Advice for Your First Yoga Class

As a continuation of my blog post about where to start yoga. Here are my tips and advice about taking your first yoga class. I've broken it down into  the categories of 'before you go to the studio', 'during your class' and 'after your class'. Here's to 2016 being your year of yoga!

Before going to the studio

Dress comfortably. Yes, it might be tempting to go to Lululemon and drop $200 for a fancy, tush-hugging outfit, but you don't need it. You need to be in comfortable, movable clothing. For women, I recommend a form-fitting tank with a built in bra (or a regular tank paired with a sports bra). I would also recommend cotton or cotton blend clothing that will allow your body to breathe. 

Have a small snack. You don't want to be totally hangry* in a yoga class. You also don't want to be too full. You will be twisting and bending your body in a number of ways and a completely full stomach is just not advisable.

Do a little research. Although every class, every teacher and every studio might be slightly different, you should have a basic understanding of what you are about to do. Use YouTube and Google to get a basic understanding of yoga (please ignore the scantly-clad young women with their legs behind their head, that's not what yoga is all about). I would also highly recommend checking out the website of the studio you are planning to go to and reading the bio of the teacher. Lastly, there are many types of yoga. You should have a basic understanding of the specific type of class that you are attending. 

Don't overthink it. Just go. This is the most important (and hardest) piece of advice. Even if you don't have exactly the right outfit, even if you are running a bit late, even if you are slightly more hungry than you think you should be, just make a pact with yourself to get up and go. Making it to the studio and on your mat, is 99% of the battle. 

At the studio

Arrive early. No one wants to arrive to a yoga class rushed and stressed. Arriving at least 5-10 minutes before the class starts, will allow enough time to get to sign a waiver, pay for the class and get set-up and comfortable. 

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Introduce yourself to the instructor.  You should have time to meet the teacher and let them know of any limitations that you may have. But don't just let them know about limitations, also let them know of what your goals are. Why are you at a yoga class? 

Set up in the middle of the room. Often, beginners try to hide in the back. I recommend setting up in the middle of the class. That way, whichever way you are faced during the course of the class, you can easily look at the people around you. There will be times in which you are lost. Just look around and see what every one else is doing. 

During class

Keep an open mind. There are undoubtable going to be things that take you a bit out of your comfort zone. It might be the instruction of 'putting your foot here' or simply the chanting of 'om'. When I first started yoga, I remember there being things that I literally thought "wow. these people are nuts". lol. The more you do it, the more you will connect with things and understand why things are done. Make sure to give yoga the time and space to settle into, keeping an open mind is the only way to achieve this.

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Rest. Rest. Rest. Yoga should be challenging, but it should not hurt. If you feel overwhelmed, the strongest and bravest thing that you can do is take child's pose. No one is judging you. Always do what you need to do , when you need to do it, no apologies. 

Don't do anything that doesn't feel good. Think of the 'instructor' as more of an 'advisor'. You always have the option of not doing something, you always have the option of resting instead and you always have the option of backing off instead of pushing forward. The more yoga you do, the more you will gain a deeper understanding of your body and what you ultimately need. Until then, if it hurts, back-off.

After class

Assess. Think about what you enjoyed. Think about what you didn't enjoy. How do you feel? Did the class make you feel more open? Was the class not challenging enough/too challenging? Call the studio that you took the class at, tell them what you liked, what you didn't like, have them make recommendations for other classes you might enjoy as well. 

Don't base your entire perception of yoga on one class/teacher. Even if you hated every minute of your first class (and hopefully you didn't). I beg you to try other classes. Try other yoga styles, try other teachers, even try other studios. Yoga can be life-changing, but only if you continually practice it. If you didn't connect with your first yoga class for whatever reason, try, try again. 

*Hangry - when you are so hungry that you become angry.