Feeling excited and nervous (at the same time!) about attending your first yoga class? Yoga teacher, Rachel Spain, reveals step-by-step what you need to know ...
It can be quite a daunting ordeal to attend your first yoga class.
And you certainly wouldn’t want the first class to put you off for life and consequently miss out on the huge benefits mentally physically and spiritually that yoga offers.
Here are my 10 tips to help make your first yoga experience smooth, flowing and enjoyable.
1 Ask What Style Of Yoga Is It
There are many different styles of yoga and it can be confusing at first. Some people have a pre-conceived idea that all yoga is relaxation and meditation.
In fact, there are some really strong and physically challenging styles such as Ashtanga, Dharma Mittra and Vinyasa Flow.
Other styles of yoga hold poses for longer and focus deeply on alignment, such as Iyengar yoga, and then there are more gentle yoga classes, such as yin and restorative. Yoga is for everyone, but not all types of yoga asana will suit your body and physical fitness, so you must find the right one for you.
I suggest reading up on the styles before you decide which class to attend. Most yoga centres have class descriptions on their websites and the staff at the studio can also advise you. But remember, whatever style you go for, start with beginner level.
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2 – avoid eating A Heavy Meal Just Before Class.
It is advised not to eat at least two hours before and two hours after your practice.
Sometimes this is not practical in modern everyday life, so if you are feeling low on energy before the class, try a piece of fruit e.g. a banana, to keep your energy and concentration levels up through the session.
3 – Arrive Early
So you can meet the teacher and inform them it is your first time. You can also discuss any injuries, illness etc. if needed. This will enable the teacher to guide you safely and professionally through the group class.
If you turn up just as the class starts or even worse, late, then you may have a disheartening experience as you won’t be prepared for what’s ahead and could find yourself more stressed than when you arrived! Not ideal for your first experience of yoga!
4 – Wear The Right Clothes
You want to feel comfortable and be able to stretch well. Avoid baggy tops as they tend to get in the way when you’re hanging upside down, dropping down over your head and impairing your vision and awareness.
Zips and buttons are a no-no as they will dig in to you and feel very uncomfortable. If you haven’t invested in any yoga clothes, a vest/t.shirt and leggings will suffice and for guys, comfortable shorts.
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5 – You May Be Using Props
Some teachers will use props if they are provided by the studio. If you see other students grabbing blocks, straps and blankets, get some for yourself too as they will probably be used during the class, or you may just find them helpful to aid and improve certain poses.
6 – It Is Non-Competitive!
Don’t waste time comparing yourself to anyone else in the class. If you worry about what other people are doing or thinking you may end up feeling demoralised as you watch them float up into headstand whilst you struggle away.
Remember, that person has probably been practising yoga a while and everyone has to start somewhere. With patience, practice and positive attitude, you’ll soon be floating up into headstand too!
Leave your ego at the door and join the class with an open mind. Be willing to learn and listen to the teacher.
7 – Rest When You Need To
Don’t be afraid to rest. If you feel yourself straining or forcing, and you can usual monitor this by checking in with your breath, then take a rest in child’s pose.
The intelligent thing to do is listen to your body and rest when you need to. If you force and strain there is a possibility you’ll get injured.
8 – There may be Chanting and Music
Some styles of yoga such as Vinyasa Flow use an inspiring soundtrack to carry you through the sequence. Be prepared for chanting too. Some classes will start with a few "Oms" and others will chant mantras.
Don’t be self-conscious! Don’t hold back. Enjoy it, it’s an uplifting and energising experience.
9 – Breathe!
Don’t forget to breathe and have patience. A lot of focus in your asana class will be on the breath. Try to relax as you inhale and exhale. Notice if you hold your breath or find yourself gasping for breath – that’s when you know you’ve pushed to far.
Have patience and be prepared for small amounts of progress each time you practice.
10 Practise Regularly
This is the key. Don’t expect huge changes to happen in one class. Yoga is a practice and a lifelong journey.
Sri Pattabhi Jois said simply:
“Do your practice and all is coming”.
So dedicate time to your practice and the yoga magic will come. You’ll know what I mean when you get there!
Yoga can be a life-changing experience and turn into a lifelong journey. And where you start can have a big impact on that journey.
I hope these tips help to make your first yoga experience everything you hoped it would be.