Are you finally ready to wear those lovely leggings to an actual class? Congrats, you’re about to embark on a meditative and healthy adventure! But what exactly should you expect your first time on the mat?
Here are my 10 tips for surviving your first yoga class:
1) Bring a towel.
Regardless if you are taking a heated yoga class or not, chances are you will sweat, whether from actual physical exertion or the anxiety of the unknown — and a slippery mat does not a happy yogi make. Be sure to have something to pat it (and yourself) down with, just in case the studio or gym does not have towels available for your use.
2) Wear moisture-wicking clothing that gives you freedom to move.
We’ve established that sweat will happen, so it’s best to wear clothing that is breathable and won’t weigh you down. I suggest a Supplex legging with a higher rise so your concern can be on the yoga itself, and not whether your bum is exposed in downward dog!
3) Avoid eating anything heavy less than an hour before.
This is not a hard, fast rule as we are all different (I for one have a stomach like a steel trap and could sip a smoothie during class), but in general, it’s a good idea to go into your first yoga class having digested whatever you’ve eaten that day. I’d also suggest avoiding anything that makes you feel gassy…for obvious reasons.
4) Invest in a quality mat.
I can’t stress this tip enough. Yes, a good yoga mat doesn’t come cheap, but it’s so worth it. Not only will it last you a very long time, there is no pricetag you can put on comfort. When you are new to yoga, it takes a few classes to build up enough strength in your wrists to support your body weight; a quality mat provides cushioning and prevents your wrists from aching like crazy. So if you foresee yoga being a regular part of your life, it’s a worthwhile investment.
5) Review basic yoga poses online.
Because the level of detailed instruction will vary depending on where and with whom you take class, it’s a good idea to have some working knowledge of the fundamental yoga poses before stepping onto the mat. Even better if you pull up a YouTube video on “Yoga for Beginners” or “Basic Yoga Poses” and try out some of the shapes.
6) Inform teacher of any injuries or sensitivities.
Not all teachers will always ask before class if anyone has anything going on in their body that they should be aware of before the practice, so it’s important that you tell them if you are working with an injury (new or old), etc. because they will likely be able to offer you some helpful tips or modifications, and may also be more mindful of how/if they offer you hands on assists during class. It’s also a good idea to let your teacher know it’s your very first class so they can keep a caring and watchful eye over you.
7) Be aware that you may be touched.
As mentioned in the tip above, your yoga teacher may put their hands on you to either help guide you more safely into a pose, or take you into a pose deeper. If that’s not something you’re OK with, you should tell your teacher BEFORE class begins. They may not ask participants prior to that opening “OHM.”
8) Arrive early.
This is always a good idea. On your first visit to a yoga studio, gym, etc., you will most likely have to set up an account and fill out a waiver. This takes a few minutes. Also, depending on what day and time you are taking class, there may be a long line at the desk for checkin. Remember, you are going to yoga to DESTRESS, so best not to feel rushed. Also, if you do arrive early, you may have the opportunity to ask the front desk attendant, or even the teacher, a few questions before class, which will surely help put you at ease.
9) Grab props.
If you are lucky enough to practice in a space that has yoga accessories — like blocks, straps, blankets, olsters, etc. — take them ALL! That’s not to say be a hoarder, but in general I recommend two blocks, a blanket, and a strap for your first class. If straps or blankets aren’t available, the towel you so wisely have in tow will make a great backup prop when you need to pad up under your knees, or close the circuit in a shoulder opener. You may also want to pull up some videos on how to use props in yoga before your first class — that way you’ll know what to do with all the gear you grabbed.
10) Set up your mat in middle of the room.
While it’s tempting as a new yogi to head to the back, that’s actually one of the most uncomfortable places to start out. Why? You will often be in poses like downward dog where you are facing the back of the room, so if you can’t see around you, you may have a hard time following along. On that note, I often tell my new students to do their best to listen with their ears, not their eyes. I was a new yogi once too, and while it was very tempting to scan the room and compare myself to others, the poses truly started to makes sense when I felt them in my own body.
Remember, yoga is a practice. It’s not about nailing a pose or having perfect form. It’s truly all about breathing deep, letting go and feeling good. If you can remember that when you are in chair pose, shooting daggers at your teacher I promise you will feel much more at ease. Who knows, you may even smile!
I want to hear from you! What tips would you share with someone interested in trying yoga? Or, if you’ve never been to a class before, what are the biggest fears/concerns keeping you away?