I started practicing yoga a while back and I have admitted when I first started it, I just jumped into it like my life depended on it. Sounds a bit crazy, but honestly, yoga was one of the most important mind, body and life alternating experiences I’ve had in a very long time. I will write about that at a later time, but not I would like to write about your first yoga class and what to expect. Please keep in mind; this post is NOT about hot yoga. This post is about all other yoga classes that are done in non-heated rooms. Hot yoga is a whole other thing and I plan to write about it at a later time.
The thing that got me hooked on yoga was my very first “Ooooooommmmm” this sound really shook me to the core, I felt a release and freedom that I never experienced before. The vibration was strong and very powerful. This is the first thing I tell everyone about yoga. Do all yoga classes include chanting? Do I have to chat? Do I have to be barefoot? Do I have to be flexible? Is it really easy? Is it slow? What yoga class should I start off with? What yoga studio do you recommend?… etc. The questions could go on forever. I will with time answer these questions in a post called “Q&A about Yoga”. So, if you have any questions, leave them in the comment section.
What to wear?
I remember when I first started doing yoga, I looked around the class and everyone wore something else. At times I felt some people just rolled out of bed and walked down to the yoga class and did yoga. Other times they looked like me as if they were going to an aerobic class. What you want to be wearing are close fitting and comfortable clothes. I personally like to wear leggings that were made for yoga. The reason is because when you are in downward dog pose, you don’t want to see your underwear or you don’t want them to rip. When it comes to tops, it depends on the season. Winter time, I like to wear one size larger (100% cotton) t-shirt or a long sleeve athletic top (usually for running or for yoga) so that my skin can breathe and that I do not overheat. Wintertime I also wear layers, I like to get and stay warm, really warm. During summer time, I usually wear a tank top that is longer and not too tight so that I can move around without anything popping out or anything restraining me.
When it comes to socks, if you are cold, wear them to your mat, and then take them off. You will heat up quite fast and won’t need them. Yoga mats are made for bare feet. If your feet are still slipping, try those yoga socks or gloves, but I am certain you won’t need them, a little slipping is ok.
What to bring?
Do not bring water (unless you are doing hot yoga), a small towel and maybe a yoga mat. Some yoga studios offer yoga mats for your class for free, while in other yoga studios you can rent them. Make sure to call the yoga studio in advance or check out their website to see what they offer. Other things you can rent or use for free at most yoga studios are towels, straps, bolsters, blocks and other equipment. Based on my experience I would say, just bring a small towel to wipe your sweat and a positive attitude.
Proper etiquette varies from studio to studio, but there are a few rules that most yoga studios follow:
- Come 15 minutes before your class starts, every time. When you are taking your first yoga class, arrive 30 minutes before, inform the staff it is your first time since you will have to fill out some forms, you will get a tour of the studio, introduce yourself to the instructor, communicate any injuries you might have…etc.
- Remove your shoes before entering the studio.
- No phones allowed in class. Leave it in your purse or bag on mute.
- Use the restroom before class to avoid interruptions later. If you must excuse yourself mid-class (we have all done this at least once, we underestimated the force of our bladder), leave the room as quietly as possible.
- No perfumes, No makeup,
- Use deodorant and take a shower before your class. You will sweat and the last thing anyone wants is someone’s bad BO distracting them.
- Savasana (the last 10 – 15 mins). I would say never skip it, it helps your body relax after an intense 60 – 90 minutes yoga class. If you must leave class early, do so before the class relaxes into savasana (aka corpse pose, I personally HATE that name so I use the Sanskrit name). When people enter the last and most challenging pose, the room must have no movement and absolute silence. The only thing you should hear is music and the teacher’s voice.
What to expect
It depends greatly on what yoga class you attend. I will have to write a short post once about the different types of yoga classes you can attend. Most classes start with gentle stretches, guided meditations or pranayamas (breathing techniques). After which, a sun salutation is done as a way to warm up your body and then you continue into a vast number of asanas, a vinyasa flow.
