You’re heading to your first yoga class and no matter how much “non-judgment” you hear, you’re probably a little intimidated. It’s a new world of man buns and spandex that might feel totally unapproachable to the uninitiated (there isn’t an initiation), but it’s really not.
Still, right now, you want to know how to not feel like a dummy.
To help, here’s our 10 Tip Beginner’s Guide to Class. Read up, assuage your fears, and then get to Google! Hunt down your local studio and decide when your first class is going to be. It’s too easy to put it off so pick a day and (try to) stick to it. Most practitioners will agree: sometimes the hardest part of yoga’s just getting to your mat, but once you do, the yoga will take it from there.
Just between us: if you don’t make it to your first class this month (or next…or the next), don’t worry! You can start any time, any day, any month – it just matters that you start. In fact, the first of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras even says, “Atha Yoga Anushasanam” or roughly, “The practice of yoga begins now.” Meaning, it doesn’t really matter when, so why not now?
And, hey: Nobody’s really watching.
1. Commit to coming again. No matter what, before you get in the door, make a pact to come again. There are too many variables: the teacher, the day, the time, how much you ate/didn’t eat (more on that later) that you have to try again. After all, who knows, maybe Tuesdays are the worst, but Thursdays are your jam.
2. Don’t worry about what you’re wearing. Contrary to shopping malls everywhere, clothing doesn’t make the yogi. Generally, women will be comfortable in black leggings (not cotton because who wants to show sweat?) and a tank. Men, you’ll want to wear board shorts with a bit of give, pants that aren’t too baggy, or some sort of “active” short (think Patagonia); shirts seem to be optional.
Socks – leave your socks and shoes (and keys and other personal items) in the cubby. Studios usually lock the doors during class so everything’s safe.
3. Gear. Yoga’s amazing because you don’t need much. If you have a mat, towel and water, you’re set. If you don’t, don’t worry! Almost every studio will have mats and towels to rent (and waters to buy).
4. Get there early. You want to arrive about 15 minutes before class to sign the waiver, get a cubby, go to the bathroom, and find your spot.
5. Talk to the instructor. Let her/him know it’s your first class. They want to know! Seriously. They want to give you a few pre-class pointers, hear about if you have any injuries, and keep an eye on you during class.
6. Where to put your mat. You aren’t going in the front, you know that much. So try a somewhere in the back — it’ll give you a sense of safety, you can look around if you get lost, and the instructor can easily stop by if needed.
7. You shouldn’t know everything…and that’s great. Don’t be intimidated because you don’t know the poses (in Sanskrit or in English). It’s your first class! It isn’t your job to know everything yet (you never will), but it is the instructor’s job to help guide you.
8. Adjustments don’t mean you’re doing it wrong. Really. The more you practice, the more you’ll will the instructor over for an adjustment. If you aren’t comfortable with a hands-on adjustment, let the instructor know either before or during class – they wont be offended. If you do get an adjustment, it just means you needed a little alignment help, or maybe the instructor thought they could help take you further in the pose.
9. Food. You don’t want to practice on an empty or a full stomach. Try to Baby Bear the situation: not too much and not too little too close to class. Stay hydrated throughout the day and have a snack about an hour before class. Rehydrating and refueling’s important, too: make sure to drink plenty of water.
10. What class to pick. Read the descriptions on the studio’s site, or ask a friend who goes there. Chances are you’ll want to try a Beginner’s (or Foundation, or Level 1) or Open (Level 1/2) class. Try to go about 70% your first time, no matter what class you pick, so you know how to pace yourself for next time.
10.5 Breathe. Yoga’s an incredibly deep and seemingly endless practice, but at its core, it’s just breathing. Calm breath, calm mind.