Perhaps a change of clothes for after the class.
Another thing to think about is your hair and your feet. In terms of your hair, make sure that it’s secured away from your face so you don’t have to keep adjusting during the class, and also make sure that it doesn’t prevent you from lying down flat on the floor (a.k.a. a large bun at the back of your head). In terms of your feet, make sure that they’re clean and your toenails are maintained so that you’re not self-conscious of them. You have to practice yoga barefoot. There is no arguing against it, so you might as well make sure your feet are presentable and clean enough to be around others.
*If you have a foot condition where it is unsafe to expose the skin on your feet to others, then purchase yoga socks that are non-slip and have individual slots for your toes. Make sure you tell your yoga teacher of this condition beforehand.
Make Sure You’re Comfortable In What You’re Wearing
My outfit of choice for yoga class is black opaque leggings (make sure they’re not see-through when you bend over), a long tank top that is form fitting covers my hips, and a comfortable and supportive sports bra underneath. The reason for this can be best described by one of the most common poses in yoga, which is downward facing dog. You do this pose quite a lot, and you want to feel comfortable while doing it. Not to mention all of the other poses that you’ll eventually get to as well. (Watch my video on how to do downward dog to get a head start before your class)
Leave Your Expectations At Home
A lot of people have expectations about what a yoga class will be and how it will effect us before we even get around to trying it. This is the main reason that many don’t even try it at all. We think, “I’m not flexible enough,” “I can’t sit still for too long,” “I’m not good at meditation,” “I’m not thin enough,” and so on. However, you have no idea how you’ll perceive a yoga class unless you actually try taking one. Bottom line. Also, don't judge "all yoga" based on one class. It could be that the teacher's style of teaching doesn't align with the way you personally want to be taught. That just means you might need to try someone else's class or maybe even another style of yoga altogether. Most people I know who come to the class with an open mind end up loving it, which brings me to my next point.
Have An Open Mind
Stop being so judgemental. That’s right, I’m talking to you! This tip goes hand in hand with the last one, but it’s SO important that I felt it needed to be emphasized. Let me tell you a story. I took a few friends to their very first yoga class a couple of years ago (this was before I was a yoga teacher). The class was open-level, so at the time I thought it would be able to accommodate all levels, and I figured it would be fine for them and myself alike. Now these friends of mine are not spiritual by any means, but I personally feel that you can have your own beliefs without constantly placing judgement on the beliefs of others. This brings me to the point of my story. Throughout this class, the teacher kept referencing the current phase of the moon and how it was meant to be effecting the state of one of our chakras (if you don’t know what that means, then don’t worry. We didn’t either). I was a bit confused because I didn’t know anything about the chakras at the time, but I reserved my judgement because I had already fallen in love with yoga. However, my friends on the other hand were experiencing yoga for the very first time, so they had no attachment to it whatsoever. Being that they didn’t believe in what the teacher was saying, after the class, they laughed at it, and I’m pretty sure they’ve never taken another yoga class again to this day.
Don’t let this happen to you! It was perfectly fine for the teacher to express her beliefs, but she should have explained what she was talking about instead of assuming that everyone knew what she meant. Especially knowing beforehand that there were 3 yoga newbies in the class. It was also not okay for my friends to simply dismiss what she was saying as if it were a joke, and not try to appreciate the benefits that they felt from the class itself. Be respectful, and keep an open mind. You might be surprised by what you’ll find if you leave your judgement at home.
Practicing yoga is a constant journey. I have been studying movement and practicing yoga for years now, and I still consider myself a beginner. Don’t force your body into a shape just because your teacher or neighbor’s body looks that way. Everyone’s body is different and everyone is at a different stage in her or his practice. If you want to achieve something like being able to touch your toes or doing a handstand, but you’re not quite there yet, then work towards that in mindful and gradual way. This will prevent you from seriously hurting yourself in the process and then getting discouraged before you even start making any real progress. (Check out my article on How To Prevent Injury In Yoga)
Don’t Compare Yourself To ANYONE
As I said in my previous point, everyone’s body is different and everyone is at a different stage in her or his practice. Your body may look completely different to what my body looks like in a pose, and that is okay! As long as you’re working in mindful way and your body is aligned safely, then you’re doing just fine.
I know that going into your very first yoga class can be a little scary, but I hope that these tips helped you to understand what you’re getting into. All those things that you hear people raving about yoga are true. It helps you to live a healthier and happier life overall, and it just makes you feel better. That’s what I love about it the most, and I hope you find your own love for yoga as well.
Thanks so much for stopping by the blog! Have a great rest of your day! Namaste.
Girl On Yoga is a blog about yoga, lifestyle, and healthy / mindful living. If you have any questions that you'd like answered on the blog, submit them here.
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