Food & Liquid
Before your first yoga class, as I wrote above, check out to see the rules of each yoga studio and try to respect their rules as much as possible. Before your first yoga class, I recommend that you do not eat 2 – 3 hours before your class. Never come to a yoga class with a full stomach, there is a big chance your will vomit or get sick. If you must eat, have a banana and water no less than 30 minutes before class. Make sure that you are drinking enough water before your class. You do not want to stop your yoga flow to drink water. Drinking water during your class cools your body temperature down and it’s important for your yoga flow to keep it warm. This is why you should hydrate your body before your class and after class, but not during. I know that some sites write that it is ok to drink water during your practice, but if the class is not heated, I would advise against drinking water, unless you must due to health reasons.
For your first yoga class, besides a yoga mat, you can use a strap, blocks, and blanket (for savasana). In order to avoid frustration, skip all the props until your third class, just enjoy your first two yoga classes and do not stress when you notice you aren’t “flexible” enough. After those two classes, use props if necessary.
Chanting & Sanskrit
Most yoga classes’ start with the “OM” sound and end with “Namaste”. You are under no pressure to chant. You only do this if you feel comfortable with it. What you can do during that time is just relax, breath and keep an open mind. You might hear strange Sanskrit words for the poses you are doing, relax and just look around to see what everyone is doing. It took me a year to remember all the names. Don’t look up the names on Google, just go with the flow and with time you will learn both the Sanskrit and English names for each pose. I still struggle with the names from time to time. It’s just yoga, remember to breathe and relax.
Do not forget to breathe during class. Breathing is a big part of yoga. With yoga, you learn how to take long deep breaths and move at the same time. Yoga is all about learning to let go and breathe. This is a class where you let go of tension and try to enjoy each pose.
If you get exhausted there is always child’s pose. Yoga is a life long practice; you do not want to put pressure on yourself (ahimsa – avoid violence) but rather you want to be gentle towards yourself and your practice. You are learning to be kind towards yourself. If you get tired always refer back to the child’s pose and after a few deep breaths continue.
Be a beginner
For the next first few months, do not look around and compare yourself to your neighbors. Keep your eyes on the Drishti (focused gaze) and move. In your class, you will notice beginners and more advanced yogis (one who practices yoga, practitioners of yoga, one that follows the yoga philosophy with a high level of commitment is called a yogi ). Classes usually consist of mixed levels and at times advanced yogis love going back to the basics for fun. You are welcome to see what levels you can reach. Enjoy the classes, enjoy being a beginner and move slowly.
What yoga class
My recommendation is to look online and read up on the class and find out what level it is. Is it for beginners? or is it more advanced yogis? Stick to beginners for the next few months. Do not advance until you are ready.
In class, it is normal that a teacher will adjust you during class. The teacher will help you gain a better alignment so that you do not hurt yourself in class and that you can get prepared for a deeper practice of your asanas. If you would not like to be touched, please let the teacher know. Have an open line of communication with your teacher concerning anything about your yoga practice and class. If you feel pain during as poses please tell your teacher.
Yoga classes get tight; you will be very close to other people. You will smell them and hear them. You will be literally 5 cms between your mat and the person next to you. Yoga teaches us to tune out no matter where we are. Some people do not like this, but after a few weeks, you get used to it and it doesn’t bother you at all.
Yoga has a weird way of working on your emotions. It will take you for a trip and if you have any unresolved issues, they will pop up. Remember it’s only you, your body and your mind for the next 60 – 90 minutes. Some people will experience strong emotions during class, such as tears (during savasana), frustration, vulnerability, fear, sadness and even joy. Don’t worry no one is judging you, just let it be, relax.
Leave it at the door. This is not a competitive sport. Leave your self-critical and comparison voices in front of the studio. With time, you will forever leave those voices at the doormat.
Check with your doctor if you have any health issues if you are even allowed to do yoga. People assume it is an easy workout, but in reality, it is not.
You will have fun
Yoga is loads of fun. You will never meet a group of happier and more positive people in one room anywhere else. Everyone that comes to yoga comes there to leave his or her stress behind and to focus on the good.
Image in header is Meghan Currie