So you’ve decided to attend your first yoga class. You’re feeling positive, excited and if you're honest, a little scared too.
Your mind races with all the questions…
What do I need to bring?
What do I wear?
What will the teacher make us do?
What if I can’t do it?
What if I pull a muscle?
What if they make us do something that feels weird?
Before you get yourself, all stressed out - stop and breathe. Afterall, yoga is meant to help you with stress, not create more of it!
While your very first class may feel a little uncomfortable and confusing until the poses start to become more familiar the following 14 tips should help you to have an enjoyable first yoga class.
1. Arrive at least ten minutes early to your first class.
There is nothing worse than racing into a yoga class at the last minute, especially if it’s your first time. Try and arrive with plenty of time before the class starts.
There might be paperwork that you need to fill out, and this also gives you a chance to let your teacher know it’s your very first time. This means they can keep an eye on you to ensure you’re practising safely throughout the class and also help you out with anything that might be unfamiliar.
You can also use this time before class to ask any questions that you feel unsure about so that you can start your first class feeling comfortable and settled.
2. Set your mat up in the middle of the room.
First-time yogis often set their mats up at the back of the room. However, a yoga class will often take you 360 degrees around your mat, and you may, in fact, find yourself facing the back wall with no one to follow.
The middle of the room is the best place for a beginner yogi to set up so that they have someone in front of them at all times to follow.
3. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else in the class.
While you will probably need to watch your fellow yogis in your first few classes to know what to do, try not to get caught up comparing yourself to anyone else. That lithe girl in front of you might have a gymnastics background, and the buff guy to your right who keeps flipping up into handstand has most likely been working on that for years.
Everyone has to start somewhere, so if you’re feeling a little out of place because you can’t even touch your toes, know that you’re not alone. Most people start a yoga practice with limited flexibility, and through regular practice you’ll be able to see huge improvements.
4. Tell your teacher of any injuries or conditions.
Your teacher is there to make sure that you are practising safely at all times. Let them know if you have any injuries or conditions that might affect your practice. Eg. past or current injuries, pregnancy, high or low blood pressure, back pain, etc.
This way they will be able to guide you into any modifications that you need to make.
5. Always listen to your body.
We are so used to blindly following the directions of our instructors during fitness classes, but yoga is very different. Right from the start, you’ll be encouraged to listen to your body and respond to its cues rather than pushing or forcing anything.
Every body is structurally different, and yoga teaches us individualize our bodies to look or move in the same way as anyone else’s. Rest whenever you need during a yoga class and never push your body to do anything that feels painful.
6. Choose the right style of yoga for you.
There are many different styles of yoga and depending on your physical ability, strength, flexibility and age certain styles will suit you better than others.
A visit to the studio before your first class to discuss your options will make sure that you choose the right style of yoga for you.
7. Stop eating two hours before class.
There is nothing worse than attempting to do yoga with a big heavy belly full of food. It’s best to stop eating at least two hours before class, or if you do need to have a little snack have something light like a piece of fruit.
Many yoga poses will have you in positions where your belly is compressed, either against the floor or to your leg. This helps to improve the health of your digestive system, but will likely make you feel sick you’ve got a full belly.
8. Don’t be afraid to stop if you feel pain in any pose.
When we’re brand new to something, we often feel compelled just to do what everyone else is doing. Yoga encourages everyone to individualise their practice to suit them, so don’t be afraid to stop if you feel pain in any pose.
After all, this is your body telling you to stop, and as already discussed, it’s our job to listen. Stopping will also let your teacher know that this pose isn’t working for you so they can suggest an alternative.
9. Take your shoes and socks off.
Yoga is practised without shoes and socks. This allows your feet to grip to your mat and helps you to use the muscles in your feet and ankles more effectively.
You may like to put your socks back on for savasana (or the meditation) at the end of the class if you get cold easily.
10. Turn your phone off.
There is nothing more embarrassing (or annoying to other yogis) than when your phone starts ringing during class. Turn it off, or better still leave it at home and start enjoying the feeling of being disconnected.
11. Wear layered clothing that you feel comfortable moving in.
When choosing your outfit for your first yoga class pick something that you can comfortably move in while standing, sitting and lying down.
Depending on the style of yoga class that you attend you may find that you either get incredibly sweaty (vinyasa, power flow or hot yoga) or you may even find yourself feeling a little cool (restorative, yin, gentle).
In these cases, it might be helpful to have a couple of layers so that you can adjust depending on how you’re feeling.
12. Attend your first yoga class with a friend.
Everyone feels a little bit nervous in their very first class.
If you can, attend your first class with a friend so that they can show you around, help you feel more comfortable and be someone to laugh with about your total lack of flexibility after class.
13. Try different styles and teachers.
Have you been to your first class already and already decided it’s not for you? Don’t write off yoga just yet. There are many different styles and teachers of yoga and you just need to find the right combination for you.
You may also find your first class is a little mentally challenging, especially if like most people this is only time in your day where you have to be completely alone with your thoughts. Know that everyone else is battling the monkey mind as well, and with practice, it becomes easier (and addictive!) to be able to drop into the silence.
14. Expect to feel a little out of your comfort zone.
It is important to remember that there is so much more to yoga than just the physical practice. It’s best to approach your first yoga class with an open mind and also an expectation that you may feel out of your comfort zone at times.
You might become aware of negative thought patterns that you’d never noticed before, you might feel like quitting when it gets challenging, or you might struggle with the silence of the class.
However, you feel during your yoga class know that it’s perfectly normal. Don’t give up though; you’ll be amazed at the changes a yoga practice will make not only to your physical health but your life as well.
Written by Bettina Rae, yoga teacher for WeirdMojo
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