When I was getting ready to take my first yoga class I looked for some advice, and I found a ton of blog posts about what to expect before your first class. I’m a firm believer that having expectations about anything can often leave to people feeling disappointed or upset about how things turn. The purpose of this post is not to give you expectations on what your first yoga class will be like, because in reality, each class is different, so there’s no way to be completely prepared. But there are a few things that can help you feel a little bit more comfortable walking into a yoga studio for your first time.
1. Get There Early – A good rule is to arrive 10-15 minutes to any yoga class and especially your first one. This gives you a chance to sign in, get your yoga mat ready and any props the teacher may be using that class and talk to the teacher – which is number 2!
2. Talk to the Teacher – Introduce yourself and let them know that this is your first class. Disclose any injuries or health conditions so that the teacher can modify poses for you. Also use this time to get to know them; how long they’ve been teaching, what their class style is like, and any other questions you have.
3. Wear Comfortable Clothes – I’ve read a few yoga class tips that tell students to wear loose fitting clothes. This is good advice, but there are a few things you want to consider before throwing on a baggy t shirt and loose shorts. There are many yoga poses that require you to bend over and be upside down (Downward Facing Dog, Forward Bend, Shoulder Stand, etc.) Loose shirts and shorts may end up falling down and exposing more of you then you may like. It may also cause you to spend more time focusing on adjusting your clothes then actually enjoying the class (trust me, I’ve been there before and it’s not fun). You don’t have to wear spandex and yoga pants, but you want to make sure your clothes will cooperate when you’re folding forward. That means don’t wear super short shorts or low cut shirts either. I’m a big fan of leggings, or capris (make sure they’re really opaque as fabric stretches when you’re bending over). For shirts, I usually buy yoga specific tanks, but regular tanks or form fitting T-Shirts are great as well.
4. Don’t Take the Class on a Full Stomach – This goes the other way as well, avoid taking a class on a completely empty stomach as well. 2-3 hours before the class avoid eating heavy, slow-digesting foods, like pasta, breads, meats, fried foods, heavy dairy products. You also don’t want to go to class on an empty stomach. I recommend having a small piece of fruit (a whole apple, banana, pear) and/or a small handful of nuts about 30 minutes to an hour before class. This will give you energy to get through the class without weighing you down or making you feel sick.
5. Stay Hydrated – Like any physical activity, yoga will burn through water weight and it’s important to stay appropriately hydrated before, during, and after your yoga class. If you’re taking a hot or Bikram-style yoga class, this is even more important. The day of your yoga class, make a conscious effort to sip water throughout the day. Bring a bottle of water with you to the class and feel free to take breaks to get a drink whenever you need. Since you may do a lot of twisting in a yoga class, you are releasing toxins from your organs, this makes it important to drink water after class as well to naturally eliminate the toxins from your body.
6. Listen to Verbal Cues and be Prepared for Physical Modifications– Your instructor will verbally walk you through the pose, so yoga classes are the perfect opportunity to work on your listening skills! Often during the verbal instructions, the teacher will offer modifications for beginners, or for common ailments. (For example in Downward Facing Dog they may offer the option of coming on to your forearms if you have wrist pain). In addition to verbal cues, many yoga instructors use physical touch to correct your alignment or help you get deeper in the pose. This is always for your benefit, but if you’re not comfortable with it, let your instructor know, I promise they’ll be okay with it!
7. Keep Your Eyes on Your Own Mat – I say this not to discourage you from looking at your neighbor to make sure you’re doing the right pose, but to avoid what generally happens, comparing yourself to those around you. We all have different bodies, so every one is going to look different doing every yoga pose. Avoid comparing yourself to the person next to you, and also avoid judging those around you. The class is all about you, your body, and your energy. When you stay focused on your own practice you will get the most benefits from the class. Trust that your teacher will correct you if you’re doing something wrong, and stay focused on yourself.
8. Take Breaks and Modifications – In the spirit of keeping your eyes on your own mat, you also shouldn’t worry about what others may think of you. The last thing you want to do is push yourself into a pose that is not accessible to you. You could end up seriously hurting yourself. So leave your ego outside and take advantage of the modifications the instructor provides. Or also take Child’s Pose if you need to rest, this is completely acceptable and no one will yell at you!
9. You Might Hear a Different Language – All of a sudden you’re chilling in a Forward Fold and you’re thinking, “Okay, I got this yoga thing,” and then your teacher tells everyone to come into Tadasana. And you’re thinking, “what just happened, did I go to the wrong class” Often teachers will mix English with the language of yoga, Sanskrit. After a few classes you’ll start to figure out which word goes with which pose, but the first couple classes, you may be taken aback by this foreign language. Often in beginner classes, instructors will follow the Sanskrit word with the English translation. If they don’t, it’s okay to glance around to see what everyone else is doing.
10. Enjoy It – Last but not least, enjoy the class. Have a light heart and don’t beat yourself up if you can’t do a pose or if you keep falling out of the balancing poses. It’s okay! Yoga is about the practice, the experience, it’s not about what the pose looks like.